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 March 24. 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 napaoutdoors.org/ for updates, maps and information on parks in Napa County.
Here are some suggested hiking places, with their websites and social media information:
Valley State Parkparks.ca.gov/?page_id=477
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is located four miles south of Calistoga and is currently open for day use, sunrise to sunset. The park fee is $8 per car. There is a day-use pass, which can be purchased for $70, which helps support the park. 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 Palisadesparks.ca.gov/?page_id=472
Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, Oat Hill Mine Trail and Palisades are all open for day use. 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 Parknapaoutdoors.org/parks/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 Reservenapaoutdoors.org/parks/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 is open for boating and fishing. 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.
Lake Berryessa’s day use areas, campgrounds and boat ramps remain open. The Visitor Center and Administration Office are both closed to the public. The largest lake in Napa County is a reservoir in the Vaca Mountains and was named after the first European settlers in the Berryessa Valley. Jose Jesus and Sexto Berrelleza were given the land grant called Rancho Las Putas in 1843 by Gov. Manuel Micheltorena, which was then 35,516 acres. Berrelleza’s name was later Anglicized over the years to its current spelling of Berryessa. The lake, more than 20,000 acres ,is about 15 miles long and 3 miles wide, with 165 miles of shoreline. Like Lake Hennessey, the bird life seen here is glorious, as is its famed ‘Glory Hole’. The Glory Hole is an open bell-mouth spillway that is 72 feet in diameter that is in operation after heavy rainfall.
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. napaoutdoors.org/parks/bale-grist-mill-state-historic-park
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