4.5 miles round trip with 900-foot elevation gain
It’s a great place to unwind and uncork. At least that’s what most visitors figure when they discover the great picnicking at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park in the heart of the wine country.
But if it’s the park’s proximity to wineries (just down the road are Beringer Vineyards, Charles Krug Winery and a dozen more) that first lures travelers, it’s the park’s beauty that brings them back: year-round Ritchey Creek shaded by redwoods and Douglas fir, plus inspiring wine country views from Coyote Peak. The park is a particularly pleasant refuge in summer, because it stays cool when Napa Valley temperatures soar into the 90s.
Directions: Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is located on the side of Highway 29 in the Napa Valley, five miles north of St. Helena, four miles south of Calistoga. Follow the park road 0.25 mile past the entry kiosk to parking and Ritchey Canyon trailhead.
The hike: The trail, which travels west beneath big-leaf maple, madrone and oaks soon crosses a paved road and begins paralleling the road to the campground, as well as Ritchey Creek. Beneath the tall Douglas fir and redwoods grows a tangle of ferns, bay laurel and wild grape. After 0.5 mile, you’ll pass a junction with Redwood Trail and at the 0.9-mile mark, a path that veers northeast back to the campground.
Continue through mixed forest past a junction with Vineyard Trail, 1.5 miles from the trailhead. Stay with Ritchey Canyon Trail for another half mile and continue your exploration of the three-mile long, fern-lined, redwood-shaded canyon. The redwoods sprouted from the roots of trees felled in the 1850s during the settlement of Napa Valley. The second-generation trees are thriving. Adding a magical touch to the forest scene are redwood orchids and trillium growing at the base of the redwoods.
Bid farewell to Ritchey Canyon Trail when you reach a concrete bridge. Cross the little bridge, note east-west trending Redwood Trail, and join South Fork Trail, heading south along the south fork of Ritchey Creek. Follow the fern-lined footpath amidst redwoods 0.4 mile to a junction. South Fork Trail curves west, but you bear left with Coyote Peak Trail.
The trail rises through and above the redwoods and Ritchey Canyon onto the chaparral-cloaked slopes of Coyote Peak. From this high and dry terrain, you’ll get fine vistas of the wine country and mighty Mt. St. Helena. At the 2.8-mile mark, you’ll reach a junction with the 0.1 mile-long summit trail to Coyote Peak on your right.
Scramble up the steep, rocky summit path, making sure you savor the view south over the Napa Valley. (Best views are short of the summit, which is tree-covered. Backtrack to Coyote Peak Trail and descend a half mile amidst oak, madrone and eventually redwoods to a junction with Redwood Trail.
Turn right and follow Redwood Trail on a mellow meanders by Ritchey Creek. At the hike’s four-mile mark, you’ll meet Ritchey Creek Trail and return to the trailhead.