Sugar Rush

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is in the heart of wine country. This 4,000-acre open space straddles the Sonoma…

My Weekend Sherpa:

Want to do it Did it


Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is in the heart of wine country. This 4,000-acre open space straddles the Sonoma and Napa Valleys in the Mayacamas Mountains. And its trails are something special, with wildflowers, waterfalls, and nearby wineries!

Sonoma Creek’s seasonal waterfall is currently on full display, charging through a smattering of boulders. And it’s easy to reach! In 15 minutes you can be lounging in the shaded canyon next to the roaring waterworks and cooling your feet in the crystal stream.

For a longer hike in the park, offering the best view of Sonoma Valley, hike Bald Mountain via its most straightforward route—combining the Stern Trail and Bald Mountain Trail. Get an early start and follow the wide trail as it winds among Sugarloaf’s hills, becoming more exposed the higher you go.

California poppies are strewn along the path and across the hills. From the summit, you get a view of Sonoma Valley’s town of Kenwood and St. Helena in Napa Valley. Pro tip: This is an amazing sunset and full-moon hike (just bring a flashlight for the hike down).

BONUS WINE: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is close to many excellent wineries, so you can’t go wrong for your post-hike tastings. A few we like: Set high in the Mayacamas, lovely Hanzell Vineyards offers tastings by appointment only. The winery is best known for its multiple-award-winning chardonnays and pinots, but they’ve also got an outstanding farm tour with incredible wine-country views, where you’ll see some progressive winemaking philosophies in action, and meet some seriously cute animals, including pigs, sheep, and chickens. Imagery Estate Winery (named 2018 Golden State Winery of the Year) has a scenic outdoor picnic area and equally excellent wines (“rosé all day” types will love it here, but be sure to broaden your palate and give the Sangiovese a try).

BONUS FILM FESTIVAL THIS WEEKEND: Just named a Top 10 Film Festival by USA Today, pair your waterfall with some wine and a screening good time at the Sonoma International Film Festival (SIFF) this weekend (Thursday, March 28 to Sunday, March 31). From shorts and documentaries to feature-length excellence, all of the movie venues are walking distance to Sonoma’s lively plaza. Hang out with the filmmakers, meet the stars, sip wine, eat great food, and—of course—get to those parties!

NOTE: Due to recent storms, be sure to check Sugarloaf’s website to see conditions on trails and any closures. Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is 11 miles north of Sonoma on Hwy. 12. To reach the waterfall, park at the turnout by the Pony Gate Trail, just before the main entrance to the park. Take the Canyon Trail down. Or, park at the main trailhead by the visitor center and follow the Canyon Trail down from its other end. To reach Bald Mountain from the visitor center, take the Stern Trail and Bald Mountain Trail. No dogs.


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