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Vista Loop Trail

 3.7 (3)

3.6 Miles 5.8 Kilometers


83%

Runnable

772' 235 m

Ascent

-739' -225 m

Descent

8%

Avg Grade (5°)

29%

Max Grade (16°)

1,933' 589 m

High

1,242' 379 m

Low

Shared By Megan W

Conditions


All Clear 86 days ago
Mostly Dry History

Getting forecast...

Enjoyable jaunt affording views and a sense of the Sugarloaf Ridge Park area.

Megan W

Dogs No Dogs

Features River/Creek · Views · Wildlife

Overview

The Vista Loop combines many highlights of the Sugarloaf Ridge Park area into a satisfying outing.

Need to Know

The meadows of Lower Bald Mountain, Vista, Meadow Trail are open and sunny but wooded groves with shade can be found on about 1/2 of this loop. The Gray Pine Trail crossing of Sonoma Creek is wide- either hop across stones or take your shoes off and wade here. Bikes are allowed on the Gray Pine Trail and the Meadow Trail, but not on the Lower Bald Mountain Trail or Vista Trail. Horses are allowed on all the trails of this loop.

Runner Notes

Good trail surface for the most part with the exception of the descent on the lower 1/3 of the Vista Trail proper. This section is more ruggedly steep and has some erosion, roots and loose rocks to contend with.

Description

Starting from either the stables parking area or the Ferguson Observatory, head west along the well marked Lower Bald Mountain Trail, keeping right at the initial intersections. Proceed steadily uphill through open rolling fields before entering a stand of scrubby, lichen covered hardwoods. Switchback gently through the parched juniper and shrub and soon join the paved Bald Mountain Trail.

This wide portion of the Bald Mountain Trail climbs arduously along the ridge. Just when you've had about enough of the uphill, the Vista Trail mercifully forks off to the right and ambles on along the level for a time. This upcoming section of the Vista Trail is the loop's highlight: grassy, peaceful meadows with expansive views of the surrounding hills. Contour along the rolling hillside through rock formations and consider taking the short but overgrown out-and-back to the vista point for views of Columbine Meadow below.

Continue along the Vista Trail past the junction of the Headwaters Trail to descend steeply through dense hardwood groves. Marvel at the moss covered rocks and trees here, but keep an sharp eye on the rugged trail too - erosion and rocky sections make for tough footing. The grade levels for the last half mile of the Vista Trail as the trail approaches close enough to Sonoma Creek to enjoy its burbling progress.

The Vista Trail terminates, so to finish the loop, join the gravel Gray Pine Trail heading south and downhill. Before long, cross Sonoma Creek either by rock hopping or a refreshing wade. At the 3-way junction, follow signs to the right for the Meadow Trail. The Meadow Trail crosses Sonoma Creek one last time over a substantial wooden bridge next to the Heritage Tree. The Meadow Trail is a wide, fine gravel road that traverses the valley bottom next to the creek.

Once emerging into its namesake meadows, the trail passes a couple of the interpretive signs for planets of the "Planet Walk." (To see all 9 planets and understand their relative distances, start the walk from the Stables parking lot, combining the Sun, Meadow and Brushy Peaks Trail.) Cool down on the level cruise back to the observatory and the Vista Loop is complete.

Flora & Fauna

Circling hawks are often seen hunting in the open meadows. Hummingbirds frequent the wooded sections while friendly snakes and lizards soak up the sun. Wildflowers in later winter, early spring.

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Trail Ratings

  3.7 from 3 votes

#3162

Overall
  3.7 from 3 votes
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Rankings

#484

in California

#3,162

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98 Views Last Month
936 Since Dec 26, 2014
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