Loop wanders through oak grassland at a preserve outside of Fairfield. Good
wildflowers in spring. Hosts a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.8 mile loop hike is easy, with a total elevation change of
about 400 feet. Trailhead elevation is about 140 feet. The park's highest
point is about 560 feet. Several trails are quite steep, but short.
Some shade pockets, but mostly exposed.
Paved fire road, dirt fire roads, and dirt trails.
Early spring is the only time I recommend visiting Rockville.
From I80 in Solano County, exit Suisun Valley Road (exit 41, just before
you get to Fairfield). Turn north on Suisun Valley Road. Drive about 1.5
miles on Suisun Valley Road, then turn left onto Rockville Road at the traffic
light. Drive about 0.7 mile, and turn left into the parking lot.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 7'58.47"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, stores, and restaurants back (limited) at the junction with
Suisun Valley Road. More services near I80. No camping.
No toilet facilities. $3 day use fee/$1 dog fee. At my last two visits,
there were no maps available at the information signboard. Parking for about
12 cars in a dirt lot. There are no designated handicapped parking spots,
and trails are very badly suited to wheelchairs. There is no direct public
transportation to the park.
No horses. Trails are open to cyclists and hikers. Dogs are permitted on
The Official Story:
of Fairfield's Rockville Hills page
Hills info from Suisun Wildlife
Rockville ranger station 707-249-3613
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from City of Fairfield (pdf)
from Suisun Wildlife website
within 60 Miles: San Francisco, 1st edition, by Jane Huber (yup, that's
me, the creator of this website) has a simple map and a featured hike. Order
this book from Amazon.com.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Rockville
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore(order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of Rockville's
segment of the Ridge Trail.
Rockville in a nutshell --
a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
land which now comprises Rockville
Hills Regional Park was purchased by the City of Fairfield in the late
1960's, with the intention to develop the property
as a golf course. Instead, the 600 acre parcel became a park, and is now
managed by the City of Fairfield. Most of the park is comprised of oak
savannah, with some sections of chaparral and grassland. A thin layer
of topsoil covers volcanic rock, which can be seen throughout the park
in outcroppings and caves. As the soil has been washed or worn away, bare
sections of rock have emerged, making some trail segments slickrock.
Very few of Rockville's trails are signed,
and there are innumerable shortcuts, making it hard to tell the genuine
trails from the illegal ones. I don't really think that opening the park
to cattle grazing in the winter has helped matters. When I visited Rockville
in 2000, on a dreary winter day, I was bugged by the mud, cows, and the nasty condition of Cave Trail.
However, on a sunny spring day in 2002, things didn't look nearly as grim.
Rocky and steep, Cave Trail is always going to be a mess unless it is
reconfigured, cows keep the grass short, helping to prevent fires, and
spring brought a scenic beauty to Rockville. There were plenty of wildflowers
still blooming, softening the ascent on Cave Trail. Upper Lake glistened
bright blue, butterflies and dragonflies flitted everywhere, and even
the cows were sedate and well-behaved. I've decided that like practically
everything else in life, a hike at Rockville all depends on your perspective.
My hikes here follow a familiar pattern,
with slight variations each visit. I head uphill from the main trailhead, turn right onto the paved fire road, descend through oaks
back toward Rockville Road, climb on Cave Trail, wander through the valley,
then add on a short loop before returning back downhill to the trailhead.
I like this tour through Rockville's variety of plant communities, especially
in spring, when wildflower lovers can glimpse many common and some unusual
blooming plants. If this roundabout hike does not suit you, there are
plenty of other options. You may find that Rockville is best experienced
if you give up any semblance of control and just wander around. This is
not a huge park, and it's pretty easy to navigate through the gently sloped
oak-studded hills without losing your sense of direction. If you're a
new hiker, or don't have good navigating skills, bring a compass to aid
you. The Bay Area Ridge Trail runs through the park, and you can read
more about Rockville in The Bay Area Ridge Trail book, or visit
the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council's
For the featured hike, start at the trailhead
and walk uphill on the wide dirt trail. Ignore all of the side paths
that wander off from Rockville Trail, and continue to ascend through grassland
dominated by buckeye, and blue and coast live oaks. The grade varies from
easy to moderate, with a few short stretches over exposed rock. Look for
a dramatic rock formation off in the distance on the left side of the
trail. In spring, you might see clarkia, Chinese houses, bluedicks, vetch,
and linanthus. At 0.42 mile, the trail crests and a pretty valley comes
into view. At this (poorly signed) junction, turn right onto the paved
road, following the signpost directions, an arrow and the words "NORTH
Stay on the wide paved trail as many side paths
take off to the right and left. The trees lining the trail are mostly
blue oaks. Springtime flowers include clarkia, bluedicks, owl's clover,
blue and white lupine, larkspur, and Ithuriel's spear. The trail ascends
along a rolling ridge, with views of the valley to the left, and of the
distant surrounding Napa County mountains to the right and straight ahead.
