It seems only fitting on the day after needing earmuffs against a cold wind at Doran Beach that I should be baking on a hilltop in Healdsburg. It must be spring.
Unfortunately, one of the experiences is trail at a 45% slope, straight up a hill. This is not an easy walk though if you travelled all the trails and spurs, it would be just over 2 miles.
The advantages to Healdsburg Ridge are a walk among a variety of oaks, meadows with wildflowers and not much people traffic.
The trail starts off from Arabian Way near Parkland Farms in a grassy spot under the oaks. After skirting a busy swarm of insects, we went left. The trail is dirt and gently rises. In a short time we went past a muddy Fox Pond on a trail that was sometimes soggy. At the wetter areas there are buckeyes, ferns and reeds. In the drier spots there are Black Oak, Madrone, bays and coyote bush.
Throughout the walk we saw lots of poison oak (some of it flowering) and rattlesnake grass. The hillside across the pond was distinctly purple, which we soon found out was vetch and Blue-eyed Grass. We took a spur off the trail and climbed to Fox Pond Overlook.
While stopping to catch my breath on this jaunt, I noticed yellow Mule Ears, anise, clover and Manzanita. I also caught a view with layers of mountains looking to the west. It was getting warmer. The insects were very vocal about liking the heat. I’m afraid my verbal utterances were more whining.
At the hilltop, we could hear Hwy 101 and see the housing development. So the view which was part way up the hill was better. If only I’d known, because the main trail went back up another hill and I needed all my strength.
The excellent map that I got from LandPaths (who oversee this property now owned by the City of Healdsburg and the Open Space District) indicated about two 40’ elevations changes. It felt like 140’ and in a very short distance. My kingdom for a switchback!
When I could notice my surroundings, I saw oaks and a few pines. The oaks provided welcome shade on some of the path, though I tried to hurry past a Manzanita with a very busy crowd of bees. On the ridge was a lovely meadow with some popcorn flowers. Trees, mostly Black Oaks, blocked any view and unfortunately we could hear Hwy 101 again.
We came to another short spur called Russian River Overlook. (By direct route this is less than 7/10ths of a mile from where we started.) The view was worth a stop under the cool shade of large oaks.
Back to the main trail it becomes a wide paved road and goes down briefly and then it splits to a path going downhill and one leading to a loop on top of the ridge. We took the Blue Oak Trail, a narrow dirt trail, to the right. It’s true to its name with lots of Blue Oaks, some Live Oak and Manzanita. In a relaxing filtered light, we walked finding a few Suncups and Douglas Iris.
In less than a quarter of a mile, we came to Serpentine Trail. This is in a level meadow full of wildflowers. We were stunned. Goldfields dominated with a yellow carpet, but there were two kinds of Owl Clover (basically purple and yellow), Suncups, and delicate little Linanthus. Probably Serpentine Linanthus as Serpentine (California’s state rock) showed through the double car tracks that marked the trail. As we went along the mix of flowers changed. Towards the end of this part of the trail was lots of Larkspur and more butterflies. You could look in any direction and in any place on the trail with delight. I saw several good wallpaper designs.
Back on the paved path, we headed downhill on All the Oaks Trail. It was a painful downhill and while I could ignore the heat by gawking at flowers in the meadow, it hit me full on now. Our walk of just over 2 miles was taking almost 2 hours. Mike was ready to return to see the wildflowers again. I wasn’t so sure.
See you on the trail!
2013 Update – these trails are much improved – they did put in a zig-zag. The wildflowers are great in spring. Visit our March 2013 trip.
Photos by Mike Millar
Directions: North of Healdsburg. Turn off of Healdsburg Ave onto Parkland Farms Boulevard. In ¾ mile turn right on Bridal Path. There are some marked parking spaces. The trailhead is at the east end of Arabian Way.
Dogs: The paved paths are open to dogs on leash. However we saw several people with dogs on the other trails. While I don’t think dogs enjoy walking on hot pavement, I wondered about the ticks and poison oak along the narrower trails. Locals seem to have created their own paths and dogs are part of that. Update 2016: dogs on leash okay, but watch out for poison oak and ticks.
Wheelchairs: Nope. Even if you could get to the paved parts, you’d have to have a fantastic motor and brakes to navigate the steepness.
Here’s a link to a short video that KRCB did about this park. The text says it’s easy, but easy only in shortness.
Food: We had a fine lunch at Healdsburg Bar & Grill. Sundays with summer-like weather are busy. There was a short wait, but the people-watching is entertaining.