I have lived in the Bay Area for a long time– over 20 years, in fact. And until fairly recently (5 years ago?), I had no idea Hood Mountain Regional Park existed. If you haven’t explored Hood Mountain, I highly recommend you get on that. Today’s post is on a more focused part of Hood Mountain– the lone backpacking site, and why it’s the greatest for beginning backpacking.
One of Bay Area Families Outside’s writers had an event at Hood Mountain at the end of April. We realized we could both do the event AND get in a night of backpacking! All the things! In one weekend!
And whoa– were we glad we did. The environmental campsites (i.e., backpacking campsites) at Hood Mountain are great. There is just one family campsite and one group campsite. I’m not sure how many people actually know about the group campsite. Previously there were four single campsites but recently they shifted to a single and a group. It’s unclear how many people know about either– years ago, we ran by the campsite and saw some people camped, but I have never met anyone else who has backpacked here.
The site is 1.8 miles from the Los Alamos Road entrance. You can also start from the Pythian Road entrance, which would give you a bit more hiking (maybe 6 miles one-way?), should you and your hikers desire more mileage. It’s not an easy 1.8 miles. The first .8 miles out of the parking lot is great– downhill to Homestead Meadow and Santa Rosa Creek. When we went two weeks ago (at the beginning of May), the creek was full enough to need shoe removal to cross. (We saw a family slogging happily up and down the creek in Tevas, so that’s an idea…) Be warned that we have come to this creek crossing during the winter in wet years and been unable to cross–but we have also seen the creek almost dry. For this reason, if your hikers could not do 6 miles, you might want to skip backpacking in February, because the high water could leave you stranded. Right now, the creek is pretty much perfect, though– enough water to play and cool off in, but not so much that it’s impassable.
After the creek, the trail is pretty much straight uphill to the campsite. Bring snacks. Many snacks. Our three year old didn’t complain too much though– we went fairly slowly and it’s generally shaded the whole way. Hood Mountain is a collection of gorgeous trails, and even though it was tough hiking, she turned to me at one point and said, “Mommy, this is a pretty place!”
The group campsite sits slightly off the trail to the left, while the single campsite is just to the right of the trail. Both campsites have access to a pit toilet, which was well-stocked with toilet paper.
What makes this such a great beginning backpacking trip, you ask? Well, for one, it’s close. It’s about an hour and fifteen minutes from our house (Richmond), so maximum 2.5 hours from almost anywhere in the Bay Area. It’s not so long of a hike– 1.8 miles–but it feels remote, and gives one a backpacking experience without needing to drive to the Sierras. If you have someone who is new to backpacking and fearful of digging holes behind trees, you can ease them in with the pit toilets. At night, we even found this friendly toad (picture below)– this is an area that is chock-full with wildlife!
Key details: there is no guaranteed water– we got water from Azalea Creek (and purified it afterwards), which was flowing decently at the beginning of May, but could be dry by the summer. Campfires & BBQs are not allowed, but backpacking stoves are fine. Hood Mountain Regional Park also allows dogs on leash, but beware that this area (at least when we went) is full of ticks.
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