Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, nestled in the folds of the Mayacamas Mountains that separate the Napa and Sonoma valleys, is a world away from the tourists and wine enthusiasts who visit the area's vineyards and tasting rooms.
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The park encompasses diverse terrain ranging from dense, shady redwoods to thickets of chaparral and leafy oak and fir woodlands. The gentle, grassy meadows contrast against plunging canyons and rocky outcroppings to create dramatic backdrops for enjoying the outdoors.
With a temperate climate and abundant natural resources, there are plenty of year-round activities. Don't miss out on these five Sugarloaf Ridge specialties if you visit.
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There's a hike for everyone in the 25-mile trail system here. A classic Sugarloaf hike is to the top of 2,729-foot Bald Mountain, where hikers can take in 360-degree views.
A hiker takes a moment to enjoy the 360 degree view from the top of Bald Mountain. Photo Credit: Inga Aksamit
At the top, take a minute to look for the Sonoma and Napa Valleys, as well as the distant peaks of Mount Tam, Mount Diablo, Mount St. Helena (not to be mistaken with Mount St. Helens to the north) and the coastal range. On clear days, you can see across the entire state of California, to Pyramid Peak in the Sierra Mountains. If you're a fit hiker and want a challenging trek, this vigorous 5.6-mile hike is perfect for you.
The Canyon Trail, one of the most scenic in the park, weaves between two creeks, under towering redwoods, through delicate ferns and, after a good rain, an array of exotic mushrooms.
The best part of this trail is a 25-foot seasonal waterfall that gushes forcefully in the winter and maintains a restrained flow well into the summer. This shady 2-mile trek—the antidote to a warm, summer day—is moderately strenuous with a 400-foot elevation change.
Families with small children should try the Creekside Nature Trail, a level, shaded, 1-mile walk along the Sonoma Creek. Here you and your kids can splash in the shallow water and search for wildlife.
If you're a climbing machine, you'll love the biking trails at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The steady ride up Adobe Canyon Road, which runs from the vineyards to the park, draws both road cyclists and mountain bikers looking to escape the crowds.
A cyclist rides down the hill at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Photo Credit: Ben Sims
A particularly epic ride is the climb up Grey Pine Trail to Bald Mountain, which swoops down to the Red Barn, a historic homestead site and back up and over to the Bald Mountain Trail. This is an 8.6-mile trip with 2,400 feet of climbing.
Family-friendly rides and routes include the wide, level Meadow Trail and the rolling Hillside Trail, both of which can be combined to make a loop.