The hills and valleys throughout Napa are excellent riding country, with a few notable parks that offer trails for the serious equestrian.
A standout favorite is Skyline Wilderness Park at 2201 Imola Avenue, which Napa County leases from the state. The park is about 850 acres, with 15 miles of trail for equestrian riders. Trails pass through wooded forest, valleys, and hilltops. Skyline also offers 10 large horse camping sites that accommodate two horses and two rigs each. A parallel two-horse trailer parking spot is equal to 4 to 6 perpendicular car parking spots.
“Most of the trails are loop trails. They intertwine with each other so you can ride endlessly. The parking is very easy and there’s a good sand arena with a round pen. In addition, there’s a little trail obstacle course in the northwest corner of the park. This borders Imola Avenue and is supported by the horse community,” said Irene DeWeese, president of the Napa Valley Horsemen’s Association. The Horsemen’s Association is a nonprofit organization that promotes interest in horses and horsemanship.
DeWeese’s second pick is Moore Creek Park at 2607 Chiles Pope Valley Road in St. Helena, a Napa County Regional Park. Moore Creek is 673 acres of canyon open space near Moore Creek and 900 acres of oak woodland on the northeastern side of Lake Hennessey. Equestrian parking is available in the gravel lot off Pope Chiles Valley Road. The park has about 6 miles of trail open to riders.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, which is operated by Napa County Regional Park and the Open Space District, is another good choice. This park at 3801 St. Helena Highway in Calistoga is fairly rugged and ranges through high elevation.
“The Bay Area Ridge Trail, a 6-mile round trip trail, is nice because it runs along (Ritchey) Creek,” said DeWeese.
DeWeese recommended inquiring about trail riding on private land at the end of Wild Horse Valley Road in Napa. The area used to be home to Wild Horse Valley Ranch, an equestrian center.
“Members of the Napa Valley Horsemen’s Association used to pay $100 a year to ride the trails up there,” said DeWeese.
Karen Kaiser, owner of Napa Valley Horse Company, which offers riding lessons and horses at a private facility in Napa, enjoys riding at Alston Park at 2037 Dry Creek Road in Napa. The city of Napa park covers 157 acres in northwest Napa. Three miles of trails are open to equestrians.
“Although it’s mostly a dog park, it’s surrounded by vineyards, so it’s really pretty,” said Kaiser.
Kaiser also likes to ride at Rector Reservoir, a California Fish and Wildlife property northeast of Yountville.
“It’s very limited and there’s questionable parking. Rector is really for an experienced rider. You can ride on about 5 miles of trail that’s pretty steep and rocky through the Silverado part of the valley,” said Kaiser.
When riding in wild areas, Kaiser recommended bringing tick spray, sunglasses, and a hat. Kaiser also recommends that equestrian users visit trails earlier in the morning because it can get very hot later.
Lake Berryessa, a U.S. Bureau of Reclamation property, might seem like a good pick, but it does not allow horses on its trails.
Chino Yip, volunteer and outreach coordinator for the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District, said there are new trails planned for several local parks.
“The proposed trails have not been started yet. Start time is after we get some precipitation to soften the ground. One will be part of the Moore Creek Park area,” said Yip.
Another site with future equestrian trails will be the Suscol Headwaters Open Space.
The park district recently purchased about 800 acres with plans to connect Skyline Wilderness Park into Jameson Canyon with multiuse trails. The agency will connect the properties after permits and environmental reviews are completed.
Yip said that when Napa County designs trails, it looks for higher canopies to accommodate equestrians.
“You need a minimum of 10 feet to allow riders to clear branches. Horses also need two- to three-times trail widths than other trail users,” said Yip.
Kaiser said throughout the Napa Valley, riders’ options can expand to family-owned vineyards and properties of friends.
“Although a lot of barns have been replaced by distilleries, Napa’s small. A lot of people still have horses in their backyards. Riding in the vineyards is a fun thing to do. Property owners that know you are likely to say yes if you ask,” said Kaiser.