Hood Mountain's Popular Hiking Trails in Sonoma County
Many SF bay area residents venture to Sonoma County to escape the urban areas they live in, either to see vineyards and go wine tasting north of Santa Rosa, or biking at Annadel State Park, or hiking at Hood Mountain. Hood Mountain Park is 2000 acres and unlike state parks, dogs on a lease are allowed. Adjacent to Hood Mountain is Surgarloaf State Park, which offers camping, hiking etc. But, no dogs.
Hood Mountain is nearly 3000 ft. above the Valley of the Moon floor offering stunning vistas from the top or from Gunsight Rock, which is nearly at the summit. On clear days, one can see San Francisco from it some 70 miles away. Of course, the views of the valley floor and the vineyards below offer a sight worth the hike up! Gunsight Rock is a favorite destination for the hikers and one literally is on the "edge" once there. While there is also great hiking at Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa, it does not offer the vistas from Gunsight Rock.
There are three ways to get there, depending on how much you like to hike. Just remember you will be going uphill much of the time.
Driving up from the bay area is easy: take Highway 101 north, 70 miles, take the Hwy 12 exit and stay to your right.Once on Hwy 12, reaching the trailheads to this hike start at different places.
The first access is reached by taking a left on Los Alamos Road and driving until it ends at the Upper Parking lot trailhead. Look for the Hood Mountain Trail to Summit. Since you have climbed some of the way from valley floor, this hike is a more moderate ascent and is 5.3 miles one way.To reach Gunsight Rock, you also need to hike further, which is on the other side.
The second access is found by taking a left at Pythian Rd. At the end of the road is the trailhead. This is the shortest hike to the summit, only 3.1 miles. Again, to reach Gunsight Rock, once the summit is reached you continue to hike another half mile on Nattkemper Trail. There are signs. This hike is fairly easy with only maybe a mile of steep incline. You pass a few ponds, meadows etc.
The last access is further down on Hwy 12, take a left at Adobe Canyon Rd. The road ends at Surgarloaf State Park, however, the trailhead is outside of the park, in fact, it is just outside of the entrance and parking is free. This way you avoid paying entrance fees. The parking area will be on your left and it is obvious. The trail is called Goodspeed Trail and later turns into Nattkemper Trail. This is a steady incline, not steep, with dips down into a waterfall. This will take you to Gunsight Rock without reaching the summit, which is another half mile up the trail. It is 3.5 miles one way.
If you hike on average a mile an hour, expect about 3.5 hrs to reach the Gunsight Rock. Any of the hikes offer great exercise and views, just take plenty of water, hiking in running shoes is totally fine as the trails are well developed. Take a snack for energy. The reward are the panoramic views on a clear day.