Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: The Complete Guide

Hiking trail in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park,

Sundry Photography / Getty Images

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Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

Address
2605 Adobe Canyon Rd, Kenwood, CA 95452, USA
Phone +1 707-833-5712

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is a true hidden gem among California's state parks. It spans 3,900 acres in the city of Kenwood and is tucked into the Mayacamas Mountains separating the wine-growing regions of Napa and Sonoma counties. The park protects the headwater of Sonoma Creek, surrounded by tall redwood trees, green ferns, and moss, while the park’s abundant meadows are known for their vibrant wildflower displays in the late spring and early summer.

From miles of hiking trails to family-friendly campsites and even a public observatory, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is the perfect place to spend a day or even a weekend.

Things to Do

Hiking and camping are probably the two most popular activities at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. The trails range from easy, self-guided nature trails to the difficult 8.2-mile Bald Mountain loop. Scenic views are accessible from multiple points, including those of the Napa Valley, Mount Saint Helena, and on clear days, even the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Plenty of wildlife species, such as deer and gray foxes, call the park home and can be seen along its trails. After the rainy season in winter, there’s also a 25-foot waterfall that flows from the creek.

A favorite for families, the Robert Ferguson Observatory houses a 40-inch telescope that’s available to the public. To get a better idea of the history of the park and available activities, stop at the visitors center and gift shop.

Best Hikes and Trails

In total, there are about 25 miles of hiking trails inside the park, some of which are accessible to mountain biking and horseback riding.

  • Creekside Nature Trail: Start this easy, 1-mile nature trail from the visitors center (don’t forget to grab a trail guide and brochure) by simply crossing the road across from the parking lot. The shaded hike is great for families.
  • Canyon-Pony Gate Loop: This is a moderate 2-mile hike that takes visitors through a redwood forest and to the seasonal waterfall. There’s about a 400-foot elevation change.
  • Bald Mountain: The most challenging hike in the park starts from the trailhead at Stern Trail or Lower Bald Mountain before turning right and heading up for about 5.6 miles. There’s a total elevation gain of 1,500 feet with hardly any shade, though hikers will be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding area.
  • Vista Loop Trail: A bit less difficult than Bald Mountain, the Vista Loop Trail starts from the same spot but turns right onto Vista Trail rather than continuing up the mountain. Turn right on Gray Pine trail, cross the creek, and continue onto Meadow Trail to complete the loop and make it back to the parking lot.

Stargazing

Not only is the Robert Ferguson Observatory one of the best places to stargaze in Northern California, it is also the largest observatory in the western United States that’s completely dedicated to public viewing and education. Apart from nightly viewings, the park provides Night Sky Classes where visitors can learn about the sky and stars depending on the specific season. 

Where to Camp

The park features a year-round campground with 47 sites. Each one has a table and fire ring, along with campground bathrooms and showers with hot water. There is a group site available (up to 50 people) and room for RVs (up to 28 feet) as well. Campsites within the main campground range from $35 to $45 per night depending on the location, and reservations are highly recommended—especially during weekends.

The park recently added two glamping sites for a more luxurious camping experience. The sites, known as the Shelter Luxury Tents, are permanent structures with canvas glamping tents including beds, tables, chairs, rugs, a lamp, and firewood. Glampers can request “plush” bedding (sheets, blankets, comforters, pillows) for an additional $30 per night. These sites cost $125 per night and are available through HipCamp.

Vineyard on the hills of Sonoma County, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, California
Sundry Photography / Getty Images

Where to Stay Nearby

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is located almost equidistant from the towns of Sonoma and Santa Rosa. In general, Sonoma tends to be more expensive and Santa Rosa more budget-friendly, though there are certainly exceptions. And, there is always the option of staying nearby in Napa or even San Francisco to pair your visit with more wine tasting options or big city attractions.

  • Kenwood Inn and Spa: This gorgeous Mediterranean-style hotel is located just under 4 miles from the state park and is known for its elegant rooms. Convenience and luxury comes at a cost, however, as this spot averages about $450 per night during the summer months. If you can swing it, the Kenwood Inn promises a truly luxurious stay in the heart of Sonoma County wine country.
  • Hotel La Rose: Housed in a historic building dating back to 1907, Hotel La Rose has a prime location near Santa Rosa's Railroad Square. The boutique hotel is mid-budget and comes with features like a garden courtyard and private patios in the rooms.
  • The Jack London Lodge: The historic Jack London Lodge is a rustic B&B with 22 rooms in Glen Ellen, a small town about 8 miles from the park. It’s connected to a charming, antique bar called the Jack London Saloon.

How to Get There

The park is open year-round and located in Sonoma County about one hour’s drive from San Francisco. It's 7 miles east of Santa Rosa and 16 miles from Sonoma town. The park is open for day use from 6 a.m. to 8 pm.

Accessibility

The visitors center has accessible parking as well as accessible routes to the rest of the building, portable restrooms, and an information area. There are also two wheelchair accessible campsites with an accessible restroom and shower, accessible campfire pits, and wheelchair seating areas. For the observatory telescope, all rooms, restrooms, and routes are accessible, though there is hand-packed gravel from the accessible parking space to the building that may not be suitable for everyone.

Tips for Your Visit

  • In true Northern California fashion, the weather at Sugarloaf Ridge can hit temperatures of over 90 degrees F in the summer and drop to below 40 degrees F in the winter, so it's best to check the weather forecast before arriving at Sugarloaf Ridge and bring layered clothing.
  • Dogs are allowed in developed areas and campgrounds only, not including trails, dirt roads, and backcountry areas.
  • The local Valley of the Moon Observatory Association organizes year-round astronomy education and interpretation programs at the park’s observatory, some of which are free or included in your payment of the park’s day-use fee ($10 per car).
  • Although campsites are by reservation only during the busy season, the park releases available first-come, first-served sites daily at 10 a.m. by phone only (no walk-ins), so you can always try your luck for a last-minute visit.
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Sugarloaf Ridge State Park: The Complete Guide