Go See Grandmother

There’s simply no excuse not to visit Grandmother. Especially when she lives in such a beautiful place! The…

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There’s simply no excuse not to visit Grandmother. Especially when she lives in such a beautiful place! The Grandmother Tree is the largest known coast live oak in Sonoma County. Get to her on a 5-mile (round-trip) hike high in Hood Mountain Regional Park  that crosses into Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. 

So lace up and head out for big views, solitude, and hints of autumn, like crunchy leaves and the sweet scent of bay leaves and cloves. Grandmother’s waiting way up on a ridgeline that opens out to sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. You might be the only company she gets all day.

Just getting to the trailhead is an adventure, driving and winding up Los Alamos Road to the parking lot and the start of Hood Mountain Trail (the map on the sign shows the route). Follow the trail down and through a forest canopy. Picnic benches beg for snack breaks, including one that’s perched under shade next to burbling Santa Rosa Creek. Follow the trail to a signpost reading McCormick Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. Here, you’ll go left, onto Sugarloaf’s Quercus Trail, a bit of a thigh-burner as you rise and wind with peek-a-boo views. Continue on, and at Headwaters Trail (signed) head left and keep going up. At the Grandmother Oak Trail follow the ridgeline path, taking in sweeping vistas before coming to a small forested area where you’ll find …. Grandmother! She’s not hard to spot, with her thick trunk—a girth of impressive proportions—and limbs branching out in all directions.

Still, because the trail continues, you may find yourself wondering, Is this the one? Or do I need to keep going? Hint: If you continue up the hill to a trio of trees at the top, you’ve gone too far. Nonetheless, that trio of trees should be your end point because of its brilliant vantage of the Mayacama Mountain Range and rolling Sonoma County. Return the way you came, and as you pass by Grandmother assure her you’ll be back soon! Give her a hug.

TIP: There’s a free guided hike to the Grandmother Tree on Saturday, September 30. Details.

The trailhead parking lot is at the north entrance of Hood Mountain Regional Park, in Santa Rosa (map). From the parking lot, follow Hood Mountain Trail until the McCormick Ranch/Sugarloaf Ridge sign. From here, go left, onto Sugarloaf’s Quercus Trail. Follow it about 1.5 miles and go left on Headwaters Trail to the Grandmother Oak Trail, which takes you right past the Grandmother Tree (it’s the big one!) and up to a sweeping vista point just beyond it (you’ll see 3 trees on the ridge). Hood Mountain Regional Park is dog-friendly, but no dogs in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

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