Perched atop the mountain ridges between the Sonoma and Napa Valley of Northern California, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is a mecca for hikers. These aren't those deep-woodsy hikes where you never seem to arrive anywhere - these are mountain summits. The views from 2,729 foot Bald Mountain will have you stopping for photos all day. Visitors can see the patchwork of vineyards to the East and West, as well as San Francisco and the Bay area to the South.
The campground lays in a meadow at around 1,200 feet and is filled with large oak and redwood trees and the peaceful sounds of Sonoma Creek, which carves right past twelve of the campsites. There are no hook-ups or dump station and the spaces are on the small side. This is old fashioned camping, away from the buzz of electricity and traffic. The only noise here is likely to be kids playing around the creek and the occasional mountain bike whooping at they zip down the trails nearby.
The park is open year-round and has activities going on all year, thanks to the Robert Ferguson Observatory which opens to the public each month. There are hiking trails, a fishing stream, mountain bike paths, and modern clean bathrooms and showers to clean up after a day of adventure. There are picnic tables and fire rings at each of the sites and free WiFi available at the visitor center.
The villages and towns of nearby Sonoma valley are famous for world-class wines and your visit could easily be a fun mixture of rustic forest camping and luxurious wine-tastings and dining options.
RV Rentals in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Transportation in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Adobe Canyon Road accesses the park off the Sonoma Highway in downtown Kenwood. The road is popular with cyclists, many of whom stay at the campground and ride to the wineries for the day. Keep your eyes out for bikes flying down the mountain. The roads in the park are reasonable for small motorhomes and not much more. Large oak branches could be a real concern for larger RVs and 5th Wheels, so you'll have to camp elsewhere if you need the clearance. The sites are all either back-in or small pull-outs which are designed with tents in mind. The trees provide welcome shade in the summer, but still open up for good solar panel exposure at several sites.
Campgrounds and parking in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Campsites in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Campground
This 47 site campground (36 reservable) has no hook-ups and no dump-station, but there is room for small RVs and trailers. There are flush toilets and renovated coin showers. There is Wi-Fi at the visitor center, but none in the campground and no cell reception. Numerous hiking trails depart right from the campground. Reservations are recommended through the CA State Parks website. Note that pets are not allowed on any of the trails in the park, and alcohol is prohibited.
Seasonal activities in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park
Star Parties at Robert Ferguson Observatory
Open at least once a month for new moon skies, the Robert Ferguson Observatory is open to the public and hosts evening star parties. Astronomy presentations are given in a classroom building as it starts to get dark. Later, the three large telescopes of the observatory are made available and staff even set up telescopes outside when there are larger groups. Make sure to check in by 5 p.m. to let the staff know you are there for the evening presentation. Everyone is given red cellophane to cover flashlights and headlamps to preserve "night vision". If you can't make the evening session, special solar telescopes are set up in the morning to let you safely look and listen to the Sun.
Hiking and PlanetWalk
With over twenty-five miles of trails, Sugarloaf Ridge is clearly a destination for hikers. The summit of Bald Mountain provides views of the Sonoma valley all the way to the Bay Area. The park is also laid out with a scale representation of the solar system. Starting at the Sun, this hike is a four and a half mile round-trip journey all the way to Pluto. The trailhead is at the corner of the observatory and each step represents about one million miles of travel through space. Note that the trail is a bit steep and rocky between Uranus and Neptune.
Wine Tasting - Kenwood
If you are not from the area make sure you take advantage of the world-class vineyards and wine-tasting just minutes away in the Sonoma valley. You'll find everything from exclusive vineyard-only wines served in a castle to kid and pet-friendly stops with wallet friendly budget wines. Whatever your style, you're sure to find several favorites with hundreds of wineries in the region. Nearby Kunde Family Winery even offers guided hikes of the vineyards with gourmet lunches and award winning wines included in the price. If you are interested in wine, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is perfectly located for days of exploring.
Singletrack Mountain Bike Rides
The park trails are open to mountain bikes and the area is popular for difficult terrain, steep drops and rewarding viewpoints. The Bald Mountain Summit, though one of the steepest in the park at nearly 3,000 feet, is very popular with bikers and the view from the top can be epic on a clear day. Access from the Grey Pine Trail makes this an eight and a half- mile ride with about 2,600 feet of climbing. Trails are often slippery and wet, even during dry weather. There is a paved road up and a heart-pounding run down a rutted fire road for the descent. It's a good time in any weather, but visitors come for the views.
Fall and winter rains make the Mayacamas Mountains come to life with rushing streams and fruiting fungi. The Sonoma Ecology Center partners with Sugarloaf Ridge State Park to present a mushroom walk around January each year. There are different speakers and topics, but the event typically blends classroom time, field hiking, and lots of post hike study and identification. You may never look at the forest floor the same way again. With the help of mushroom experts you'll be able to spot and identify a large variety of fungi which you may have previously been walking right past! Participation is limited so make sure to obtain tickets ahead of time.
Fly Fishing Sonoma Creek
The headwaters of Sonoma Creek run right through the campground and several lucky visitors have it running right behind their site. The water is crystal clear and clean (though should still be filtered for drinking) and is home to a thriving population of trout, Steelhead, and even Chinook Salmon. The salmon are a protected species so be sure to check the California Fish and Game for regulations and fishing licenses. The creek rolls over large rocks and boulders creating perfect eddies for fish and wading spots for fly fishermen. It's peaceful, beautiful, and clean. Do watch out for stinging nettle and poison oak on the riverbanks.