Lake Berryessa closed, Napa County parks, trails remain open
Napa Valley’s Living Landscape

Lake Berryessa closed, Napa County parks, trails remain open

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series

On April 6, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) applauded the decision to temporarily close public facilities, including campgrounds and boat launches, at Lake Berryessa to help flatten the curve and help stop the spread of Coronavirus. Thompson had previously written to the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) asking them to take this step to help keep visitors and residents safe.

“Enjoying the great outdoors is an important part of keeping busy and staying sane during this uncertain time, but it must be done in a safe way, including social distancing and avoiding places and spaces that are not often cleaned,” said Thompson.

Also on Monday, John Woodbury, general manager of the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District, said the district’s parks and trails currently are open, but could get overcrowded, especially in the afternoons and on weekends. Moore Creek and Robert Louis Stevenson, for example, remain open, but it is better for people to walk in their neighborhoods, since there is limited parking at both parks. For RLS park, on Highway 29, Woodbury said he would discourage people from going there, especially on weekends.

Parks, trails remain open

During this time of social distancing due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, parks and trails are counted on more than ever as places of release and refuge from stress.

Following is a list of trails and their current status, as of April 3. On those trails where visitors are welcome, we need to be reminded of the importance of social distancing — to maintain at least six feet between other walkers and hikers and to avoid congregating in groups, both in parking lots and at trail heads. Also, it is important to note that some trails may have closed bathrooms and visitor centers.

Because conditions are rapidly changing, check with the latest public health guidance from local and state governments, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention before heading out. Visit for updates, maps and information on parks in Napa County.

On the website is the following statement: “We encourage Napa County residents to use the parks and outdoor spaces to get outside for fresh air and exercise, but we need everyone’s help to keep one another safe so that we can keep our parks open for use during this period. Please be sure to practice safe social distancing so that we can all do our part to flatten the curve.”

Additionally, the website notes:

  • Camping, picnic areas, and all communal public spaces are closed until further notice at all parks.
  • We are planning on maintaining public facilities such as restrooms and drinking fountains as long as possible, but our ability to safely continue this may change. Please bring water and hand sanitizer if you visit the parks.

Here are some suggested hiking places, with their websites and social media information:

Bothe-Napa Valley


Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is located four miles south of Calistoga and is currently open for day use, sunrise to sunset. Parking is limited and each car is charged $8, self-pay with exact change or bring a credit card. The website notes it is open for locals, who are visiting the park near their primary residences. The park is closed for camping, and dogs are not allowed on the trails here.

Entering the park, you note the large picnic grounds and take in the park’s rugged beauty. The sharp scent of California bay laurel, also called pepperwood, is present, along with a perfume of pine. Since the park’s elevations range from 300 to 2,000 feet, you will notice an array of vegetation from brushy plants to redwoods within its 10 miles of trails. Redwoods, the queens of the forest, over look Ritchey Creek, which courses merrily down the canyon.

You will be able to see Douglas-fir, madrone and tanoak trees as well. A variety of native ferns grow along the creek, such as goldenback and coffee fern. Standing quietly, you’ll be able to discern the sound of bees making their rounds among the bay blooms and below, in many of the other spring flowers such as Indian warrior, brodiaea. One of the most elegant blooms growing in the under story is that of the trillium, with blossoms in varying shades of purple, white or yellow.

You may be able to sight some of the park’s wildlife, such as deer, gray squirrels, raccoons, fox or bobcat. Since many of the local mammals are nocturnal, you will more likely take in the bird life, which includes six kinds of woodpeckers, spotted owls and more.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, Oat Hill Mine Trail and Palisades

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, Oat Hill Mine Trail and Palisades are all open for day use, but closed to vehicular access. These parks are all connected, each with their own lengthy trails that share histories of quicksilver mining during the late 1800s, and much earlier in time, the Wappo Indians who resided in the vicinity for thousands of years. The Oat Hill Mine trail, 8.3 miles long, offers opportunities for wildflower viewing and bird watching.

You can access the Oat Hill Mine Trail three ways: Via the Calistoga Trailhead, near the intersection of Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail or, at the Palisades Trailhead, or else at the Aetna Springs Road Trailhead.

When taking the Palisades Trailhead, you will park in the lot off of Highway 29, at the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

The Aetna Springs Road Trailhead has limited parking, and is not always accessible due to wet weather.

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, located seven miles north of Calistoga, is open for day use, but no dogs are permitted on the trail. This well-loved park set on Mount Saint Helena is where the author for whom it is named spent his honeymoon back in 1880. Robert Louis Stevenson suffered from ill health and convalesced on the mountain in an abandoned mining camp with his bride, Fanny. Here is where his book “The Silverado Squatters” was born.

The park’s diverse plants include evergreen forests, grasslands, chaparral and oak woodlands and includes more than 400 species of plants. The fit and hearty who hike to the summit on the five-mile trail will be rewarded for their efforts with views of Mount Shasta’s peak, nearly 200 miles away, and the Bay Area on clear days.

Moore Creek Park

Moore Creek Park is open for day use. Located on 1,600 acres of rugged terrain on the northeastern side of Lake Hennessey, it includes meandering trails through the grassy hillsides east of Napa. Soaring in its skies, bald eagles have been sighted, along with osprey, loons, white egrets and many more avian species. Wildlife sighted here includes black bear, coyote, mountain lion and bobcat. On the woodland trails you will enjoy Douglas fir, madrone, and oaks and delicate wildflower blooms.

Napa River Ecological Reserve

This gem of a park along the Napa River off of Zinfandel Lane in Napa, is open for day use. The wooded park is 73 acres packed with everything that oak and riparian habitats are known for. Sprays of spring wildflowers are making themselves known throughout the meadow. Stately oaks are coming alive now after their winter slumber and are sporting fresh green tones, and the many bird species are ‘shopping’ for nesting sites in their limbs.

Lake Hennessey

Currently the boat dock at Lake Hennessey is closed. There is no swimming and no paddleboards allowed, and no bodily contact with water. This picturesque body of water is located east of St. Helena and the Napa Valley in the Vaca Mountains. The lake is a reservoir that was constructed in 1948 across Conn Creek. During the time of the Flood Control Act of 1944, the city of Napa took on the dam project to lessen flooding in the region. Bird lovers will enjoy the grebes, both Western and Clark’s that make use of the tule reeds along the banks of the lake for nesting. Bald eagles, egrets and osprey are frequent fliers here as well. According to the Napa Solano Audubon Society virtually dozens of avian species are sighted here.

Notes: Land Trust of Napa County has cancelled hikes, work days and preserve orientation, to be rescheduled at a later date.

The Bale Grist Mill State Park is closed for all mill tours and docent activities.

Editor’s Note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to all online readers. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit

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