Annadel State Park,
California State Parks,
Sonoma County

In brief:
This hike climbs through a forest, loops around a meadow, and skirts the shore of Lake Ilsanjo, then returns through woods to the trailhead. Although Annadel is a busy park, heavily used by equestrians and cyclists as well as local walkers and runners, it's worth putting up with the crowds.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 6.2 mile loop hike is moderate, with gradual elevation changes throughout.

Exposure:
First and last section shaded, the rest mostly full sun

Trail traffic:
Medium weekdays, heavy weekends

Trail surfaces:
Rocky dirt fire roads and trails

Hiking time:
3 hours

Season:
Spring is best; it's muddy after rains and hot in summer.

Getting there
:
From US 101 in Sonoma County exit 488B onto CA 12. Drive east on CA 12 toward Sonoma, for 1.5 miles, then take the CA 12 ramp to Sonoma Napa and turn left on Farmer's Lane/CA 12E. After about 0.7 miles, turn right onto Montgomery Drive. Drive east 3 miles, then turn right onto Channel Drive. After less than 0.1 mile, continue straight when the road makes a sharp turn right toward Spring Lake. Drive into the park, stop and pay the entrance fee at the ranger station, then continue to the parking lot at the end of the road.

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 38°26'40.14"N
Longitude
122°36'56.73"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
No camping in the park. All services available in and around Santa Rosa.

Trailhead details
:
Pay the $6 entrance fee at the ranger station. Pit toilets are located at the trailhead. The park map is available at the ranger station.

Rules:
Dogs are not permitted on park trails. All but one trail are multiuse.

The Official Story:
CSP's Annadel page
Annadel Ranger Station 707-539-3911

Map Choices:
• Download the park map pdf from CSP's website.
60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website) has a simple map and a featured hike. Order this book from Amazon.com.
• David Weintraub's North Bay Trails has a detailed map (unfortunately, not all trails are marked) and descriptions of trails (order this book from Amazon.com).
• Jean Rusmore's The Bay Area Ridge Trail (order this book from Amazon.com) has a map of the park and descriptions of the Ridge Trail segment.


Annadel in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.



Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page




If hikes were marketed like new cars, I'd say that this Annadel loop has the most meadow views per mile.Trailhead  Annadel's grassy expanses are at their best in spring, when carpets of flowers bloom at the feet of mature oaks. The park is situated at the north end of the Sonoma Mountains, a long series of rolling hills that runs from the eastern outskirts of Santa Rosa to the flats of San Pablo Bay. Like Jack London Historic State Park a few miles to the south, Annadel has pretty woods and good views, but also offers lakeside picnic spots, big sweeps of grassland, and oak savanna. Since Annadel is surrounded by residential communities, there are quite a few trailheads, many paths and trails, and lots of loop opportunities. In the last few years park staff have cracked down on shortcuts and old, erosive routes, and the number of official trails is now much smaller -- there still are faint paths and bike cuts, but all the legitimate routes are signed and appear on the map. Steve's "S" TrailOn the trails you'll surely notice rocks and boulders all over the place, evidence of the cobblestone quarrying that took place in the area prior to the 1920s.
      Begin from the middle of the parking lot, uphill on the W. Richardson Trail. After about 200 feet on a fire road, turn right onto Steve's "S" Trail.
      The park's sole hiking-only path begins a mostly easy climb through an open forest of California bay, Douglas fir, coast live oak, and black oak. You might see woodland star and iris in spring. Views are obscured by the forest, and noise from the surrounding neighborhoods is steady, but the hubbub fades as the trail progresses uphill. Look for shiny black shards of obsidian on the trail -- Native American tribes used the rock for arrow points and spearheads. W. Richardson TrailThere's so much obsidian directly on the trail that you might initially mistake it for broken glass. As the trail makes its way across the wooded flanks of the hillside, boulders loom in the shadows, beneath Douglas fir and California bay. Steve's "S" Trail crosses a little creek, then bends sharply left. On a spring hike I saw a deer moving through the woods out of the corner of my eye, and heard turkeys yodeling in the distance. At the 1-mile mark, the trail ends near a picnic table, at a junction with the W. Richardson Trail. Turn right.
      The fire road ascends slightly, leaving the forest for a grassy savanna, where deciduous black and Oregon oaks mingle with evergreen coast live oak and Old oaks and grassland along Live Oak Trail manzanitas. Oaks and lupines on North Burma Trail Spring wildflowers include linanthus, lupines,blue-eyed grass, popcorn flower, goldenfields, bluedicks, and hound's tongue. At 1.3 miles, turn right onto North Burma Trail.
      The setting, with oaks sprinkled through grassland, is incredibly scenic and invites daydreams, but be sure to stay alert for mountain bikes on this narrow path. North Burma Trail descends briefly along a sloping hillside, then veers left into a young forest (an old trail to the right, now closed, leads back toward Steve's "S" Trail). Douglas fir and madrone crowd the rocky level trail, but then give way to manzanita, ceanothus, and poison oak. Among the small boulders strewn about along the trail, look for shooting stars, zigadene, and blue-eyed grass in late winter, and a generous amount of golden fairy lanterns in mid- to late April. North Burma TrailAt 1.7 miles, the left side of the trail opens up to a descending meadow dotted with oaks, where lupines, popcorn flower, linanthus, and goldenfields were blooming on a mid-spring hike. As the trail proceeds slightly downhill, ceanothus, poison oak, coyote brush, manzanita, and toyon close off views, and Douglas fir, black oak, and madrone provide occasional shade. At 2.2 miles, North Burma Trail bends left to a junction. Turn left onto Live Oak Trail.
      The narrow path runs parallel to False Lake Meadow, a short distance downhill to the right, mostly screened by an assortment of young Douglas fir, and coast live, Oregon, and black oak. Since trees line Live Oak Trail at a distance, there are plenty of grassy patches where you might see false lupine, blue-eyed grass, lupines, bluedicks, iris, shooting stars, linanthus, and zigadene in spring. Live Oak Trail Rocks and small boulders are strewn all over the place, and in one spot along the trail, you might notice an artistic-looking pile of stones on the right. As the trail travels slightly downslope from a little knoll, you'll pass through a pocket of woods where California bay and buckeye blend into the other trees, then emerge on the western side of a meadow (although it's one of the park's largest, it's apparently unnamed). To the right there are nice, unobstructed views down to False Lake Meadow. Expect big patches of lupines along the trail in April, along with some California poppies and blue larkspur. The trail winds past an old, sprawling coast live oak, and ends at 3 miles. Bear left onto Rough Go Trail. Rough Go Trail
      Oaks and manzanita are common along the trail,which descends very gently through rocky grassland. Although Rough Go is heavily trafficked, this is a quiet part of the park, far from the trappings of suburban Santa Rosa. Two rugged Sonoma County peaks, Mount Hood and Mount St. Helena, loom off in the distance on the left. Just past a bench, Rough Go Trail ends at 3.4 miles. Turn left onto Lake Trail (or, if you want to take the long way around the lake, continue past this junction, then turn left at the junction with the Spring Creek Trail).
      Lake Ilsanjo is the heart of the park and a regular destination for many visitors who enjoy picnicking on the shores of the little reservoir, so you'll likely cross paths with plenty of runners, equestrians, and cyclists in this part of Annadel. This level segment of Lake Trail skirts the northern shoreline at a distance.Even when you can't see it, cries from red-winged blackbirds indicate that the water is close by off to the right, and the trail is often muddy in all but the driest months of the year. Lake TrailNative bunch grasses thrive beneath oaks, manzanita, and California bay, in an understory where California buttercups, shooting stars, and iris bloom in spring. At the south edge of the meadow, you might see johnnytuck and concentrated clusters of linanthus and goldenfields blooming in April. If you're looking for a good spot for lunch, there are many picnic tables in the area -- try following one of the side paths veering off to the right or left. At 3.9 miles, Lake Trail sweeps right, continuing its loop around the lake, and a trail (no longer on the park map) breaks off to the left. Make a soft left, and you're once again on W. Richardson Trail.
      The fire road starts as an easy climb along a small creek. In spring, red larkspur and yellow buttercups provide a nice contrast to the ferns and creambush beneath Douglas fir and California bay. South Burma Trail heads off to the right at 4.2 miles, but continue to the left on W. Richardson Trail.
      You may notice some mature, dead-looking Douglas firs, most conspicuous in spring and summer, when all the park's trees bear green leaves or needles. W. Richardson TrailAnnadel's staff has girdled some Douglas firs at the transition zones between oak savanna and evergreen forest, an attempt to stop the Douglas firs from invading the oak's territory. As these trees die and fall, they will be an important part of the healthy park ecosystem, providing habitat for many wild creatures. The surface of the fire road may be scored with tracks made by one of the most commonly spotted animals at Annadel, the wild turkey. I've seen turkeys on every Annadel visit, either shuffling through oak woods, searching through the fallen leaves for insects, or tootling down the trails -- these big birds make a substantial racket, gobbling back and forth to each other, and although they seem ungainly, they can move surprisingly fast.Wild turkeys can be feisty, especially the males (called toms), who keep a close watch on females (hens) during breeding season. As W. Richardson Trail makes its way north, look left for a last view of the meadow and Lake Ilsanjo. W. Richardson TrailAt 4.4 miles, you'll once again reach the junction with North Burma Trail. Stay to the right on the fire road, and retrace your steps back to the junction with Steve's "S" Trail at 4.7 miles. Continue to the right, downhill on W. Richardson Trail.
      The fire road begins a moderate descent, through a forest of redwood, Douglas fir, California bay, and coast live oak. At a hairpin turn about 5.4 miles into the hike, Two Quarry Trail departs on the right, heading into the eastern part of the park. Continue on W. Richardson Trail, which runs at the edge of the woods, presenting nice views of a little egg-shaped hill on the right. A few big-leaf maple trees call attention to themselves in autumn, when they show off their foliage. As the trail descends, traffic and household noise filters through the trees. At 6 miles, you'll return to the junction with Steve's "S" Trail. You can walk the short distance back to the trailhead on the fire road, but I prefer the path on the right, which descends a flight of steps, then ends at the south end of the parking lot.

Total distance: 6.2 miles
Last hiked: April 22, 2003