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Hiking & Biking Around Calistoga California
For hikers and those who bring their own bikes or choose to rent from Calistoga Bikeshop downtown, there are a broad range of self guided opportunities. For those seeking a more structured adventure, Getaway Adventures operates a series of road and mountain biking, hiking, kayaking and other guided sport excursions based in Calistoga, and the Calistoga Bikeshop offers the “Calistoga Cool Wine Tour” option. There are few places in the world better suited to biking than the Napa Valley.
A Walking or Street Bike Tour of Calistoga
There are historical sites, points of interest and just plain curious places to see in Calistoga. One of the best ways to enjoy these is with a copy of “Looking for the Past in Calistoga” in your hand (available at the Sharpsteen Museum). The Guide lists street addresses of interests ranging from historic sites such as the original Rail Road Depot and the Brannan Cottage Inn, to property given by Sam Brannan to General Vallejo, to a house built with no nails (the result of a bar bet).
Bothe-Napa State Park
Just a few miles south of Calistoga on the west side of the Valley, a stone’s throw from vineyards, day visitors can enjoy hiking Ritchey Canyon on the Redwood Trail where in the spring you’ll find ferns and water running down the rugged creek bed. Climbing uphill through redwoods you come out into chaparral to the top of Coyote Peak where you can see the Napa Valley and Mount St. Helena beyond. Bring your wine and a picnic lunch to eat. On hot summer days, a swimsuit and towel will let you take advantage of the park's swimming pool. And the nearby Triple Creek Horse Stables has horseback riding available.
Oat Hill Mine Trail/Mt. St. Helena
This is a 2fer. For the strong of heart, you can attack the Oat Hill Mine trail from the trailhead at Lincoln Ave and Silverado Trail. You can go as far as you want and turn around. (This trail climbs from 400 to 2200 feet!) Or a less strenuous version is to take this hike one-way, which requires some planning: A vehicle needs to be parked at both ends of the trail, one at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, up Highway 29 over Mt. St. Helena and one at the intersection of Highway 29 and Silverado Trail in Calistoga. Author Ken Stanton has this to say: "This five-star route has most everything: close-up views of volcanic cliffs, panoramic views of the Napa Valley, shady evergreen forests, flower-spangled meadows, mysterious grottos fed by year-round seeping water, nesting peregrine falcons, and in winter, a chance to see 100-foot-high ephemeral waterfalls. …” On this route you see the Palisades rock formations up close. This is a 10 7/8-mile extravaganza that is not to be missed.
Mt. St. Helena/Robert Louis Stevenson State Park Trails
At 4,343 feet this is the highest point in the Napa Valley, just north of Calistoga. At the top you can choose the South or North peak. Both peaks have various man-made structures. The North peak is a little further and higher, and the trail is 11.2-miles long out-and-back (5.6 miles each way). On a clear day you can see Bodega Head (the Pacific Ocean), San Francisco, Mount Diablo, the Sierras, and Mounts Lassen and Shasta. It contains one of the best views in the world. The trailhead is at about 2000 feet elevation. Take lots of water, there is none on the trail. To get to the trailhead, follow Highway 29 north out of Calistoga to the parking lot and hiking trailheads. (For bikers, keep going about 1/2 mile and you will see where the fire road intersects with Highway 29. There are several pull outs where you can park. Bikes are not allowed on the hiking trail from the main parking lot.) The hiking trail joins up with the Fire Road.
Oat Hill Mine Road (locally referred to as a “road,” visitors find the Oat Hill Mine Road more like a foot trail that varies from four to 15 feet wide). The route was originally created as a wagon road so that miners who worked in the hills could haul supplies to and from Calistoga (you’ll still see the wagon wheel ruts carved into rock in the trail). Today, the only traffic is hikers and mountain bikers. Much of the once wide road is overgrown with shrubs, including poison oak (so stay in the open if you can’t identify the plant). This more than 10 mile long trail is best for experienced intermediate to expert riders only. It is strenuous, with the trail climbing over 2,000 feet (and coming down is a challenge too). Near the top is the most difficult and strenuous portion with a high degree of bike handling skill required. There are no amenities, so you need to carry water as this is a strenuous ride and it can be hot. In the spring the wildflowers are spectacular, in the fall you can see the colors, and at all times you get magnificent mountain, valley and wildlife views (so bring your video camera). The trail, easily accessible from downtown Calistoga, is at the intersection of Highway 29 (Lincoln Ave.) and the Silverado Trail. For those seeking information or who arrived without their equipment, the Calistoga Bikeshop is a font of local lore.
There are miles of well-paved roads that criss-cross the valley and wander up into the hillsides. Make sure to bring along a camera, water and a picnic and plan for a full day of exploring. If you can't bring your own bicycles, the Calistoga Bikeshop can fix you up. To tour along the floor of the valley, bikers should use the Silverado Trail, which runs parallel to and is linked to Highway 29 by frequent crossroads. There is a bike lane (though it does narrow to only a foot or two along the few winding sections of road) that makes traveling safer than on Highway 29. From Silverado Trail you'll also be treated to some of the more picturesque vistas across the valley. And, of course, there are plenty of wineries to visit along the way. You can relax at a number of wineries that provide a lawn, shade or even tables on the wooded hillsides. Not all wineries have a license to allow picnicking so call Doug or Judy for picnic options. If you want to enjoy wine with your repast, it is always appreciated if you buy your picnic wine at the facility that is providing you with a picnic spot.