Hood's New Trail
Hike the new Lawson Trail to a picnic spot at Hood Mountain Regional Park in Sonoma Valley
Tucked just on the edge of Sonoma Valley near Santa Rosa, Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve is 2,000 acres of wild land and home to the highest summit in the Mayacamas. It’s also got a brand-new trail leading up to a brilliant picnic spot with a panorama of Sonoma Valley all the way out to the ocean on clear days.
Thank the “Lawson Expansion” initiative, which preserved nearly 250 acres on Mount Hood’s western flank. This 5.5-mile (round-trip) hike includes the new 2-mile section of the Lawson Trail, which leads up to an oak-dotted plateau with a lone picnic table overlooking the sweeping scenery. Start from the parking area and follow the multi-use paved road to the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail, which meanders by a small canyon creek and under a forest before connecting back to the paved road. Follow signs for Merganser Pond and Lower Johnson Ridge Trail before reaching a meadow with a Sonoma County Regional Parks sign pointing the way to the Lawson Picnic Area (2.0 miles).
This is the start of the new Lawson Trail, which you’ll follow in moderate switchbacks among grassland, rocky outcroppings, oak trees, cypress, chaparral, and mega views out to the Sonoma Coast as you reach a ridge leading to the Lawson Picnic Area. Spin around and take in the vast wildland of this precious park surrounding you.
Sure, there’s just one picnic table, lovingly surrounded by what looks to be artfully planted flower patches along with ancient walnut trees, but this Lawson addition has plenty of room for those willing to sit on their backpacks, blankets, or whatever else suits your hike-in picnic style. Stay awhile … it’s nice up here!
To reach the trailhead for this hike, use the Hood Mountain Pythian Road entrance off Hwy. 12, across from Oakmont (map). Park in the upper lot at the road’s end ($7 fee, or free with a Sonoma County Parks pass) and follow the paved road to the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail and follow signs for the Lower Johnson Ridge Trail until the sign pointing the route to the Lawson Picnic Area. NOTE: Water is not available at the park; plan accordingly. This trail is popular with courteous mountain bikers too. Please share the trail. Bring a trail map. Dog-friendly!
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