With Sugarloaf Ridge State Park now closed, there’s one less option for local hikers. And the park is truly closed. All of the parking areas outside the park grounds are now marked with no-parking signs and citation warnings so even treks up to Gunsight Rock or to the waterfalls just before the Sugarloaf entrance gate are difficult given that there’s nowhere to park.

But there’s more than one way to skin a….whatever. Our group headed to Hood Mountain Regional Park, a 1,750-acre county park that abuts Sugarloaf Ridge, provides equally stunning views of the bay, bridges and mountains, and has challenging trails to boot.

It was my first time in the western section of the park, and I was determined to make a decent hike out of it and earn my $6 parking fee. Plus, I was in the unexpected and unusual (and sort of unwelcome) position of hike organizer/leader so the pressure was on! We started on the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail, headed over to the Panorama Ranch Trail and eventually to the 2,730-feet summit of Hood Mountain. From there, it’s about 0.4 miles to Gunsight Rock, one of the most popular and coolest overlooks around. It is my favorite spot in Sonoma County for lunch, hands-down. The guy in the photo above was taking a nap with his dog. On this clear day, the views were unparalleled, as was the weather, about 60 degrees.

Our route back included nearly every other trail in the park, passing two different ponds, the old Hendrickson Homestead and a few other sights. I tried to find out more about the old house that we passed but so far have struck out. If anyone knows anything about it, feel free to share.

If you’re going, be prepared for a few short, but significantly steep, trails heading up from the upper parking lot, and wide trails that are shared by bikers, equestrians and hikers alike.

Total mileage for the hike was 8.4 miles, give or take, done in about four hours, including a healthy lunch break and time to savor the views.

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