Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is a hidden treasure among California’s state parks. It traverses 3,900 acres in Kenwood and is gotten into the Mayacamas Mountains, isolating the wine-growing regions of Napa and Sonoma. The recreation area protects the headwaters of Sonoma Creek, which is surrounded by tall redwood trees, green greeneries, and greenery, and its bountiful glades are known for their vibrant wildflower displays in the pre-summer and late spring. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is the ideal place to spend a day or even an entire week, with miles of climbing trails, family-friendly camping areas, and, surprisingly, a public observatory.
Things to Do
Climbing and camping are probably the two most well-known activities at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The trails range from easy, self-contained nature trails to the difficult 8.2-mile Bald Mountain circle. Beautiful views can be had from various locations, including Napa Valley, Mount Saint Helena, and, on sunny mornings, the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Many natural life species, such as deer and dim foxes, live in the recreation area and should be visible along its path. There is also a 25-foot cascade that streams from the brook after the windy season in winter. The Robert Ferguson Observatory, a top choice for families, houses a 40-inch telescope open to the public. Stop by the guest’s community and gift shop to learn about the recreation area’s historical background and accessible exercises.
Best Hikes and Trails
There are approximately 25 miles of climbing trails within the recreation area, some of which are open to mountain trekking and horseback riding.
- Creekside Nature Trail: Begin this easy, 1-mile nature trail from the guests’ lodging (remember to pick up a path guide and leaflet) by walking across the street opposite the parking garage. The hidden climb is fantastic for families.
- Canyon-Pony Gate Loop: This is a 2-mile moderate climb that takes visitors through the redwood forest and the occasional cascade. There is a 400-foot elevation change.
- Bald Mountain: The most challenging climb in the recreation area begins at the trailhead at Stern Trail or Lower Bald Mountain before turning right and climbing for approximately 5.6 miles. There is an elevation gain of 1,500 feet with little shade, but explorers will be rewarded with beautiful views of the surroundings.
- Vista Loop Trail: A less complicated route than Bald Mountain, the Vista Loop Trail begins in the same place as Bald Mountain but continues straight onto Vista Trail rather than ascending the mountain. Turn right on the Gray Pine trail, cross the spring, and continue on Meadow Trail to complete the circle and return to the parking garage.
Not only is the Robert Ferguson Observatory one of the best places in Northern California to gaze at the stars, but it is also the largest observatory in the western United States dedicated entirely to public review and education. Aside from daily viewings, the recreation area offers Night Sky Classes where guests can learn about the sky and stars depending on the season.
Where to Camp
The recreation area includes a year-round camping area with 47 campsites, and each has a table and a fire ring and camping area washrooms and showers with hot water. There is a gathering area (for about 50 people) and RVs (up to 28 feet) space. Camping spaces inside the main campsite range from $35 to $45 per late evening, depending on the area, and reservations are strongly advised, particularly at the end of the week. The recreation area recently added two glamping destinations for a more luxurious camp experience. The Shelter Luxury Tents are extremely durable designs that include material glamping tents such as beds, tables, seats, floor coverings, a light, and kindling. Glampers can pay an extra $30 per night for “rich” sheet material (sheets, covers, blankets, and cushions). These locations are accessible through Hip Camp and cost $125 per night.
Where to Stay Nearby
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is located nearly equidistant between Sonoma and Santa Rosa towns. Generally, Sonoma will be more expensive, and Santa Rosa will be more budget-friendly, but there are some exceptions. There is also the option of staying nearby in Napa or even San Francisco to supplement your experience with more wine tasting options or significant city attractions.
How to Get There
The recreation area is open all year in Sonoma County, approximately one hour from San Francisco. It is located 7 miles east of Santa Rosa and 16 miles west of Sonoma. The recreation area is open for use from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The visitors’ area has a stop and open courses to the rest of the structure, convenient restrooms, and a data area. There are also two wheelchair-accessible campgrounds with an open bathroom and shower, pit fire pits, and wheelchair seating areas. All rooms, bathrooms, and courses for the observatory telescope are available, but there is hand-stuffed rock from the empty parking spot to the structure that may not suit everyone.