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Calistoga, California

Hike Mount Saint Helena

10 Miles Total - 2100 ft gain - Out-and-Back Trail

Originally added by Nicole Mason

The highest point in Napa Valley! There are great views from the top across the Napa Valley, over to Berryessa, South to Mt Diablo, West to Mt Tamalpais, and supposedly even Lassen Peak to the North. You also pass the site of an abandoned mining camp where Robert Louis Stevenson honeymooned with his wife the summer of 1880, during which he wrote The Silverado Squatters.

Drive north from Napa following Rt 29, through Calistoga and up into the forest. After passing the sign for Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, and just over the crest, there is a parking area on the right side of the road, opposite the trailhead on the left. Parking fills up by mid-morning so get there early (and beat the heat!) If you're biking up, continue a short way down the hill to the next parking area which will start you at the base of the fire road.

The first mile is along a pleasant wooded switchback path to the site of a cabin where Robert Louis Stevenson spent a summer with his wife. The cabin is gone but a lovely clearing remains. Continue on the trail to the right up to the fire access road. You can't get lost from there - just follow the road the whole way up. You will go through some major switchbacks during the steady 4-mile uphill hike. It can be rather unpleasant in the heat of the day, so start early or bring a friend to draw your mind off the slog.

At one of the major switchbacks you'll notice a bolted crag in front of you called "The Bubble." A lot of climbing there and wrapping around to the side.

After 4 miles you'll come to the summit saddle and a leg of the road will peel back to the South Peak. Don't take it and keep following the road straight, heading for the peak behind the bubble-top communications tower. The road ends at the north peak, amid more towers but with awesome views of the valley. Give yourself some time to relax and take it in. You can see the geothermal power plant and the extents of the Lake County Fire, as well as numerous peaks and lakes.

Head back the way you came.

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Picnic Area


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Great Trail Running Training Spot

While this trail may not be for someone looking for a forest hike, this offers a beauty of its own. St Helena is brutally exposed just about the entire time, and can get scorching hot, yet catch this trail during the winter and youll need some crampons to not be slipping and sliding everywhere. The nice wide trail offers easy passing by other hikers, there are generally some climbers on what is apparently called “The Bubble”, which I always find quite fascinating. The peak, although a bit distracting by the towers, offers gorgeous views on most days. However, as described, it gets windy, so be prepared that although you will warm up on the hike up, while relaxing at the summit you may find yourself a bit chilly

Quite a View

This is a great little half day hike. I'd recommend getting a good early start on the trail if you want to beat the heat and get a good parking spot. Starting off, you get some beautiful single track switch-back trail under a lovely canopy. This takes you up to a peaceful little clearing that marks the spot of Robert Louis Stevenson's honeymoon cabin. Great spot to stop for a quick breather and to take in a little serenity. After that, it's about half a mile until you hit the fire road up to the peak. While the trail itself isn't especially interesting, the views all the way up are breathtaking. If you're vertically inclined, there's a pretty great sport climbing route about a mile from the junction of the trail and the fire road. As you make your final approach to the summit, you get that wonderful alien feeling of being at high altitude. The trees become sparce ragged, all the stones are weathered by the constant wind, you feel out of place. Just what you want from a good summit run. My only real complaint is having to share the summit with communication antennas. Really kind of ruins the feeling of isolation. But, hey, we need our internet I suppose. Despite the rather unsightly constructs, the view of Napa Valley is a hell of a pay off. We were able to see all the way out to the Pacific and get a great overhead of all the vineyards. I'd highly recommend packing a sturdy windbreaker as we were getting blown all over the place once we got above the tree line and go heavy on the water. You're going to be working and there's no refill points. Amazing hike that I would be happy to do again.

My first two-star review

Unfortunately, I found that this hike wasn't all it's cracked up to be. I made the long drive from SF and was disappointed by the crowds, "trail," and not-so-challenging grade up. Save yourself some time and gas $$ by hiking up Mt. Diablo instead.

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We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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