4.4 mile loop through redwood forest just minutes from Napa Valley wineries
and tasting rooms.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.4 mile loop hike is easy, with some short steep stretches,
and plenty of level ground. Total elevation change is about 800 feet.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Nice year round.
From US 101 in Marin County, exit CA 37. Drive east about 7 miles, and turn
onto CA 121. Drive north about 7 miles, and stay right on 121/12 east at
a junction. Drive east about 8 miles, then turn left onto CA 29. Drive north
about 25 miles to the park entrance on the left side of the road. After
passing the entry kiosk, drive past the Visitor Center and park at the Ritchey
Canyon Trailhead (about 0.25 miles from the entry kiosk) on the right side
of the road.
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Longitude (coming soon)
(* based on Google
Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Services south in St. Helena or north in Calistoga. The park has a nice
campground, with sites on either side of the campground road, and a small
loop at the end. Some sites are shaded by the native forest and near a creek;
most of the loop sites are sunnier, with manzanita providing some cover.
Although sites are well spaced, there's not a lot of vegetation to provide
privacy, and the road is close-by. There are also a handful of walk-in sites.
Pay $8 fee at entrance kiosk (self register if unattended). Parking for
about 10 cars at the trailhead, more elsewhere in the park. Toilets about
0.2 mile further down the road past the trailhead. Maps available (for $1)
at the entry kiosk. Napa County's VINE bus service stops at the park entrance
on CA 29: visit 511.org for details.
Dogs are not permitted on the trails. Bicycles and horses are allowed, but
a few trails are designated hiking only.
The Official Story:
Bothe-Napa ranger station 707-942-4575
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get to the park
Download a park
brochure/map pdf from CSP.
is described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco (second edition) by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). 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 Bothe-Napa
North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub, has an excellent map
of the featured hike, and useful maps and trail descriptions of the rest
of the park (order
this book from Amazon.com).
View 62 photos from
the featured hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
was late April and spring was over in wine country. The fields of mustard were dried up and gone, and the parking lots at
the tasting rooms were full. The Wine Train chugged back and forth along
the road, moving at a slow speed that none the less was sometimes faster
than automobile traffic on CA 29. Campgrounds and historical sites were
doing brisk business. It was really almost too late in the season to visit
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Napa County is not the best destination
for hiking in the summer, when the valley is hot and crowded. Late winter
and autumn are my favorite seasons in wine country. I love watching the
grape vines turn golden, and enjoy the brisk fall country atmosphere.
Bothe-Napa, with an abundance of maple trees, is a fine place to hike
in autumn. Spring is a great time to witness the rushing seasonal creeks.
So go in the spring, go in the summer (if you like the heat or can deal
with the traffic), or go in the fall. This little-known park (founded
in 1960) is a great place for day hiking, and you can even camp there.
Bothe-Napa has a handful of trails, and
there are three main destinations. Ritchey Canyon Trail runs along Ritchey
Creek for 3.9 miles before ending near an old Homestead Site. History
Trail, 1.2 miles one way, cuts south from Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
to Bale Grist Mill State Historic Site, where if you're lucky, you can
watch grain being milled with a 36-foot wooden water wheel and millstones.
Coyote Peak (elevation 1170 feet) showcases views of the valley and can
be accessed from the Coyote Peak Trail. A few loop hikes are possible,
and Redwood Trail, which ambles along the creek, plays a part in most
of them. The only less than optimal feature for hikers at the park is
the seasonal heavily felt presence of horses; with a horse concession
in the park, you can expect to see plenty of equestrians on the main creekside
trails. However, the trails I liked best at the park are open to hikers
only. Bothe-Napa's most unusual "extra" may be its swimming
pool, which is small, but fed by natural springs. The pool is open from
noon to 6 p.m. from mid-June through Labor Day, and there's a fee in addition
to the entrance charge to use it.
For the featured hike, begin on the Ritchey
Canyon Trail. The deeply shaded path ambles through maples and oaks,
crosses a service road, meets a spur trail entering from the right, and
then passes an employee residence. Ritchey Creek comes into view on the
right side of the trail. Ferns, thimbleberry and wild rose bushes, and
hazelnut trees line the trail. In the spring, you may see woodland star,
starflower, and bluedicks blooming in the shadows. Some redwoods make
an appearance, and quickly become the dominate tree along the level path.
