Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is named for the shape of the ridge at its southern edge. In the 1800s, sugar was molded into cone-shaped loaves; many hills and mountains with a conical shape were whimsically called “sugarloaf.” The 4,020-acre park is located northeast of Kenwood in the Mayacamas Mountains between the lush Sonoma and Napa valleys and has 25 miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding. Elevations in the park range from 600 feet at the entrance to 2,729 feet at the top of Bald Mountain, overlooking the Napa Valley and Mount Saint Helena to the north. On clear days, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge and the Sierra Nevada from Bald Mountain’s summit. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park contains the headwaters of Sonoma Creek. It runs through gorge and canyon, across the meadow floor, beneath scenic rock outcroppings, and is surrounded at times by redwoods and ferns. Deer, gray foxes, the occasional bobcat and coyote can be seen in the park. In spring, wildflowers provide a colorful palette across the green hills. Temperatures during spring and fall are mild. The wettest months - from November to April - can bring 30 to 40 inches of rain. Wintertime lows can drop into the 20s, but daytime highs average 50s and 60s. Summer is hot and dry, often in the 90s, cooling to the 40s in the evenings. Wear a hat, and bring drinking water. Dogs are not allowed on trails or in the backcountry areas.
Jeff C. on Bald Mountain Trail
Great 360 views. San Francisco to the South, Snow Mountain North, Sierra's to the East.
Frankly difficult trail but amazing valley and hillside views. Weekend hiker take note -- some parts of the trail are tough and this earned its "hard" rating.
View at the very top a non existent, unless you're standing on a rock by the side of the plateau.
The views further down are phenomenal, and you can see all the way down the valley to SF.
There are sections with loose rocks in the trail so wear decent shoes.
It's an out and back trail, and the descent from the summit isn't easy!
Entrance fee is $8, you pay in the way of a permit containing the money, your license plate, and your name. Parking hours are 6 AM-8 PM for Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
This hike was amazing, even with its views entirely covered by fog. Including the traverse to Gunsight Rock, the trail is 7.0-7.5 miles with ~2,300 feet of elevation gain, most of which occurs over a 2.5 mile stretch. The trail starts out relatively easy, with little elevation gain and a wide trail. You'll eventually get up to a second road. That's where the fun begins.
After a set of descending switchbacks, you'll encounter a second river (95% dry at this point) and begin your elevation gain. It'll start out easy-moderate until you get to the Nattkemper Bench, which marks your exit from Sugarloaf Park and entrance into Hood Mountain Regional Park. From there, I'd recommend hiking shoes. The trail is rocky, narrow, sometimes steep and on a ridge.
The climb up to the saddle before Gunsight Rock is strenuous and tiresome. It's best done in the early morning so the fog reduces the temperatures. There are plenty switchbacks and exposed rocks after the Nattkemper bench; watch your footing, as the trail is almost always narrow and on a steep ridge.
The final climb up to Gunsight Rock is calf-burning, albeit short. It passes through a wildlife-enchanted (deer, mainly) forest that will make you feel miles away from civilization. At the end of this strenuous gain, you'll have the option to either go to Gunsight Rock or summit Mount Hood.
My father and I went up to Mount Hood Summit, which is an exposed area of rock (50 ft. diameter) with a plaque marking the summit. It's encircled by trees and vegetation. There's only one spot where you can get a solid view; I wouldn't stay at this summit for long unless you're eating lunch. Head down to Gunsight Rock for the views.
Also, if you're prioritizing the views over the workout this trail offers, try to hit the trail at ~10:30 AM to allow the fog to dissipate. I summited at about 9:30, and the entire valley below was covered in a thick blanket of fog. The downside to leaving later, however, is hotter temperatures and increased activity on the trail. We saw 0 hikers going up and 8-10 heading down (4-5 groups of hikers.)
Overall, this trail is the best you'll find in Sonoma. It's worth a 2-3 hour drive from wherever you are. Watch out for wildlife: we saw a snake, two lizards, and too many deer to count. I'd imagine you'd see birds in the afternoon as the visibility increases.
And if you're wondering, the 100s of yellowjackets mentioned in the review below aren't there anymore. The summit is safe.