Hoof it up Hood Mountain
It’s not just vineyards in Sonoma.
What’s so great about grapes anyway?!
Hood Mountain Regional Park is an extensive park with its peak at just over 2700 ft. About 1 hr and 45 min away from the city, in Sonoma, it’s well worth the drive to check out the trails here.
We actually started our morning a little later than planned since my human overslept, so instead of heading out at 6 am to start hiking around 8am, we left at 8 and didn’t start hiking until 10:30. Human had to get gas, get breakfast…ugh..she’s all over the place sometimes!
The drive is really something. Once you get off State Route 12 you follow a super windy narrow road up into the hills. Thank goodness it was a bright and beautiful day because I don’t think these roads would be great to drive on in rain or at night. But boy oh boy, on a nice clear day it’s pretty spectacular, especially after a particularly rainy winter with bright green rolling hills and views for miles. You might even meet some grazing cows.
Once you get to the park it’s a great set up: there’s a big parking lot with metered parking (you can actually use credit cards, thank goodness). Parking is $7, a small fee that supports a great resource.
This is definitely one of the more challenging and technical hikes we’ve done.
We’ll get into that, but first:
Our total hike based on our tracker was 8.88 miles but it felt like a lot more on our bodies. It could be the heat, it could be the incline/decline - who knows?! A tired pup is a happy pup! For our main ascent, we followed Hood Mountain Trail. From the parking lot it’s a wide hard packed dirt path that opens up to a beautiful meadow, and in this time of year has lots of wildflowers and butterflies. It was beautiful! My human was worried about me romping through the fields and potentially coming across a rattlesnake, so she was much more strict about me staying on trail. There are signs for dogs to stay on leash at the trailhead but we came across a couple other hikers and their dogs. One guy had two dogs and only one was on leash. The humans chatted for a while and he was a regular but said no one has ever given him any problems. If you’re not sure about your pup then best to keep them on leash for the time being.
Now here’s where it gets interesting.
About 0.7 miles in you’ll come across Santa Rosa Creek at an intersection. Bearing left takes you into Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, in which dogs are not allowed. There are clear signs. Who knows what’s in there?! If you bear right you have to cross the creek in order to stay on trail. While not too wide, it can get pretty strong depending on the time of year, storms, etc so it’s not advised to cross if the current looks strong. When we went it wasn’t shallow but not too deep either. Even for a big guy like me it still came up to my chest, but it felt soooo good! My human took off her shoes and socks and huffed it over. She has very soft feet so stepping over all kinds of rocks takes a bit more time, but it’s worth it!
The trail starts starts off as a mix of some covered and tree lined and some exposed. As you gain elevation, while not that high, it gets pretty steep. The trail becomes completely exposed with hard packed dirt and lots of loose gravel and rocks so be careful!
The path eventually opens up to a fire access road. You’ll know because it looks like a major intersection of trails. It’s been less than a year since the forest fires and you can definitely see the evidence. This is where I really started to lose some steam as I could barely find any shade. We came across a few other folks along this route, one cyclist and three hikers, to be exact, but no other doggies. We even came across a ranger in his truck who politely waved hello and didn’t make any comment about making sure I stayed on leash or anything. Maybe it was because I seemed like such a good boy when really I was just too hot and tired to move. On the plus side, the higher you get the better the breeze. This was a good spot to take a snack break and take in the view. I love it when my human packs apples!
You follow the road as it keeps winding uphill and eventually you’ll come to another intersection where there’s the option to merge onto Summit Trail, which we chose to do, since this is the trail we were going to take all the way back down to the creek.
The park has great, clear trail markers so it’s really hard to get lost. Fantastic for my human!
Summit Trail is more covered and a true forest dirt trail (at this part) that’s narrower, windier, and has lots of brush. During this time of year (April) there are lots of ticks and growing poison oak. My human only hikes in pants, long sleeves and hats, which is really recommended since you brush up against lots of spider webs and plants.
You just stay on Summit Trail and it takes you right to the summit! The other option, which adds an additional 0.5 miles, is to make your way to Gunsight Rock. We stuck around at the summit since I was already so pooped and we had to make sure to have enough time to hike back down and drive home. We checked out the plaque, the view, and for those who have more time to spare, there’s an open field where we came across another family and their pup having lunch.
Our descent was along Summit Trail, which intersects the fire road (pictures below) and merges with Mount Hood trail 1.2 miles before crossing Santa Rosa creek (there are also bathrooms at this point). Now we know what the upper part of Summit Trail looks like, but we were in no way prepared for the rest of it!
This is where it got super technical and for my human, with her weary legs, was really tiring. Once you get back on Summit Trail after crossing the fire access road (don’t miss the sign!) the trail is probably about 80% rock scrambling.
Once we crossed the fire trail we didn’t come across any other hikers. It was so quiet minus all the buzzing and whirring from the creeping, crawling and flying bugs, but you know what? We wouldn’t have it any other way!
On the plus side, there were lots of pretty wildflowers and access to water.
Could you imagine if we took this trail up? I think in that case we would have taken Mount Hood trail all the way back down. I also don’t know how humans would make it safely down with pups on leash - that seems more dangerous. Considering how narrow parts of the trail get, I don’t think there’s really anywhere to run, and that’s saying a lot from a doggo like me who chases anything and everything!
The best part of the hike was wrapping it up with another wade through the creek. We both got a chance to cool off our paws which helped us recover for the last mile or so back to the car.
I think the next time we come here, which we definitely will, we’ll: a) start earlier to beat the heat b) pack more snacks c) go up Summit and down Mount Hood and d) check out Gun Sight Rock and take a breather.
Your fur parents want to know:
Yes, there’s parking ($7)
No, technically this is not an off leash park
No, this is not a fenced enclosure
No, there are no poop bags
Yes, there are trash bins at camping areas (closer to creek)
Yes, there are benches (in the beginning and by camping areas)
Yes, there are toilets (by trailhead and 1.2 miles after the creek)