The Best Outdoor Experiences in Napa Valley

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Courtesy of Napa Valley Balloons, Inc.
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With near-perfect weather and sun almost year round, Napa Valley beckons wine lovers out from air-conditioned tasting rooms to spend some time exploring the great outdoors — and we don’t just mean frolicking in the vineyards. From hiking and biking to golfing, camping, and even soaking in the hot springs, here’s our guide to Napa Valley’s best outdoor experiences.

Hike

Skyline Wilderness Park, Courtesy of Samanda Dorger-Poccia

Easy

If wine, wine, and more wine is your priority and you’re looking for a quick and easy hike, consider Westwood Hills Park or Alston Park (the most pup friendly), both located in Napa. In just an hour or two, you’ll successfully get your heart rate up on some steep climbs, plus take in a spectacular view of the surrounding Napa Valley. You can also head north to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Just south of Calistoga, most of the trails here are under two miles. It’s also an opportunity to pay a visit to the historic mill at Bale Grist Mill State Park, which has a trail connecting to Bothe-Napa.

Moderate

The Ritchey Canyon Trail at Bothe-Napa, however, is an eight-mile round trip journey through thick redwoods and over babbling streams. Other longer and moderately challenging hikes can be found at Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa. A hike of the perimeter, which includes a lake and a 1,600-foot summit, stretches for nine miles. The scenic Skyline Trail is a more doable three miles, yet still climbs more than 1,000 feet and circles the lake.

A 15 – 20 minute drive from St. Helena, Moore Creek Park is a bit off-the-beaten-path, but worth it, and is your best chance at spotting wildlife (everything from bald eagles and cattle to mountain lions and bobcats). Combine the Chiles Creek Trail with the Shoreline Trail for a 6.4-mile loop that runs adjacent to the serene Lake Hennessey or push yourself on a heart-pumping three-mile climb up the Moore Creek Trail. At the top, a swimming hole awaits.

Advanced

Napa Valley’s most popular hikes are found north of Calistoga at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, where the revered author spent his honeymoon. The farthest-reaching views of the Bay Area are obtained from over 4,000 feet at the top of the five-mile trail up Mt. St. Helena (10 miles round trip). Most of that hike is on fire road, however, so some hikers prefer hiking the more natural Table Rock and Palisades Trail (eight miles round trip) or even continuing on to the Oak Hill Mine Trail, which extends for 19-miles round trip.

Serious outdoor enthusiasts may be interested in an all-out hiking vacation by Wine Country Trekking. Their self-guided hiking packages, like the Napa Valley Wine Tasting five-day tour, include lodging, meals, luggage transport, and wine tastings.

Bike

Courtesy of Napa Valley Bike Tours

The eventual goal of the Napa Valley Vine Trail is to complete a 47-mile walking and biking trail system between Vallejo and Calistoga. For now, there is a 12.5-mile section between Napa and Yountville, allowing for 25 leisurely miles round trip. The trail is pretty flat and is a great way to feel less guilty about all of the wine and food you’ll be consuming.

You can rent bikes from Napa Valley Bike Tours, which has a location on both ends of the aforementioned section of the Napa Valley Vine Trail. Both Napa Valley Bike Tours and Getaway Adventures offer guided bike tours — from Carneros to Calistoga — paired with wine or beer.

Mountain bikers can find trails in Skyline Wilderness Park and Moore Creek Park. Advanced riders can tackle 16 miles over 2,800 feet of elevation along the Oat Hill Mine Trail in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.

Camp

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Courtesy of Napa Valley State Parks

Camping opportunities in Napa Valley are limited — it’s all about living the life of luxury in Wine Country — but Bothe-Napa Valley State Park has 45 campsites for tents and RVs ($35/night), or you can glamp in one of their 10 furnished Yurts (starting at $55 weekdays, $70 weekends) or fully restored historic cabins ($150 – 255/night). You’ll easily be able to access the park’s hiking trails and there’s even a swimming pool. Skyline Wilderness Park also offers tent camping ($25/night), RV camping ($30 – 45/night), and horse camping ($30/night).

Farther out, Lake Berryessa (a 45-minute drive from Napa) has several lakeside camping opportunities. Check out campgrounds like Spanish Flat Resort, Putah Canyon, Steele Canyon Campground, and Pleasure Cove Campground and Marina.

Golf

Courtesy of Silverado Resort

Despite most of Napa Valley being covered in vineyards, there is a myriad of golf courses in the area. Book a tee time at the beautiful Chardonnay Golf Club or Silverado Resort, the latter of which boasts a pair of championship courses and hosts the annual Safeway Open. Note: To play at Silverado, you’ve also got to stay a night, or just know a member. Kennedy Park and the Mount St. Helena Golf courses are the most accessible and beginner friendly. At Skyline Wilderness Park there’s a disc golf course, for a different take on golfing.

At Your Leisure

Courtesy of Facebook: Old Faithful Geyser of California

If you don’t exactly want to work up a sweat on your vacation, there are plenty of more leisurely outdoor experiences in Napa Valley. Board a hot air balloon ride at sunrise — book with Napa Valley Balloons, Inc., Balloons Above the Valley, Napa Valley Aloft Balloons, or Calistoga Balloons. Or, head out to see the Old Faithful Geyser — one of the most-visited attractions in California — erupt in Calistoga, then make your way north to take a stroll through fossilized sequoias in the Petrified Forest. To ease your worries (or sore muscles) away, soak in Calistoga’s natural hot springs at spots like the Calistoga Motor Lodge, Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, and Golden Haven Hot Springs.

Many wineries get you outdoors too. For instance, Hess Collection offers an ATV Excursion and Wine Pairing Lunch, you can picnic at V. Sattui or Fairwinds Estate, and play a game of bocce at spots like Dutch Henry and Trinchero Napa Valley.

Life in Napa Valley is all about balance. So of course sip amazing wines and dine at world-class restaurants, but also set aside some time to get outside and explore the region beyond the vines.


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Author

Jess Lander

Jess Lander is a freelance wine, food and travel writer based in Napa Valley and exploring all things California wine country. Follow her on Instagram at @willwrite4wine to get Napa and Sonoma #travelinspo.

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