Hike the Lake Berryessa Loop

San Francisco Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve Trail

Added by Kimberly Weglin

Breathtaking view of Lake Berryessa, the 7th largest man-made lake in California, and the Monticello Dam.

At the bend in the road on Highway 128, you will pass two silver gates. The gate with the UC Davis logo is the entrance to the trailhead. Past the entrance there is a large dirt pullout off the road with plenty of parking.

Starting at the trailhead, go left in the fork to start the loop trail. The first mile is fairly easy and brings you to the Old Homestead. After this, the hike becomes a lot steeper and more strenuous. Eventually you will reach the top of the canyon and continue along the ridge for a few miles until you reach the Spillway Overlook - a rock outcropping along the trail. This outcropping gives you a bird's eye view of Monticello Dam, Lake Berryessa, and Putah Creek. When the Spillway is overflowing at the dam, it looks like there is a giant hole in the lake! You can usually see this at the end of winter - assuming we aren't in a drought.

Be very careful along the ridge portion of the hike. It can be easy to get off trail. There are a lot of rocks and boulders along the trail, and sometimes it looks like the trail just stops. When this happens, just keep walking straight over the rocks - don't take any side trails. There are a lot of steep, sketchy, side trails that dead end at the back side of the canyon.

If you don't want to do the entire hike and just want to check out the lake overlook, go right in the fork at the trailhead to do the loop trail in reverse. It is only a half-mile to get to the vista point, but it is VERY steep (elevation gain this way is about 1000 feet).

No dogs are allowed on the Homestead portion of the trail, but the ridge trails are on-leash appropriate. So if you are hiking with your dog, definitely do the loop backwards.


  • Wear long pants to avoid the poison oak and deer ticks along the trail.
  • Watch your step. Rattlesnakes are common in rocky areas of the reserve.
  • Though rarely seen, mountain lions do live in the area.

Pro Tip: If hiking Friday through Sunday, stop by Berryessa Brewing Company after your hike and relax with a cold beer, giant Jenga, bocce ball, and live music! There is a winery next door if wine tasting is more your thing.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Hiking Shoes
  • Hat
  • Sunblock
  • Snacks
  • Camera
Read More

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More



Chillin, Hiking, Photography, Running

Skill Level:



Year Round

Trail Type:



4 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1500 Feet



Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

Are we missing something?

Suggest an edit

How to Get There

9 months ago

Recent Fire-Trail Closed

The Lake Berryessa Hike is a well known local hike around the Davis area. It was the trail of choice for those wishing to enjoy a nice hike on a nearby trail. Unfortonatly the trail is now closed due to a large fire that swept through the area. The trail is expected to reopen in May. However, it will be sometime before the trail and the surrounding hillside is restored to its prior state.

9 months ago

about 1 year ago

I have hiked this trail since i live 20 minutes from it and its a beauty. Besides the moderate foot traffic it is a great hike for anyone and everyone. Go on a weekday or a cooler day because it gets hot quick!

about 1 year ago

More Adventures Nearby

Backpack to Mississippi Lake

San Francisco / Henry W. Coe SP Headquarters

If you're tired of trying and failing to get reservations for backcountry camping around the bay area, then Henry Coe State Park is the perfect place to visit.

Saif Choudhary
3 Saves

Run Sawyer Camp Trail

San Francisco / Sawyer Camp Trail

The Sawyer Camp Trail is a popular paved trail that stretches alongside the Crystal Springs Reservoir all the way to Hillcrest Blvd.

Rachel Davidson
12 Saves

Hike Bolinas Ridge

San Francisco / Cross Marin Trailhead

Nestled in the Samuel P. Taylor State Park this ten miler was a perfect escape from the chaos of the city. Hikers are able to pay a $10.

Heidi M
3 Saves