Basics: This hike takes you up over the top of Hood Mountain to an overlook called Gunsight Rock. On a clear day, the overlook provides sweeping views of the Sonoma Valley. There are multiple trails in Hood Mountain Regional Park – this trip can be anywhere from 6 to 8+ miles depending on your route. Parking is $6 and maps are provided at the trailhead. Dogs are allowed on all the trails.
Trail Description: There are multiple entrances to Hood Mountain Regional Park. We opted to park at the Pythian Road trailhead – a short drive up the road from Highway 12. We paid the parking fee, grabbed a map, and soon were headed up the trail. We started out following signs for the Lower Johnson Ridge trail. The signs pointed us onto a paved road. It was very steep. Just as I was beginning to question my ability to pick a good hike, the pavement ended and we were on a wide dirt path. There were a number of junctions, but most of them were well signed. We knew the summit was to our right, so that was the general direction we headed in.
Most of the paths are pretty well graded. We were in the trees nearly the entire way – lots of shade. As we got closer to the peak, the trail started getting quite a bit steeper. Before we knew it, we were at the top. Large trees gave way to manzanita – most of which were in full bloom with pink and white flowers. There is no view at the top. The manzanita shrubs were too tall!
From the top, we continued onwards, following signs for Gunsight Rock and Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Sugarloaf borders this park to the south. We descended a hundred feet or so, through the manzanita. All the blooming flowers attracted thousands of bees. There was a constant buzzing all around us and I had to continually remind myself that these were not Africanized honey bees and I would not be attacked.
Soon a marker pointed us out to Gunsight Rock – a formation of two tall rocks up above the valley. There was nobody there when we arrived. We climbed up one of the rocks and ate lunch while watching the turkey vultures circle below us. We could see the SF Bay to our left, and Santa Rosa to our right. It was a great view, but it was also a litte windy. We got cold pretty quickly after we finished lunch. We snapped some photos and headed back the way we had come.
After climbing back up and over Hood Mountain, we decided to take a different set of trails back to the car. From Orchard Meadow we took the Pond Trail to the Valley View Trail. This route took us past the park’s two ponds and past one more vista point – though the view from Gunsight Rock was a little more impressive.
More Info: This trail appears in the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of Sacramento.