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New Spring Hikes

There’s spark in our step, and extra go in our giddy-up. It’s spring, and we’ve got the fever to frolic in the great outdoors. Sonoma County boasts tremendous open spaces, perfect for hiking, biking, horseback riding and strolling with the pooches. And now, we’ve got even more to explore, with the opening of new trails in some of our best state parks.

Jack London State Historic Park, Glen Ellen

Besides being the longtime home of the late, great adventure writer it’s named for, Jack London State Historic Park has always been one of the most popular hiking spots for Sonoma County locals and visitors. And now, for the first time ever, the East Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail will open for public access this March.

It’s taken more than two decades of planning to extend this section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail for hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. The new access adds to the growing network of contiguous trail along the ridgelines overlooking San Francisco Bay, with more than 350 miles of the 550-mile loop currently open. To commemorate the work, the park will host a community celebration and ribbon cutting on March 14, 2015.

The reward for making the hike to the new 1.2-mile East Slope is sweeping panoramic views from the top of Sonoma Mountain, plus improved opportunity to explore the 20-plus miles of trails now accessible within the Park’s 1,400 scenic acres. The journey is a beautiful one, as well, on a natural surface trail that crosses two private properties and a Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District-owned space, meandering along the ridge through oak woodland and open grassland habitats.

For the March 14 Trail Celebration, which is free to the public, organizers will host a 10:30 a.m. ceremony in the Winery Ruins of Beauty Ranch in the park. At noon, everyone is invited to join a 13-mile round-trip hike to East Slope Trail, led and narrated by Craig Anderson of LandPaths, naturalist John Lynch of the Jack London Park, and Dave Chalk, a former board member of the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association and founder of Bill and Dave Hikes.

The hike begins in Beauty Ranch and makes its way to the Jack London Lake, circling to Mountain Trail through an evergreen forest, meadows lush with spring wildflowers, onto the Ridge Trail trailhead and then to the new East Slope Ridge Trail.

Details: 2400 London Ranch Road, Glen Ellen, 707-938-5216, jacklondonpark.com.

Sonoma Mountain Regional Park, Glen Ellen

Directly connected to Jack London State Historic Park, this new section of the 738-acre Sonoma Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve is located on Sonoma Mountain Road near Pressley Road, southeast of Santa Rosa between Rohnert Park and the Sonoma Valley. The stunning landscape comprises six properties on the north slope of the mountain, with a new, 4.25-mile trail link to Jack London.

It’s a wondrous space, featuring forests of oaks and redwoods, numerous creeks, broad meadows, vernal ponds, and sweeping views of Sonoma Valley, the Santa Rosa Plain, nearby Taylor Mountain, and the Mayacamas range to the east. There are trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking, yet the parks system strove to leave the wilderness as undisturbed as possible, too, protecting homes for black-tailed deer, coyotes, mountain lions, bobcats, wild turkeys, red tail hawks, turkey vultures and woodpeckers.

Details: 13630 Sonoma Highway, Glen Ellen, 707-565-2041, sonoma-county.org.

Taylor Mountain Regional Park, Santa Rosa

Some two decades of planning and $21 million in spending paid off in early 2013, as the 1,100-acre Taylor Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve finally opened to the public.

Debuting with four miles of trails for hikers and dogs plus a three-mile network for equestrians and cyclists, it will eventually be expanded to 17 miles. It joins the 820-acres of preserves that have been open since 2010, capped by a peak soaring 1,400 feet-high for dramatic views of downtown Santa Rosa, plus Bennett Valley, Annadel State Park, the Mayacamas Mountains to the east and the whole of the Santa Rosa Plain viewable from the trails.

Details: 2080 Kawana Terrace, Santa Rosa, 707-539-8092, more info.

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