Traffic noise from CA 29 finally fades away. At about 0.5 mile, at
a signed junction, Ritchey Canyon Trail crosses the creek, while Redwood
Trail begins on the south bank. Remain right, on the Ritchey Canyon
You may see tents and hear vehicular noise
from campers as Ritchey Canyon Trail skirts the campground. In brief stretch
through cleared land, madrones are mixed through some maples and oaks.
White roses (not the wild kind) are a sure sign that people lived nearby
once upon a time. The tree cover deepens again as the trail reaches an
unmarked junction at about 0.9 mile. Stay to the left as Ritchey Canyon
Trail passes an old building and barn. Look for a stone fountain on the
left side of the trail, and see if you notice any other exotic plants
that are not native. The wide dirt path passes a spur trail that connects
to Redwood Trail on the left. Continue straight. At about 1.6 miles,
Vineyard Trail sets out to the right at a signed junction. Continue
on Ritchey Canyon Trail.
This is a quiet stretch. The path passes
under large redwoods, as the creek flows melodiously along the left side
of the trail. Look beneath the trees for mushrooms in the winter and early
spring. At about 2 miles, you'll encounter a signed multi-trail junction.
Ritchey Canyon Trail breaks away from its creekside route to the right.
Redwood Trail crosses the creek to the left. Walk straight, across
the bridge and then look for a faint trail to the left, signed no
horses/no bikes. Turn left onto the South Fork Trail.
South Fork Trail fords the creek on a wooden
bridge, then begins a steady ascent along a creek, through a thick redwood
forest. Ferns line the narrow path, which may duck under or over fallen
trees, especially after winter and early spring storms. At about
2.4 miles, Coyote Peak Trail sets out at a signed junction. South Fork
Trail continues to the right; bear left on Coyote Peak Trail.
After a bit more climbing, the trail drops
down to cross the creek again, and then regains the lost elevation on
the opposite bank. As Coyote Peak Trail ascends some more, redwoods fade
away, replaced by California bays. At a break in the trees, look north
for a great view of rugged Mount Saint Helena. Abruptly, the path steps
out of the woods and into chaparral. With the tree cover gone, it can
seem dramatically hotter on a sunny day. Chamise grows thickly on the
sides of the trail, accompanied by monkeyflower, toyon, yerba santa, manzanitas,
and poison oak. Volcanic rock juts out from the ground, and soon becomes
the trail surface. In the spring, red indian paintbrush is a dramatic
counterpoint to the green shrubs. At about 2.8 miles, a signpost marks
the junction with the path to the top of Coyote Peak. Turn right.
The path is very rocky, so watch your step.
A large manzanita stands near a clearing off the right side of the path.
Although this is not the top of the hill, you get the best views of Napa
Valley from this spot. After more rocky climbing,the
path passes a pretty Douglas fir, and then surprisingly, crosses through
a patch of redwoods. Then there's a bit more ascending, and suddenly you're
at the top, with views almost thoroughly blocked by tall trees. Retrace
your steps back to the junction with Coyote Peak Trail, and turn right.
Hummingbirds may buzz overhead as the trail
descends slightly through the chaparral. In the spring, look for lovely
yellow fairy-lanterns on the sides of the trail, along with irises and
bluedicks. As Coyote Peak Trail contours around the slope of Coyote Peak,
the path enters shade from tall oaks and California bays. A familiar patterns
emerges; the trail drifts from shade to chaparral and back several times
before setting on shade from a mixture of redwoods, oak, California bay,
and maples. Look to the right side of the trail for a glimpse of an old
moss-covered stone fence. Coyote Peak Trail ends at a signed junction
with Redwood Trail at about 3.5 miles. In the spring you may see red larkspur
near this junction. Turn right onto the Redwood Trail.
Redwood Trail is an easy downhill grade.
Stone water bars cross the path often, channeling winter rains off the
trail. Ritchey Creek burbles on the left side of the trail. At about 3.9
miles Redwood Trail ends at a previously encountered junction with Ritchey
Canyon Trail. Stay straight and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: about 4.4 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April 26, 2000