Slicing like a bread knife between Napa and Sonoma, the north-to-south Mayacamas Mountains divide the two valleys. The highest point in this range is Hood Mountain – a lofty 2,730-foot peak. With the closure of nearby Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Hood Mountain Regional Park
is the best place to climb to a view of this famous wine country. The 3.5-mile (one-way) hike to Gunsight Rock is no walk in the park. This is all about the climb—nearly 2,000 feet of it! Starting from the Pythian Road staging area, the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail gradually makes its way up the mountain. Occasional breaks through the thick forest give glimpses of the view you’ll get at the top. About half way up, you’ll pass Blue Heron Pond, which can have chunks of ice floating in it during the winter months. The final few hundred feet up to Hood Mountain are the most challenging. A steeply pitched fire road will test the grip on your hiking boots. The true summit has a commemorative plaque, but trees and shrubs obstruct the view. Continue on another .4-mile to Gunsight Rock Overlook. From this perch, a smattering of large boulders offer an amazing view of Sonoma Valley’s crescent shape, the Santa Rosa (basin), and even out to the Bay and Golden Gate Bridge. Turkey vultures sometimes sun themselves on nearby rocks, scanning for food. Hood times!
Go south on Hwy. 12 for 9 miles from Santa Rosa or 13 miles north from Sonoma. Turn east on Pythian Rd. and follow it 1.5 miles to the staging area. There is a $6 parking fee. From the parking area follow the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail up the mountain. In 1.5 miles (just a couple of minutes after crossing a bridge) you’ll come to an unsigned fork in the trail; go left and uphill. You’re now on the Pond Trail. In half a mile reach the Upper Johnson Ridge Trail and go right. In about a mile the trail comes to a T-junction. Go right and up the steep fire road to the summit. At the summit, follow the signs to Gunsight Rock Overlook. Return the way you came. Dog-friendly!