Hood Mt Regional Park has recently opened the Lawson Addition, highlighted by a trail from the Pythian trailhead to a 2000 foot viewpoint and picnic site. This route follows the trail to the top and returns via a loop through Orchard Meadow, passing through various regimes of vegetation and several historic homesteads on the slopes of the Hood Mountain Ridge.
Parking $7. The gates are open at 8am and close at sunset so be sure to time your return.
Photos of the trail can be seen at flic.kr/s/aHsmQxXbT5
Much loose material and rocks/sticks.
The run begins at the Pythian Road parking lot for the Sonoma County Regonal Parks' Hood Mountain Park. A day use fee is required for car parking, or an annual Regional Parks Pass. The first 400 feet of climb is a steep grind up a paved road which will make you question your choice of trail! But shortly after crossing a stream which flows over the road (may be challenging after a heavy rain), you come to a four way junction.
Follow signs to the left for the Lawson Trail
. This trail meanders through the burn scar from the 2017 Nuns Fire, with lush sections alternating with open burn areas. After some climbing you'll leave the creek drainage and cross into chapparal and oak grassland with much of the trail exposed to the sun. The trail follows a gentle grade with numerous switchbacks up to a high ridge.
After two miles you reach a former cabin set on a ridgetop with views of Santa Rosa and the Sonoma Valley on one side, and the Napa mountains on the other, with nearby Hood peak rising 700 feet higher still. Stop here and enjoy the views over lunch or a snack.
For the return trip, you can retrace you steps back to the trailhead, or for some variety, turn left near the summit onto a service road (the old shack access road) and then left again at the tee. This fire road was widened by dozers as a control line in 2017 and you can see the difference in vegetation from one side to the other. When you reach the Panorama Ranch Trail
, go right and follow it down to Orchard Meadow.
Go left and meander through another historic homestead with ponds and marshes. A tee intersection marks the trail up to the Hood Summit, but we turn right and run down past the pond. Go right onto the Pond Trail
, cross a bridge over a year-round creek, and make a left back onto Panorama Ranch Trail
, which will return to the Lawson Trail
junction and then go steeply down the hill back to the parking area.
Giant conifer forest, oak woodlands, manzanita and chapparal hillsides, grasslands, marshes and creeks.
Mountain lions are known to inhabit the area, as well as black bears and rattlesnakes, though you are not likely to spot them.
Most of this park was burned in a major wildfire in 2017. Parts of the park were scorched while other parts had a healthy low-intensity burn of the understory. In places the landscape may appear stark but over the course of years life of all kinds will reappear. You'll see reminders of the fire for many years to come but nature is resilient.