Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

Bald Mountain, Vista, Gray Pine, Meadow Trails
 
6 mile loop through park with 700-foot elevation gain;
shorter and longer loops possible

Today we buy granulated sugar in sacks, but grocers of years ago sold crystallized sugar in a sugarloaf—a conical shape that resembled an upsidedown ice cream cone.

Among the more prominent sugarloaves in Southern California are 9,952-foot Sugarloaf Peak in the San Bernardino Mountains and Sugarloaf Mountain in the Santa Monica Mountains—reportedly inspiration for the Paramount Pictures logo.

In Northern California, a distinguished sugarloaf rising above the wine country is the highlight of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Sugarloaf Ridge is part of a length of Coastal Range called the Mayacamas Mountains, which border Sonoma and Napa Valleys.The distinct ridge, volcanic in origin, is impressive—and just a little bit spooky when wrapped in mist or when turkey vultures circle it.

The state park is laced with 25 miles of trail, leading through three distinct ecosystems. Chaparral blankets the high ridges, except for the park’s aptly named high point, Bald Mountain. Your reward for climbing this mountain is a terrific view stretching from the Napa Valley vineyards to the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada.

The park’s grassy meadows are bedecked in spring with a multitude of colorful wildflowers from Indian pinks to blue dicks. Also look for lupine, California poppy, cream cups, buttercups and Mariposa lily.

In the canyons watered by Sonoma Creek and its tributaries grow Douglas fir, oak, big-leaf maple, and even a grove of redwood. Swollen by winter rains, Sonoma Creek generates a handsome, 25-foot waterfall that cascades below the park campground.

Depending on time, energy, and inclination, the hiker can fashion several four- to eight mile loops through the state park. For a good introduction to local flora, join the 0.75 mile Creekside Nature Trail. Numbered posts along the trail correspond to park brochure nature descriptions.

Directions to trailhead: From Highway 101 in Santa Rosa, exit on Highway 12 and travel east 11 miles to Adobe Canyon Road. Turn left and follow it four miles to the hikers’ parking lot a bit before road’s end.

The hike: From the east end of the parking lot, hit the trail which leads into a meadow and soon splits. Join Lower Bald Mountain Trail, which crosses a meadow, then ascends through an oak and madrone woodland. After a mile’s brisk climb, the path intersects paved Bald Mountain Trail. A strategically placed bench allows you to catch your breath and to gaze out over the park.
 
Proceed right on the road, ascending steeply a 0.25 mile to signed Vista Trail. The intrepid will continue marching up the road, past the turnoff to Red Mountain (2,548 feet) to the summit of Bald Mountain 2,729 feet. From Bald Mountain, enjoy the view of the Napa Valley below, Mt. Saint Helena above. On especially clear days, the panorama includes the High Sierra and San Francisco Bay.

Those forsaking the peak, will join Vista Trail, which drops into a couple of ravines watered by seasonal Sonoma Creek tributaries. Vista Trail serves up promised vistas of Sugarloaf Ridge, then descends through Columbine Meadow. Cross Sonoma Creek, join Gray Pine Trail and cross a meadow. Bordering the meadow is quite a mixture of trees: maples, black oaks, alder and bay.

At a signed trail junction, you can select Meadow Trail, which crosses a meadow and returns you to trailhead.

A less direct way back is to join Hillside Trail which climbs above Sonoma Creek and gives you another perspective —a northern view—of the state park, then descends to join Creekside Nature Trail near the campground and trailhead.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at www.thetrailmaster.com.