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Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

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Stunning views from Bald Mountain

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is a located in the heart of Sonoma County wine country. Last month, we hit the road to Northern California, spending a few days enjoying Sonoma — my first time visiting. There are many wonderful wineries and restaurants in the area, and of course, one of the wonderful benefits of hiking, is the guilt-free meals that follow. What better way to whet our appetites than a hike up Bald Mountain. Note that this hike is not in Southern California, but within a one day drive.

Trail Details
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Elevation gain: 1,540 ft
Dogs: No
When to go: Year-round
Bald Mountain sits 2,729 feet above sea level in a coastal range known as the Mayacamas Mountains. Access to Sugarloaf Ridge is in the western side, at the headwaters of Sonoma Creek. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park charges a day-use fee for parking. At the time of writing, it was $7. The trailhead for Lower Bald Mountain trail begins at the south end of the parking lot.

Lower Bald Mountain Trailhead

We started off by reviewing the map, and decided to weigh our options when we came to the first junction. The trail system at Sugarloaf Ridge offers a number of options, including a great loop with markers that give you some insight into the distance between planets in our solar system (no joke!). As we reached the junction with the Vista Trail, we decided to continue onward and upward to bag the summit of Bald Mountain.

The trail itself winds through beautiful and varied woodland, meadows and chaparral. Some of the trails are single track, and other times, paved or gravel fire roads. But what really stood out was the sheer volume of moss! Nearly every tree was covered with moss, and the moisture hung thick in the air.

Cool and shady slopes

The trails are well marked, with vertical posts at each junction and the names and direction of each trail. We continued uphill, pressing on through a brief hailstorm, followed by a brief downpour a little later. Fortunately the trails never got muddy, and eventually the rain broke. The clouds with patches of blue sky peeking through provided a dramatic backdrop for the views.

Sugarloaf Ridge

As you reach the ridge, the trail to Bald Mountain climbs to your right (the south), winding up and around the crown to the summit. The views from the top are amazing, with Calistoga, Sonoma County, and the Sierras. Even the Bay Bridge and the towers of the Golden Gate bridge are visible — as long as it’s clear out. We could just make out the Bay Bridge, but the Golden Gate towers were shrouded in fog.

Bald Mountain panorama 2

And the view in the other direction:

Bald Mountain panorama

The hike back to the trailhead went quickly, as it was almost entirely downhill. We modified the out-and-back route slightly, taking the main Bald Mountain trail back towards the park entrance (about 100 yards north of the parking lot).

Bonus Hike to Sonoma Creek Falls

Although it’s not on the trail map shown below, the Sonoma Creek runs through here not far from the park entrance. If you ask at the visitor center, they’ll tell you how to get to the trail to the falls — roughly a one mile round trip (in addition to the 6 mile round-trip to Bald Mountain). To get to the falls you’ll hike down, down, and down along the creek. Which means getting back to the trailhead will be up, up and up. ‘Nuff said.

Now to climb back up to the parking lot

The Sonoma Creek Falls are beautiful, but check to see if they are running first. They are seasonal, and will slow to a trickle in the summer. They were flowing well when we hiked this in late March, and the hike through the woods was remarkable. The woods are covered in a thick, green moss that made it seem almost otherworldly.

The Sonoma Creek falls

Bald Mountain Trail Map

Download file: RK_gpx-_2013-03-31_1220.gpx

Photo Gallery

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More Sugarloaf Ridge Trail Resources

  • Trailhead parking and driving directions via Google Maps
  • Official Sugarloaf Ridge State Park website
  • We stayed in Kenwood at an amazing cottage booked through AirBnB. The hosts were gracious, and the place itself was fantastic. If you are looking for a place to stay in the Sonoma area, I highly recommend the Happy Hound Cottage.
  • More hikes in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park on EveryTrail
  • The Bay Area Ridge Trail – I noticed that portions of the Bald Mountain Trail included markers for something called the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This is a planned 550 mile loop trail that encircles the entire San Francisco Bay. Over 300 miles of the trail are already open, but the loop hasn’t been completed (yet). This will be a fantastic long trail hike that’s easily accessible to everyone in the bay region.

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Weather Forecast

[forecast width=”100%” location=”95452″]


Where did we go for aprés-hike refreshments? To the Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa, where they have Pliny the Elder on tap, and some pretty awesome pub food to go with it. Highly recommended.

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