Best Sonoma County trails for nature-loving runners

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While the rest of the country may still be embroiled in the throes of winter storms, spring stole up to Sonoma County this past week sending cherry blossoms into sudden bloom and fresh infusions of Vitamin D into the weary skin of residents.

With warm weather finally entering the rotation of sporadic rainstorms, it’s a great time to take advantage of the plethora of trail runs and hikes the county offers.

Here are a few options for your next sunny weekend trek.

Trione-Annadel State Park (Santa Rosa)

Cost: $7 day fee

Trails: Rough Go and Spring Creek Loop

Spring Creek Trail

Length: 1.3

Difficulty: easy/medium

Rough Go Trail

Length: 2.1

Difficulty: medium/hard

Nothing like the name of a trail telling you how it is. Starting at a small bridge on a road in conjunction with Spring Lake and Annadel parks, going up Rough Go is rocky and meandering trail full of challenges. If you’ve ever had a fantasy about casually leaping down trails like a mountain goat, coming down Rough Go can willingly oblige and always proves full of adventure. “Annadel is my happy place and this is my favorite route to run,” said Diana Zahn, a trail runner and legal secretary from Rohnert Park. “It reminds me why I made the move to Sonoma County — it’s amazing such a magical place is only 15 minutes from where I live.”

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Canyon/Spring Creek Loop

Canyon Trail

Length: 2 miles

Difficulty: medium/hard

Spring Creek Trail Length: 1.3 miles

Difficulty: easy/medium

Canyon and Spring Creek trails are situated on the west end of Annadel State Park and are best accessed from an old fire road that runs from Spring Lake Regional Park into Annadel. You can reach this fire road from several residential streets along Summerfield Road in Santa Rosa, including Parktrail Drive and Stonehedge Drive.

The most common and easiest route is to go up Spring Creek and down Canyon, which will pass by Lake Ilsanjo, a man-made lake named after the former landowner Joe Coney and his wife Ilsa. Cresting Canyon affords a lovely view of downtown Santa Rosa and nearby Spring Lake. For a more challenging endeavor, try going up Canyon and down Spring Creek.

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Richardson/Cobblestone Loop

Richardson: 2.0

Difficulty: hard

Cobblestone: 2.0

Difficulty: medium

Warren Richardson trail begins in a parking lot inside Annadel itself accessed through the park’s Channel Drive entrance. The trail, a wide fire road, climbs steadily uphill before reaching Lake Ilsanjo. Once there, hikers and runners can jump onto Rough Go for a short while before hitting the entrance of Cobblestone trail.

“It’s the type of run where I can shut my brain off and enjoy the scenery,” said Mike Wortman, the former assistant cross-country coach for Santa Rosa Junior College. “It’s a beautiful route.” Cobblestone gets its name from the former cobblestone mine that operated alongside it in the early 1900s. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, cobblestone was in great demand to rebuild the city. A couple of quarries dot the park, and Cobblestone passes by the former Wymore Quarry. A closer look reveals some of the remains of the tracks on which the carts traveled on. Cobblestone trail snakes down through fields and forests before emptying back out onto Channel Drive.

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Lawndale Loop

Schultz: 1.9

Difficulty: easy/medium

Pig Flat 0.5

Difficulty: medium

Marsh Trail: 0.4

Difficulty: easy

Lawndale: 2.9

Difficulty: medium

One of perhaps the lesser explored regions of Annadel State Park is the eastern side which includes a tangle of trails offering often breathtaking views of the Kenwood area.

“I like starting from the Lawndale (entrance), running up Schultz and down Lawndale,” said Marc Strozyk, a trail running coach for Fleet Feet Sports. “Less people, more single track and best views.” To do the loop Strozyk described, park at the Lawndale lot, jog along Schultz road until you reach the Schultz trail. Once you’re up the Schultz trail, veer right onto Pig Flat trail for half a mile, and turn right onto Marsh trail. Another roughly half mile will bring you to the Lawndale trail.\

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Sonoma County Regional Parks

Cost: $7 day fee

Taylor Mountain (Santa Rosa) Western Route Trail

Length: 2.6

Difficulty: hard

One of the newer additions to county park offerings, Taylor Mountain may provide one of the best views of Santa Rosa around.

The route is primarily uphill, and peppered with a variety of mellow cows who graze on the land as part of an agreement with Sonoma County Regional Parks.

“Just a short drive away, you are transported to the grazing hillsides of Sonoma County cows,” said Justin Borton, who hosts a community running group on Tuesday mornings at Taylor Mountain. “Within 40 minutes of running, you have reached the summit, above the coastal fog with glorious views and a feeling of accomplishment.”

Reaching the peak on a quiet morning can be an ethereal experience. Coming down the mountain, the park also has a disc golf course for those looking to challenge friends post-hike.

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Helen Putnam Regional Park Trails (Petaluma)

Length: Varies

Difficulty: easy/medium

While smaller than some of its counterparts, the 216-acre Helen Putnam Park offers a variety of trails to peruse. “Putnam is a great hiking place and is great for low miles,” said Paul Braa, an ultrarunner who coaches cross country at St. Vincent de Paul high school in Petaluma. “It’s very steep to get to the top, but once there, you can do a nice figure eight without much climbing.”

One easy loop involves Arroyo, South Loop, and Ridge Trails. A short two-mile route for those light days, Arroyo trail starts at the main parking lot and goes up past Panorama Trail, as well as the Savannah Trail. Continuing along this clockwise type loop, you will eventually reach a large crossroads point, where five of Putnam’s trails intersect. If you continue going straight, you will take the South Loop trail — which takes an estimable 0.6 mile loop that goes through brush and a small forest of trees.

After you finish the loop, you will return to the crossroads, but this time you will take the trail to your left and head back down along the paved version of Ridge Trail, which will take you back to the parking lot after about 0.3 miles.

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Doran Beach/Pinnacle Gulch Trail (Bodega Bay)

Length: 5-6 miles

Difficulty: medium

Sonoma County contains more than just woodland trails, and nearby Bodega Bay allows hikers and runners to get a taste of the beach. Unlike the boardwalks of Southern California, Bodega’s own Doran Beach offers a more rugged and diverse terrain to test your running shoes with.

To begin, run south along Doran Beach make your way around a rocky area where there is a cave that, depending on the tide, you can see as you pass by. After a half-mile more of running south, you will come to the trail head of Pinnacle Gulch, a hilly trail that goes for about another mile. The trail empties out onto a road that leads into Bodega Harbor. From there, enjoy the lovely view of the harbor as you run back to Doran Beach.

Melody Karpinski is the marketing manager for Fleet Feet Sports Santa Rosa and writes a monthly running column for The Press Democrat. Contact her at melody@fleetfeetsantarosa.com.

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