A practical guide to bird watching in Sonoma County, California

(Unless otherwise indicated, all phone numbers are in the 707 area code)


Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Kenwood CA 95452

Location aliases: Generally known by its proper name. Sometimes referred to as Sugarloaf State Park, Sugarloaf Ridge, or just Sugarloaf. 

Imagery ©2013 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm ServiceAgency, Map Data ©2013 Google

Location: Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, Kenwood CA 95452

GPS address: 8400 Sonoma Highway (which is Highway 12) will take you approximately to the intersection of the highway and the turn at Adobe Canyon Rd., while 2605 Adobe Canyon Rd. is the address of Robert Ferguson Observatory. This second address is beyond the State Park parking area, but setting your GPS to this address will get you to the parking area. 

GPS Coordinates: The main parking area is at 38.4379N, 122.5143W, or 38 26 17N, 122 30 52W

Access: Approached from Highway 12 by way of Adobe Canyon Rd. Note that Adobe Canyon Rd. becomes Mountain Trails Lane and then McCormick Lane. The upper parking area gives access to a number of good hiking trails excellent for birding. There is an $8 parking fee to enter the park. Call 833-5812 for updated information.

Habitats: Open scrub, meadows, wooded hills, riparian woods, mature deciduous and conifer forest

Typical species: California Quail, Wild Turkey, Turkey Vulture, Mourning Dove, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Anna’s Hummingbird, Acorn Woodpecker, Nuttall’s Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Pygmy Owl,  Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Kingbird, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Black Phoebe, Cassin’s Vireo, Western Scrub-jay, Steller’s jay, Raven, Violet-green Swallow, Barn Swallow, Oak Titmouse, Bewick’s Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, Brown Creeper, American Robin, Wrentit, Orange-crowned Warbler, Wilson’s Warbler, Spotted Towhee, California Towhee, Black-headed Grosbeak, Western Tanager, Lazuli Bunting, House Finch, Lesser Goldfinch, American Goldfinch

Unusual birds, sightings: Bell’s Sparrow (Doug Shaw, 4/15/15); Townsend’s Solitaire (1/31/13, Gene Hunn); Rufous-crowned Sparrow (5/12/12, Robert Jackson); California Thrasher (5/12/12, Robert Jackson); Northern Pygmy Owl (3/3/11, Gene Hunn); Northern Pygmy Owl (9/9/11, Ruth Rudesill); Pileated Woodpecker (2/2/10, Colin Talcroft). Abundance of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (5/6/10, Colin Talcroft)

Restroom facilities: Toilets at the upper parking area.

Restaurants nearby: Café Citti, at 9049 Sonoma Highway (Hwy. 12; 833-2690) is probably the closest. It offers excellent salads, pastas, and other Italian food. Also see restaurant recommendations for the town of Sonoma below.

Nearby attractions: The park itself offers camping and horseback riding trails. Robert Ferguson Observatory, at 2605 Adobe Canyon Rd, Kenwood, CA 95452 (833-6979), is open on public observing nights. Sonoma Valley wine country is at your feet. Wellington Vineyards is close by, at 11600 Dunbar Rd., in Glen Ellen, CA 95442 (939-0708). This is perhaps my favorite Sonoma Valley winery, with one of the friendliest tasting rooms in the area--and the wines are excellent. I particularly recommend the Rhone-style whites (Rousanne and Marsanne), the single-vineyard Cabernet wines, and the Victory bottling (exceptional years only). The small, charming town of Sonoma has numerous shops, galleries, and restaurants. Among the restaurants, I recommend the Plaza Bistro (420 1st East, 996-4466), The Swiss Hotel (18 West Spain St., 938-2884), and La Salette (452-H First St. East, 938-1927) for dinner. Maya Restaurant (101 E. Napa St., 935-3500) is good for South American-style lunch. Plaza Bistro hosts excellent jazz nights--not to be missed if you’re a serious jazz fan. Mission Sonoma is at the north end of the town’s central plaza--the northernmost of the Spanish missions. California’s flag first flew in the square here.

Related bird watching spots: Channel Dr., Spring Lake Park, Lake Ralphine, and Melita Rd. (all Santa Rosa) are in the vicinity. See individual location pages for details. If pressed for time, head for Spring Lake first among these choices.

Notes: 1. The trail that heads out to the right from the parking area (the “Meadow Trail”) will take you mostly through open meadows and streamside habitats. The “Bald Mountain Trail” leading off from the left of the parking area will take you into higher elevations with more wooded habitats, as will the "Vista Trail," which also affords excellent views. See the Sugarloaf Ridge State Park Website for more information. 2. Watch out for poison oak in wooded areas here (and throughout the county). 3. Note that this is one of several state parks that have been hit by the California state budget crisis. Officially closed, the park is now being operated for the time being by volunteers from a group of non-profits. Check the website for current information.

The bird in the photo: Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park, May 6, 2010

All photos by the author, unless otherwise indicated

Maps by Google Maps



© Colin Talcroft, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012

Unless noted, all photos by the author. If you would like to use one of my images, please ask for permission for non-commercial use with proper credit or commercial use with proper compensation.