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
First and last section shaded, the rest mostly full sun
Medium weekdays, heavy weekends
Rocky dirt fire roads and trails
Spring is best; it's muddy after rains and hot in summer.
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:
(* 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.
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.
Dogs are not permitted on park trails. All but one trail are multiuse.
The Official Story:
Annadel Ranger Station 707-539-3911
Download the park
map pdf from CSP's website.
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. 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. On 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. There'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. 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. At 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
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. 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.
Oaks and manzanita are common along the
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.
Native 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
The fire road starts as an easy climb along
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. Annadel'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. At 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
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