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Vista Loop Trail

Easy/Intermediate
  3.7 ( 3 ) Favorite

Trail

3.6 mile 5.8 kilometer point to point
Easy/Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 772' 235 m
Descent: -739' -225 m
High: 1,933' 589 m
Low: 1,242' 379 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 8% (5°)
Max Grade: 29% (16°)

Dogs

No Dogs
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Map Key

Trail shared by Megan W

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

Megan W

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.

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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Family Friendly, ADA Accessible, History & Background

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Check-Ins

Jun 15, 2019
Chuck O'Neil
3.6mi — 1h 35m
Feb 17, 2019
Chris M
3.6mi
Apr 21, 2018
Jamie Eggerss
4mi — 3h 00m
Aug 8, 2017
Allen Young

Trail Ratings

  3.7 from 3 votes

#3535

Overall
  3.7 from 3 votes
5 Star
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3 Star
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Featured Hike Rankings

#557

in California

#3,535

Overall
42 Views Last Month
1,660 Since Dec 26, 2014
Easy/Intermediate

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Photos

Nice views on the Vista Trail
Mar 30, 2015 near Kenwood, CA
Ridgetop spring growth April 2018 (after October 2017 fires)
Apr 25, 2018 near Kenwood, CA
Well-cut track on Vista Trail
Apr 25, 2018 near Kenwood, CA
Pacific Madrone Arbutus Menziesii
Dec 26, 2014 near Kenwood, CA
Vista Trail green in springtime (April 2018)
Apr 25, 2018 near Kenwood, CA
Looking back at the meadows on Lower Bald Mountain Trail
Mar 30, 2015 near Kenwood, CA

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