Hike Date: December 28, 2013
Distance: 7.8 miles
Trail(s): Bay Area Ridge Trail, Lower Johnson Ridge Trail, Panorama Ranch Trail, Orchard Meadow Trail, Upper Johnson Ridge Trail, Natkemper Trail, Summit Trail, Hood Mountain Trail, Pond Trail, Merganser Trail
Where’s it at? Southeastern Santa Rosa in Mayacama mountain range off Hwy 12


Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve is a nearly 2,000 acre park in southeastern Santa Rosa run by Sonoma County. The peak is 2,733 feet (wikipedia) and offers extensive panoramic views on a clear day. There is a $7 day use parking fee with trail maps available at the lot. Dogs are allowed on leash and horseback riding is allowed. There is a large network of hiking trails including a connection to Sugar Loaf State Park which neighbors it to the south. There are also picnic facilities and it is a popular destination for bikers. Hood creek meanders through the center of the park and even boasts a waterfall in at least one spot. With a little advanced research, several great loop hikes can be planned out. It is apparently perfectly acceptable to call this “Mount Hood”, though the official park name is “Hood Mountain…”

This was a fantastic hike! Up there among my favorite bay area hikes. We need more of these. It is not only a challenging hike but it is very rewarding in every sense. If you have the stamina I strongly recommend following the path that I took so that you not only take in the summit but get a taste of everything the park offers, and it is also a nice loop with only a short overlap on the Orchard Meadow Trail.

The trailhead is to the northeast of the parking lot and easily spotted. In fact there is good signage throughout the park…just make sure you grab a trail map. After a very short walk near residences you get to a paved trail and probably the second most steep/difficult part of the hike right off the bat. Without being warmed up yet I probably huffed and puffed here the most. Stick to the Lower Johnson Trail and pass by the water tanks. I then took the Panorama Ranch Trail to the Orchard Meadow Trail. The meadow is quite nice and it is probably even more beautiful in late winter and early spring. I happened to visit in early winter of a year with record low rainfall so the colors were greys and browns, but it was nice nonetheless. Soon you will see the Hendrickson Homestead which is just three small buildings, the main of which is completely collapsed. I always find these old homesteads interesting and can’t help but imagine what it would be like to have lived there.

Beyond the homestead the Upper Johnson Ridge Trail takes you gradually but steadily upward as you walk through a series of switchbacks, eventually connecting to Hood Mountain Trail. This is probably the steepest section as you climb very steeply to the summit. I must be in good hiking shape as I found this to be a bit easier than everything I’d read about it, but if you don’t hike regularly your legs will be screaming at you here. It is also important to have good hiking shoes/boots as you will need the grip here. I didn’t go down this same way but can only imagine you’d inevitably slide a bit.

That whole first section of my hike was almost exclusively canopied by an oak forest with some redwoods and other trees. I saw a deer very close to me toward the top. The summit is a wide open area with shrubs and trees all around and has a plaque with facts about the mountain. Hood Mountain is the highest point in the Mayacamas between Sonoma and Napa Valleys. It almost looks like peaks in the Sugar Loaf park are higher but I guess not. There is a small rocky area to the south of the summit that I figure is the actual highest point. Climbing and balancing on the rocks there boasts a few good panoramicphotography opportunites, but if that’s what you are seeking, it’s a must to continue on to Gunsight Rock Overlook.

The trail to Gunsight Rock Overlook is narrow and might leave you with a few arm and leg scratches as it did me. It is almost discouraging at this point to realize you are walking down another fairly steep slope, this time with even tougher foot grips, that you know you will inevitably have to come back up. I’ll admit my legs were getting pretty tired by the time I got back to the summit the second time. Don’t be fooled by the first set of rocks you pass by on the way to Gunsight Rock. I nearly stopped here but am glad I continued on as Gunsight Rock offers the best viewpoint to the south, west and east of this whole hike.

Getting back to the summit I decided to take the Summit Trail down, and am really glad I did. Not only is it an easier slope but it’s more scenic on a single track trail. This takes you back to Panorama Ranch Trail which I took back down to the Orchard Meadow. This part of the hike is the only wide open, non-canopied portion, and the views are amazing. The trail is steep in a few spots and has some slippery rocks so mind your footing and don’t break your ankle here. This is where I saw a few people riding horses though the trail had very little dung on it.

Reaching the meadow again I took the Orchard Meadow trail again but this time turned right on the Pond Trail. I wasn’t expecting much water to be in the ponds during this extremely dry year but both Blue Heron and Merganser ponds were really quite picturesque and serene. I found nobody else in this section and the only sounds were those of the many birds in the area. If I can save you some trouble, there is no trail around Merganser pond, though the east side of it is where there is a picnic table, bathroom and the environmental campsites. You just can’t go all the way around the pond so visiting the east side of it will require you to backtrack later. With my fill of ponds I headed back toward the Lower Johnson Ridge trail along which I found a small waterfall (maybe 10-15 foot drop and I don’t think it’s named) and a couple bridge crossings.

This really is a great hike and worth making a visit from any part of the bay area. It is challenging but rewarding and certainly doable. My hike took me to about 2600′ of elevation gain at just under 8 miles but just going to the summit would be about 6.2 miles and maybe 1900′ gain. I expect I’ll be back here someday, if not even this coming Spring!

Photos from Hiking Hood Mountain Regional Park and OSP (click to enlarge)

Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-mount-hood-regional-open-space-preserve http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-mount-hood-regional-open-space-preserve http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-mount-hood-regional-open-space-preserve
http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-mount-hood-regional-open-space-preserve http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-mount-hood-regional-open-space-preserve http://timsartoris.com/blog/hiking-mount-hood-regional-open-space-preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve Hike through Mount Hood Regional Park and Open Space Preserve

MyTracks GPS on hike at Mount Hood Regional Park & OSP

Created by My Tracks on Android.
Total distance: 7.87 miles
Total time: 3:52:18
Moving time: 3:06:53
Average speed: 2.03mph
Average moving speed: 2.53mph
Max speed: 4mph
Min elevation: 768.11 ft.
Max elevation: 2635.04 ft.
Elevation gain: 2541.99 ft.
Max grade: 25 %
Min grade: -35 %
Recorded: 03/12/2012 9:50 AM

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