When the hubs and I moved to Sonoma County a couple of years ago we saw this little sign saying Hood Mountain this way so out of curiosity we took the right turn and drove and drove up this winding mountain road through ranch land only to see amazing views of the valley and on to the ocean! From there we were hooked and have been wanting to hike up to the top ever since. This weekend was the weekend to try it.
Gunsight Rock is 1 of 2 hikes we have been preparing ourselves for these past couple years. Just a few years ago my back was barely able to handle walking around the block let alone multiple miles of rugged hiking so it may not seem like a huge accomplishment to some to be able to hike up 2,000 feet to reach a rock hanging out on the edge of a mountain but it was extremely exciting for me!
The summit of Hood Mountain is 2,730 feet and is the tallest point in Sonoma County’s Mayacamas which is a beautiful small mountain range that separates Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley here in wine country. We made it all the way to the top!!
Hood Mountain is part of the Sonoma County Parks which is nice because the trails are well maintained. We arrived at the park just after it opened and got our gear on. The trail is listed as strenuous…this is definitely felt in the first .3 mile! I am not sure what the grade is but if felt like we were walking straight up on one of the worst San Francisco streets you could think of. Note to self, follow the Lower Johnson trail when it veers off the paved road. There are switchbacks to hike up instead of paved road straight up. Once we reached the dirt part of the trail it leveled off and the hike followed the mountain up at a nice grade. Do follow the signs and stay on the trail. It is meant to meander through nature and don’t forget to stop and enjoy the beauty! We were lucky enough to see a hummingbird bathing in a small pool of water a little stream had left. You don’t get to see these adorable little birds chilling out very often!
The hubs and I were walking at a steady pace while enjoying the quiet…then we came alongside Blue Heron Pond and I heard noise in the water and then saw the old guy flying to the other side of the pond! I have a weakness for herons. Not sure why but they are just so pretty to me. This guy seemed older and this was definitely his little pond! Had it been a busy day for hiking we never would have seen him hiding out on the other side of the pond.
Heading up from here the trail opened up to where the Hendrickson homestead remnants are fenced off. It was like being in an old western. Small wood one room house, an outhouse and a small barn. It would be great to have it restored and turn it into more of a historical site. Onward and upward from here it was mostly shaded and still very peaceful.
You know those times when you are hiking along and you keep thinking, “it can’t be much further to the top right?” Well we thought we were almost there because all of a sudden we had views of Santa Rosa and the tops of the Palisades and Mount Saint Helena on the other side of Napa. We still had a little bit to go! Lots of stops and excitement along this part of the trail!
Once we reached the summit I was so excited! We finally made it to the top of this mountain we both see on our daily commutes. There’s a rock you can climb on to enjoy the views above the Manzanita trees and a dedication plaque explaining a little history. From here you can continue on to Sugarloaf Park or go down to Gunsight Rock…do not miss going to Gunsight Rock!!! It’s only .6 miles down and so very worth the views!
The .6 mile down to Gunsight Rock was a little tricky with the uneven trail and low covering Manzanita trees but take it slow and you are good! We got to the rock and there were 2 other people there already enjoying themselves. One looked like he was meditating and the other was having a well deserved snack! There was a ledge built for 2 just for us in between the two other people. I am scared to death of heights so being that close to the edge with a drop of a couple hundred feet below me was a little unnerving. I had it in my head that it would be a little more roomy but I dealt with the fear and just focused on this amazing view we were so lucky to see! We looked out over the entire Sonoma Valley to Sonoma Mountain where we were hiking on top of last weekend, we could see all the way to San Francisco and north to the ocean. Absolutely amazing views that can only be seen from high up on the top of the mountain. I was so excited to be there I wanted to stay all day! Sadly a group of about 10 people showed up so we left the rock so they could all enjoy the views. We had already snapped several pics and had a great turn on the rock.
Feeling accomplished we snacked when we reached the summit again and then headed back down Hood Mountain trail to Panorama Ranch Trail. This was definitely the drier part of the mountain but gave way to gorgeous views of Sonoma County before we headed back into the shade and down the steep paved trail.
As we were on the pavement in the last stretch of the trail we passed several people heading up and kept encouraging them that the trail gets better and levels off and the views are worth the effort. I get some confused looks sometimes because I am so happy on the trail and greeting everyone with a perky smile and hello while I probably look like hell from sweating profusely but that’s ok, I m happiest with the hubs out exploring no matter what I look like. 🙂
Cheers to a wonderful long weekend and an extra day for our legs to recover…until next weekend!