I love hiking at Hood Mountain Regional Park & Open Space Preserve. It is in Rincon Valley, and only a 15 minute drive from the Saint Francis Shopping Center. When I hike there I rarely see another person, and enjoy spectacular views of the Valley of the Moon. There are two entrances to the park. The most popular entrance/parking lot is off Pythian Road near Oakmont. The other is at the end of Los Alamos Rd. The latter is closer to Rincon Valley, but seems less frequently used, probably because the road leading to it is so winding. I was short on time recently and decided I’d take my dogs to Hood Mountain for a quick local hike. I parked at the west entrance which is at the end of Los Alamos Road. I went along the Hood Mountain Trail which starts at the parking lot. I eventually came to a split in the trail where I could either continue on to Hood Mountain Summit or enter the Sugarloaf Park/McCormick Ranch Addition. I’ve hiked to the Hood Mountain summit before so I decided to check out the Sugarloaf/McCormick Ranch Addition, which I had not been to before. The Sugarloaf/McCormick Ranch entrance is a very clearly marked trailhead. There is only one trail and although the name is not clearly marked on the trailhead, it is called Quercus Trail. Again, there is only one trail, so you won’t be confused about where to go. The Quercus Trail has one easy water crossing that can be leaped over. The trail continues moderately up a poorly maintained fire road under a canopy of oak and bay trees 3/4 mi. until you come to a clearing and the Headwaters Trail. If you stay right, the Headwater Trail ends shortly. If you turn left on the Headwaters Trail, you will travel up a moderate grade fire road along the perimeter of a beautiful clearing with spectacular views. I recommend completing your journey by walking up the Headwaters Trail to the Grandmother Tree Trail which is only about a 10 minute walk. The Grandmother Tree Trail is on the right and continues another 3/4 mi. The Grandmother Tree is a beautiful place to sit and look over the beautiful open space. Lots of wildlife, beautiful views, and few people make this 5 mile out-and-back hike a real treat. Here are the highlights: 1) Begin at the Hood Mountain Regional Park parking lot at the end of Los Alamos Road 2) Hike the Hood Mountain Trail 1.5 miles to the Sugarloaf Ridge/McCormick Addition entrance (it’s clearly marked) 3) Hike the Quercus Trail (not marked but it’s the only trail) 1.5 miles to the Headwaters Trail 4) Turn left at the Headwaters Trail and hike up the hill to the Grandmother Tree Trail 5) Turn right and hike the Grandmother Tree Trail to the tree 6) Sit under the Grandmother Tree and take time to enjoy what a beautiful area we live in! The above mentioned distances are estimates only Notes: This hike is intermediate to strenuous with some unstable loose ground and steep elevation. Mountain bikes are allowed but I’d rate this as an intermediate to expert trail. Mountain bikes are not allowed on the Grandmother Tree trail. Always hike with a map ! Take a free map from the box in the parking lot or print the one posted below. Once you leave the parking lot, there is no running potable water but there are great creeks if you have a purification system. Dogs are allowed in Hood Mountain but NOT allowed in Sugarloaf/McCormick Ranch. Cell phone coverage is unreliable. There are few to no rangers or park staff to assist you. Parking at Hood Mountain is $7 and an outhouse is available. Rattlesnakes and Poison Oak are in the area. Full Hood Mountain Regional Park map link
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