Hood Mountain Regional Park’s new 247-acre Lawson Expansion with two new miles of trails was just the news we needed! Hood Mountain is one of our favorite local Sonoma County parks and when we heard there was a new trail to explore we canceled our other hiking plans to check out the new Lawson Trail. The 7-mile round trip, 1,168 elevation gain hike from the Pythian entrance gives you stunning views of Sonoma Valley along most of the trail and wonderfully executed switchbacks to give your knees a break. The view from the picnic table at the ridgetop 2,000 feet above Sonoma Valley is perfect on a clear day!
Lower Johnson Trail
Start your journey at the Pythian entrance to Hood Mountain Regional Park and head up the Lower Johnson trail. This is the most difficult part of the hike with the steep grade.
At about the 1-mile mark you reach Lower Johnson Landing, you will see a sign showing the Lawson Picnic Area in 2 miles. Follow the trail and remember to give thanks to all the hard work that went into building this beautiful new trail and finishing it during a pandemic!
The first part of the trail is nice and level and you can see this is a brand new trail with the rocks lining the trail nice and neatly. It felt a bit weird heading north in a park we normally head south in but we embraced it! After crossing the bridge, the switchbacks begin and the sunshine lights the way. Bay trees lean over the trail and you can start to see the path the fire took in 2017.
Rim View Point
About a half-mile in you reach this wonderful little spur trail to Rim View Point. Take it! We love checking out spur trails because they usually build them in so us visitors can experience a beautiful view. Wow! The view is stunning from this spot! Sonoma Valley below us, Gunsight Rock to the south of us, and hills showing signs of regrowth after the fires to the north of us. It was a great spot to pause and be thankful for where we live.
We had this view all to ourselves and we soaked it all in. Little did we know we would keep seeing it from different angles as we made our way up to the ridge!
Continue on the Lawson trail from Rim View Point. The trail goes in and out of shade as it climbs up through the bays. It eventually opens up and you can see the canyon below that you were just in. The dirt also becomes red in color.
The long switchbacks take you back to the view from Rim View Point, just higher up, and then you turn and climb some more along the Lawson trail. We paused each time to soak it all in.
Large rock formations common in the Mayacamas and appear on your right and left before you enter the shaded last bit of switchbacks. The large one on your right is called The Spire. Into the trees, you go with peek-a-boo views of Santa Rosa and the Los Alamos Road entrance to Hood Mountain Regional Park.
When the forest cover disappears and the sun shines bright again, you are along the ridgeline. To the south of you, you can see Panorama Trail. Look toward the north for the barn and picnic table and follow the nice wide fire road around to them.
At the summit of the Lawson expansion, you will find a new picnic table in the shade under the trees. Go ahead and have yourself a nice break here and enjoy the views and breeze. We explored the old barn (might have been a little obsessed with it) and the end of the trail. It was a little smokey the day we went preventing us from seeing the bay, but we knew it was there. We can’t wait to go back in the spring when wildflowers will be popping out and hopefully cleaner air! Maybe we will even combine this trail with the trail up to Gunsight Rock.
Parking is $7 or included with your annual Sonoma County Parks Pass. The Parking lot at Pythian has a portable potty. Dogs on leash, horses, and mountain bikes are allowed. 7 miles with all of our extra exploring, just over 6 miles if you stick to just the trail and 1,168 feet elevation gain/loss, rated a moderate level hike. The nearest wine is St Francis Winery and food would be in Kenwood (treat yourself at any of the restaurants here, they are all wonderful!).
Things We Love
We love new trails to explore! We also love our hiking poles, especially as we have aged. Not saying we are old, but using them on steeper hikes really makes the hike and recovery so much better! We are definitely not 20 anymore! 🙂
The bosslady loves her Leki Cressida anti-shock poles with the SpeedLock adjustment and very comfy grips. These are very lightweight and super sturdy. She’s been using them all summer and now that she has gotten used to using them (as in not tripping over them) she really loves them! They are compact and fit perfectly on her backpack, when not in use, without adding any noticeable extra weight.
Check them out on Amazon below and see if they would be the right fit for you!