Go See Grandmother
Hike to the Grandmother Oak in Hood Mountain Regional Park
Grandmother’s calling, so you must go. And it’s going to be a lovely visit, one where you can get a lot of social distance too. In fact, you might be the only company Grandmother gets all day. The Grandmother Tree is the largest known coast live oak in Sonoma County. Unfortunately the tree toppled over last winter from the combination of wildfires, rain, strong winds, and erosion. Regardless, Grandmother will be happy to see you.
Visit her via a 5-mile (round-trip) hike high in Hood Mountain Regional Park, which crosses into Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. You’ll get big views, plentiful solitude, and Grandmother, waiting way up on a ridgeline that spills out to sweeping, spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. 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 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! The toppled giant oak rests her thick trunk, a girth of impressive proportions, in the exact place where she lived in strength, branches reaching out in all directions, like the best ever air-hug. (Pictures below of before and after she fell.)
Continue up the hill to a trio of trees at the top, which we recommend as your end point because of its brilliant vantage of the Mayacama Mountain Range and rolling Sonoma County. It’s perfect for a lunch break. Return the way you came, and as you pass by Grandmother assure her you’ll be back soon. She already misses you.
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 three trees on the ridge). Hood Mountain Regional Park is dog-friendly, but no dogs in Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.
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