Hike Date: March 12, 2012
Distance: 8.3 miles
Trail(s): Meadow Trail, Lower Bald Mountain Trail, Bald Mountain Trail, Gray Pine Trail, Red Mountain Trail, Headwaters Trail, Vista Trail
Where’s it at? Kenwood, CA in Sonoma CA east of Hwy 12


Created by My Tracks on Android.
Total distance: 13.42 km (8.3 mi)
Total time: 3:26:06
Moving time: 2:11:27
Average speed: 3.91 km/h (2.4 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 6.13 km/h (3.8 mi/h)
Max speed: 12.60 km/h (7.8 mi/h)
Min elevation: 342 m (1121 ft)
Max elevation: 790 m (2593 ft)
Elevation gain: 937 m (3075 ft)

Chart from Hike to Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge SP


2,729-foot Bald Mountain lies in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in Kenwood, CA, within Sonoma County. As it’s name might suggest, the peak of this mountain offers 360 degree panoramic views due to the fact that the top is all grasslands with nothing to obstruct the view. The hike I took was moderate with a few steep sections early on but easy hiking the rest of the way. I hiked 8.3 miles covering a fairly large number of different well-signed trails which offered an excellent mix of biomes and plenty of wildlife viewing. I was amazed at the amount of scat on the trails! The fee for day-use parking was $8 paid at a self-registration kiosk on the way in. There is a visitor’s center but it was closed during my visit. No park maps were supplied though a ranger I ran into said that they have maps in the visitor center when it’s open.

My first leg started on Lower Bald Mountain trail. I was immediately greeted by about 25 deer grazing in the meadow, and caught a glimpse of a wild turkey before he hid in the brush. The meadow is gorgeous and this part of the trail was a slight uphill with wide switchbacks. Being late winter the meadow area was still a little soggy on the trail in a few areas. I was pretty amazed at how well it appeared that everyone stuck to the narrow single track trail here, with nary a foot path deviating. That was great. After a short while you enter a pretty dense hardwood forest primarily consisting of coastal oak.

After about a mile I metup with the Bay Area Ridge Trail’s Bald Mountain Trail, which is unfortunately paved. This was definitely the least exciting portion of the hike, and the most steep. For a paved road I would call it very steep but it is still moderate. There are a few benches and a picnic table along the way for catching your breath. The paved trail lasts for about 1.5 miles as it winds it’s way up the side of Red Mountain. You see another “Bald Mountain” in the distance and I’ll be honest in saying I thought that was where I was eventually headed, though it did look pretty distant for the mileage I’d seen posted for the trail. Eventually you do catch a glimpse of your goal around the time you see the radio towers on top of Red Mountain.

A well-signed junction with a dirt road to the right for “Bald Mountain” was the next trail change, though still called Bald Mountain Trail, the hiking is now on a moderately steep dirt fire road which has a couple wide switchbacks. This is where you first start to see the grandiose views to the south and west. This trail lasts about a half mile before you reach the junction with Gray Pine Trail.

Gray Pine Trail takes you to the summit and is a bit less wide than the Bald Mountain trail. As you approach the summit you can clearly make out a bench at the peak and two signs showing you the views north and south. See the pictures below. I went on a fairly cloudy day as storms approached so wasn’t able to see the really distant peaks. I’d hiked Mt. St. Helena recently on a clear day though, and knew exactly what I was missing on this hike. The clouds did make for some nice pictures which to me made up for the lack of distance that was clearly visible. I had a quick snack up at the top, hydrated, and then headed back to the Gray Pine Trail for a different route back to the car. I’m used to summit hikes sort of having the mountain in the middle of the hike, but if you were to follow my footsteps on this hike you are probably only 1/3 done at this point. I remember the balance of the hike seeming to take a lot longer than I was expecting.

Taking the Gray Pine Trail east I walked through a mix of forest and wide open grassland. As the name might suggest there are Gray Pine trees here, along with Black Oak, Douglas Fir, and Bay trees. I loved the views from this portion of the trail. After a little less than a mile you can turn right on the well-signed Red Mountain Trail.

The Red Mountain Trail was a change to chapparral, reminding me a little bit of my old stomping grounds of Mt. Diablo. From this trail you are offered views to the south of the valleys making up this gorgeous State Park. After a bit of winding trail you could make a choice to take the connector trail back to Bald Mountain Trail and retrace those steps for a quicker way back to the parking lot, but I chose to turn left on the well-signed Headwaters Trail.

The Headwaters Trail was perhaps the biggest biome change of all on this trip. Hearing babbling Sonoma Creek’s waters you are engulfed in a forest with a vast number of ferns, and moss everywhere you look. As the trail progresses you get various glimpses of the creek and are shaded by the forest canopy. From here you can take a right on the Vista Trail to cut this hike a little shorter, but I opted to stay on what I believe was the Headwaters trail, taking it back down to grassy meadows and leading me back to the Gray Pine Trail, at a much lower elevation than i was on it previously, where I turned right.

After a short stint on the Gray Pine Trail I took a right turn at the well-signed Meadow Trail. At this point the trail becomes very wide and is a service road. The Meadow Trail takes you through a gorgeous meadow with the hills and mountains you were looking down on now looming above you. In areas this trail was pretty soggy. There were a ton of butterflies and I saw a couple rabbits here on this leg. After a short while I passed a sign that read “Saturn” (pictured below) and quickly realized I was on a trail that used planet markers as a means of giving you some idea of the distances between planets in our solar system. After a little more hiking I ran across “Mars”. I thought that was pretty cool being one that is fascinated by our solar system and universe. Eventually I came upon Ferguson Observatory and the Group Campgrounds. It looks like a pleasant place to camp in a meadow valley surrounded by densely vegetated hills. I’m not sure if they’re open for camping right now in lieu of state budget cuts. I know that nobody was camping at this time in mid March. A bit after Ferguson Observatory I was finally back to familiar territory on the Meadow Trail where it branches off of Lower Bald Mountain, around where I’d seen the turkey and deer in the beginning of the hike. And then I was back at my car. There are bathroom facilities in the parking lot here but nothing else up on the trail. In fact I didn’t see one by the campgrounds either so wasn’t sure where you go to the bathroom if you’re camping, but there must be more of them that were just hidden.

All in all this was a great hike, better than I thought it would be. I was decently exercised and got to hike through a number of biomes with a great view on top of Bald Mountain. I plan to return here and try a few of the other trails in the park.

Photos from Hike to Bald Mountain (click to enlarge)

Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
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Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Hiking Bald Mountain in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

Directions to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park


View Sugarloaf Ridge SP in a larger map

Weather at Kenwood, CA (cooler at summit)