A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Five local parks unaffected by wildfire

The deadly wildfires that swept through Sonoma and Napa counties last month damaged three local parks heavily.

Sugarloaf and Shiloh parks are closed indefinitely, while 65 percent of Annadel remains inaccessible due to fire damage.

While these parks did see a large amount of traffic before the wildfires, they are not the only local ways to connect with nature. After this disaster, the well-documented mental health benefits of spending time outside are even more necessary.

There are plenty of smaller hidden gems that can give you that restorative reconnection with the environment while the affected areas are regrowing. Here are the top five parks, in no particular order, to visit while Annadel, Sugarloaf and Shiloh recover.

Jack London State Park

Explore the wild mountain scenery surrounding the would-be home of the late writer, Jack London, at this local park. Located just west of Glen Ellen, this park narrowly escaped destruction from the recent wildfires. It is currently open to the public and sits just 30 minutes away from downtown Santa Rosa.

Jack London Park offers miles of hiking trails, both in the established park and up into neighboring Sonoma Mountain, with the option to traverse the grueling trail up to the summit. This trail provides fantastic views of Mount Diablo, but at eight miles and 1700 feet of elevation gain, it is not for the faint of heart.

There are also plenty of shorter hikes in the park. These trails take you around to multiple Jack London historical sites, including the remains of the ‘Wolf House,’ London’s extravagant woodland cabin that tragically burned down before it was completed.

Other notable features in the park include London’s cottage, ranch and gravesite. There is also a museum of relics and memorabilia from his life. The park is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. Admission is typically $10 per vehicle, but the park’s operators have waived the admission fee through the end of the year, so get in while you can!

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park     

This park was surrounded on all sides by wildfires, but luckily was untouched and is still open. Bothe-Napa Valley provides a good balance between outdoor hiking trails and more modern accommodations like pay showers, RV camping spaces and even rentable cabins for those who want to camp in luxury.

Hikes at this park are very accessible, ranging from just three-quarters of a mile up to four mile adventures. Trails take you to the different landmarks in the park, including the Pioneer Cemetery, a fully restored mill from 1846 and a Native American plant garden. Remnants of old homesteads and stone fountains can also be found along the park’s trails.

For those of us who enjoy nature but need our creature comforts, Bothe-Napa Valley is the ideal place to camp. Campsites for tents or RVs are $35 per night, with an extra vehicle fee of $8. Small or large Yurts can be rented by night for $55-$60 on weekdays and $70-$75 on weekends. And for the full luxury experience, a fully furnished cabin complete with kitchen, bathroom and deck area can be rented for $225-$250 a night.

Armstrong Redwoods

Open from 8 a.m. to one hour after sunset, Armstrong Redwoods is a secluded grove of coastal redwoods located just north of Rio Nido, 40 minutes away from Santa Rosa. Some of the trees in this park are over 2,000 years old and have grown above 350 feet.

The reserve includes a visitor center, large outdoor amphitheater, self-guided nature trails and a variety of picnic facilities. Hikes range from one mile walks that meander on paved footpaths, to strenuous nine mile incursions which take you out of the park and into the surrounding hills.

The park costs eight dollars per vehicle. The Visitor’s Center is open from 11 a.m. –  3 p.m. daily and additional info can be found by calling 707-869-2015.

Stafford Lake Park

The park that most closely mirrors Annadel on this list is Stafford Lake. Located 35 minutes down Highway 101 in Novato, Stafford Lake offers 139 acres of beautiful natural landscape surrounding the lake itself.

Stafford Lake supports a wide variety of activities. The Terwilliger nature trail circles the park, offering a mellow hike with stunning views of the bright blue lake and the iconic NorCal mountains surrounding it.

There are also plenty of opportunities for lakeside activities and space for hosting large community or private events. Come on the right day and you might witness a lucky couple tying the knot amidst the expansive green meadows.

Stafford Lake is also home to the Stafford Lake Bike Park, a well-known destination for avid mountain bikers in the area. This terrain park features jump lines, pump tracks, and dual slalom race runs for everyone from beginner to expert.

Stafford Lake Park is open from sunrise to sunset and costs $5 per vehicle on weekdays and $10 on weekends.

Sonoma Coast State Park

This park spans 17 miles of natural landscape ranging from coastal wild lands to dense redwood forests. Sonoma Coast park is located just south of Jenner at the end of Highway 116 and is roughly 50 minutes away from Santa Rosa.

The coastal portion of the park has over a dozen beach access points, all free. Notable landmarks Bodega Head and Goat Rock have large photogenic rock formations that attract crowds on even the chilliest days.

Salmon Creek holds over two miles of continuous sandy beach, and Shell Beach is a popular tidal pool exploration area. Hiking trails can be found along the coast and inland in the Willow Creek and Pomo Canyon areas.

Campgrounds are available for $35 at Bodega Dunes, Willow Creek and Pomo Canyon. The extra vehicle fee is $8.

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About the Contributor
Jett Williams
Jett Williams, Arts and Entertainment Editor
                Jett Williams fumbled his way through one semester as a staff writer, before being promoted to A&E Editor. He still has no idea how it happened, but it looks good on a resume. Most of his time at the Oak Leaf is spent editing, recording podcasts, assigning stories, drinking tea and generally doing everything he can to avoid writing his own stories.                     When he isn’t twiddling his thumbs at the Oak Leaf, Jett enjoys mountain biking, motorcycling, track racing and other activities intended to spike adrenaline at the cost of a shortened prospective lifespan. Jett’s other hobbies include cooking, gaming and being a lazy P.O.S. who contributes nothing to society. And he delivers pizza sometimes.

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