The last time we hiked Brushy Peaks Trail in December 2015 it hailed and we had to run and duck for cover and we still chose to repeat this hike! This time, it was hot and hazy and a destructive fire tore through our lovely park last year. Looking at our “Waterfalls and Brushy Peaks” post from 3 years ago and comparing the photos to now was a little disheartening to see all of the damage from the fires. Thankfully the meadows with golden grass are flourishing, the trees are sprouting up new shoots from their bases, the animals are back in the park and everything is starting to make a strong comeback. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is one of our favorite places to hike in Sonoma County and also one of the few we have repeated the hikes. The change that has happened since we ventured into the park right after it opened up last February and hiked up to Bald Mountain is encouraging! Mother Nature will win. She will survive!
Our hike started in the morning from the parking lot near the white barn (love that barn!). The sun was in full force and we could already feel the heat of the day in the air. The Meadow trail is a nice easy stroll along the fire road with views of the golden meadow on the floor of this beautiful little valley between the mountains. We were cruising along getting our muscles warmed up and saw several turkey heads pop up out of the grass. One by one they scurried out from the grass and onto the trail. We paused, there were babies! We giggled (ok, the bosslady giggled) then we started back on the trail. They were gobbling away along the trail and we gave them their space. Then one of them got spooked and they started running. Have you seen a turkey run?! It’s almost as funny as them flying! It’s like a fast waddle with a dash of chaos added! They ended up going down to the stream to enjoy the shade and hide from us humans. We quietly passed by as we watched them foraging and kept following the trail.
Meadow trail wound around and eventually, when it starts heading uphill it turns into Gray Pine trail. Stay on this or you will end up going to Bald Mountain! Not a bad spot to end up but this wasn’t on our route!
Gray Pine Trail
Gray Pine trail is where the majority of the climbing happens. Brace yourself! We followed the switchbacks around and kept climbing. It felt never-ending! We would pause and stretch and take in the views…often. The flying bugs were thick, not sure what they were but they were super interested in us! We didn’t see many people on the trail so maybe they were lonely and we were their only entertainment. I don’t know. It was hard to breathe heavily though! In through the nose, out through the mouth. Avoid eating the bugs unless you’re into that kind of thing.
It was so good to see new growth starting at the base of the trees along the trails. I still can’t believe how fast the fire tore through and how much destruction happened, yet in a few years, we probably won’t notice it as much. The madrones had large shoots growing from their bases and the manzanitas were showing new growth too!
The skies were a little hazy from the fires north of us. We only noticed this while we were along the ridgeline which was good because wearing a bandanna over your nose and mouth while hiking isn’t super pleasant. The Napa Valley side was a bit hazier than Sonoma Valley which hindered our views of the Vaca mountain range.
As we reached the top of Gray Pine trail we ran into a trail crew getting set up. These generous souls were working hard to rebuild the trails along Brushy Peaks trail. We try to get out and do trail days and we know how exhausting and satisfying that work can be. So thankful for people giving back!
Brushy Peaks Trail
Brushy Peaks is such an awesome trail! As you walk along the ridgeline you get views of both Sonoma and Napa Valleys! On a clear day, you can see forever. We were in bright sun, no shade to be had, and no one on the trail. So peaceful to be up on the ridge. A slight breeze was keeping us cool AND keeping the bugs away. Our knees were thankful to not be climbing for a bit! Brushy Peaks trail shows a lot of the destruction from the fire. It also shows so much hope. Don’t forget to check out the video at the end of the post to see what we were seeing.
The views from Brushy Peaks trail were distracting us from how hot it was getting and we were truly enjoying ourselves. As we started to descend we saw the picnic table with a gorgeous view of the mountains. Excited, we went over to have our snack and were rudely attacked by the flying bugs swarming us again! Ugh. There were a ton of dragonflies…they must not eat these types of bugs or they would have been chunky dragonflies. Google says dragonflies eat all kinds of flying bugs. Slackers.
After a brief break, we headed down Brushy Peaks trail to Hillside trail. This part of the trail was somewhat shaded and a nice easy descent. There used to be more shade before the fires. The trees are coming back. It will be shady again but right now it isn’t until you get down into the oaks again. The fall colors were just starting to show along the trail here. Cannot wait for fall in Sonoma County!
Taking Hillside trail meant a little bit more climbing but we love to see different parts of the trails as much as possible. We came across the family of turkeys again! They didn’t mind us this time as they were foraging in the forest just off the trail. Sugarloaf has a few strategically placed benches and picnic tables in the park. Always try to stop at these! They have the best views! Our final stop was at the bench overlooking the valley below and across to Bald Mountain. This spot was great to see the hike we did and help us realize how far we went in the park! We could see our truck in the distance and longed to put our feet up and relax.
Following Hillside trail down we had more flying bugs since we were close to water trickling through the creek. Our arms got some exercise swinging them around to try to keep the bugs from entering our nose or mouth! Cross over the bridge and enter the meadow again. This is the spot we were at the last time we did this hike and it hailed! Thankful for no hail, we went back and collapsed into the truck. We knew we had a long night ahead of us too. We were camping at the group camp near the observatory with some amazing astronomers! I know, we are very fortunate and completely appreciate all of our fantastic opportunities to enjoy our slice of the earth.
Sugarloaf Ridge SP Camping
Camping at Sugarloaf is true camping! Just a pit toilet and fire pit. All you need right? Oh, some telescopes too. The sky there was so clear and had sooo many stars! We toured the observatory and got to hang with some super-smart people. They could have been telling us a load of nonsense about the stars and we would have believed them it was so far over our heads! Seeing what they can do with the telescopes was way over our head but so cool at the same time! We stayed up until the moon rose over the mountain we hiked earlier in the day then crashed in the truck to sleep until sunrise. Yes, we got our booties out of bed for sunrise and snapped a few pics then said goodbye and headed home to nap. It took the rest of the weekend to recuperate! 🙂
Parking is $8 unless you have a pass, pit toilets available at the parking lots, no dogs, 6.6 miles with 1,355 elevation gain, moderate hike due to the elevation, nearest food is in Kenwood. We ate at the new Tips Roadside the next night and it was AMAZING!! The bosslady enjoyed the gluten-free fried chicken and the hubs had the juicy burger. They also carry amazing local wines!
All Trails Stats
We switched to All Trails Pro so we can create the hikes online and see the length and elevation before we go and also have the app track us. Have you checked out this app? We are going to have so much fun with it!
Where Else Can You Find Us?
Don’t forget to check out the video of the hike on our Hike Then Wine YouTube channel!