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Hikers return to fire-damaged Sugarloaf Ridge State Park

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park suffered significant fire damage last October, and only opened to hikers in mid-January, and to overnight campers in February. But as the landscape recovers and the repaired trail system grows, springtime brings back the hikers to the Sonoma Valley’s largest state park.

A new “Hiking for Fitness” series begins this month at Sugarloaf, a sequence of eight increasingly-demanding hikes on Saturdays through March and April, culminating in the 6.2-mile hike to the summit of Bald Mountain. Before the first hike, leaders will discuss proper shoes, hydration, incorporating hiking poles, proper pacing and other tricks of the trail. Hikes will start at 9 a.m. at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

The first is this weekend, March 3 starting at 9 a.m., a relatively easy 2.2-mile round-trip from the Round Barn to the Uranus sign on the Planet Walk Trail. Later fitness hikes this month include, on March 10, the Meadow-Hillside Loop (3 miles), on March 17 on the Stern Ranch, Pony and Canyon trails (also 3 miles), on March 24 the Vista Trail Loop (4.5 miles), and on March 31 to the Neptune Picnic Table (5 miles).

The Hiking for Fitness series costs $80 for all hikes, (not including Sugarloaf parking fees), or free for hikers with a ParkRx from a Sonoma County Medical Provider. For more information on ParkRx, visit parkrx-sonomacounty.org.

Other hikes this month include the following: on Sunday, March 4, an “accessibility hike” for people of all ages and abilities at Sonoma Valley Regional Park with Alexis Puerto-Holmes, who will help hikers understand wildfire ecology in oak woodlands. The two-mile stroll is on a paved trail with minimal elevation gain, and begins at 11:30 a.m. after a bring-your-own picnic lunch. Registration required at 565-2041 between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. weekdays.

The following Sunday, March 11, a hike at Sonoma Mountain Regional Park with Regional Parks and Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation Staff explores how Sonoma Mountain is connected to the Laguna de Santa Rosa, outside of Sebastopol.

This informative 4.5-mile hike concludes at the Bennett Valley Overlook for panoramic views and a picnic lunch. West County residents meet at the Laguna Environmental Center at 9 a.m. for a brief overview, then carpool together to the Sonoma Mountain where they will meet local hikers. Bring a lunch, plenty of water, and sun protection.

Ambitious ramblers who want to get a jump on hiking to the summit of Bald Mountain can do so on Saturday, March 17, for the annual Brunch on Bald Mountain with the Sonoma Ecology Center and Bill & Dave’s Hikes.

It can be a strenuous hike to the top, so social hikers may want to take the shuttle to the summit – it costs a bit more ($60 versus $35 for hikers, $10 for ages 10-17) but everyone gets to share in the catered lunch at the top of the trial, with its 360-degree views. This special event is by reservation only, at brownpapertickets.com/event/3320478. Proceeds support Team Sugarloaf’s operation and maintenance of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park.

A week later, on Saturday, March 24, Bill and Dave and their legion of partners take an informative hike in the extreme northern part of Hood Mountain Regional Park and into the McCormick addition of Sugarloaf Ridge State Park. This moderately strenuous 6.5-mile hike, with 1,000 feet of elevation gain, will visit Homestead Meadow near the Santa Rosa Creek crossing, Grandmother Oak Tree within McCormick, and the former Spaulding property now a part of Hood Mountain Park.

Hikers should gather at the Los Alamos Road parking lot at 9:45 a.m. for a prompt 10 a.m. start. This lot is at the end of Los Alamos Road approximately 4.5 miles north of Highway 12. Bring a lunch, liquids, appropriate weather clothing, and plan on a shallow water crossing of the Santa Rosa Creek. A Regional Park entrance fee of $7 will apply.

For more outdoor activities at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, visit the calendar at sugarloafpark.org/events/

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