After traveling though oak grassland, the trail begins to descend through
a landscape comprised of manzanita, toyon, sticky monkeyflower, and oaks.
You'll pass a few more paths
on each side of the trail. Stay to the left as the paved trail splits,
at 1.10 miles. Shortly after, the paved trail ends at the north trailhead
gate, at about 1.19 miles.
Take the first trail to the left
(you should be headed uphill; the other trail runs parallel to the road).
Although the path is poorly maintained, it's a blast to navigate if you
approach it with the spirit of adventure. It's tough to discern the main
trail, but just keep climbing uphill -- the first section is the steepest
and the worst. Most of the small wooden logs installed to stabilize the
trail surface have been tossed to the sides of the trail as the topsoil
has worn away, leaving bare rock as a trail surface in sections. This
is one of the trails the cows seem to leave alone, so look for "wild"
animal footprints, including bobcat and deer. The vegetation is mostly chaparral,
with lots of manzanita, as well as some coast live oak, chamise, creambush,
monkeyflower, poison oak, and coyote brush. As you get near the base of
an electric tower, look uphill to the left for a view of a small
cave. Unfortunately, this and some of Rockville's other large rock formations
have been vandalized with spray paint. You'll reach an unsigned
multi-trail junction at 1.43 miles. (If you want to extend your hike,
take Technical Trail to the right. At the first junction, turn left, then
take the next left, and continue straight through the next two
junctions to return to Upper Lake, and follow the remaining feature
hike directions.) Continue straight down into the valley.
On the right side of trail a few steps from the
junction there's an interesting "rock wall" partially hidden
by a buckeye
tree. As you wind through the oak savannah, look for rock formations,
some covered with moss, on the right side of the trail. At 1.52 miles,
a fire road feeds in from the left. Continue straight. It can be
hard to stay on course here; if you have been lucky enough to get your
hands on a paper map, you can sometimes determine your location based
on the position of the electric towers. At 1.57 miles, Rock Gardens Trail
sets off on the right, at an unmarked junction. Bear right.
The narrow path keeps a level course through
grassland dotted with blue and coast live oaks. In spring I noted patches
of linanthus and white brodiaea blooming on both sides of the trail. Uphill
to the right, swarms of bees buzzed around flowering hollyleaf cherry
shrubs growing nestled amongst huge boulders. Trails break off on both
sides, but persist on Rock Gardens Trail, aiming for the right shore of
Upper Lake. At 1.92 miles, just before a picnic table,
bear right onto an unsigned trail. After just a few steps, the
trail disintegrates into chaos, but if you look to the left a signed junction
beckons. Turn left, and at 1.98 miles, you'll reach an undersigned
junction. Take the second right onto Arch Trail (this is a small
path, not to be confused with the wider fire road to the right).
Narrow Arch Trail winds through grassland
and buckeyes, and blue and coast live oaks. In spring, larkspur, owl's
clover, and linanthus are common. The grade is nearly level, with a slight
uphill inclination. At 2.08 miles, a steep shortcut veers off to the left.
Continue straight. Arch Trail curves around the hill, eventually
delving into a woodland where you might see Chinese houses blooming in
spring. At 2.44 miles, just before a major junction, an unsigned trail
departs to the left, uphill. Turn left onto Mystic Ridge Trail.
This medium-width rocky trail ascends sharply,
initially under shade
of coast live and blue oaks. Mystic Ridge Trail emerges in grassland and
flattens out near the crest of a grassland plateau. Poppies dot the grassland
in early spring, but by May the grass is so tall that almost all the flowers
are obscured. This beautiful area is my favorite part of the park, and
offers great view west and north. At 2.62 miles, an unsigned spur feeds
in from the right. As you continue along the ridge, another unsigned path
shoots off to the left, at 2.68 miles. Continue to the right. Electric
towers loom ahead, as the trail splits at 2.78 miles. Either path is an
option, for both end at the fire road. Stay to the left. In early
May I enjoyed a bunch of owl's clover last pink gasp on the right. At
2.88 miles, Mystic Ridge Trail ends at an unsigned junction with
a fire road. Turn left.
The wide fire
road descends at a moderate grade, revealing views to Upper Lake. At 3.02
miles, you'll reach a previously encountered junction. Turn right.
Upper Lake sprawls on the left as the fire
road sweeps through grassland and oaks. Cattle are common in this part
of the park. At about 3.08 miles, you'll face another unsigned junction,
where another fire road heads right. Continue straight. The fire
road skirts Upper Lake, and two more paths depart on the right. You'll
reach a barely signed junction at 3.25 miles. Turn right.
At a close to flat pace, the fire road meanders
through an oak savannah. Ignore a trail sweeping right at 3.37
miles, continuing to 3.44 miles, and a previously encountered junction,
with the paved fire road. Turn right, walk a few steps to a familiar
junction, then turn left, (signed with an arrow and "ROCKVILLE TRHD")
and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: 3.82 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, May 2,