Wine Country Walks: Hiking in Sonoma and Napa
One of the easiest things to notice upon arrival in the California wine country is just how spectacularly beautiful it is. The countryside can seem like a living, breathing painting at times, almost surreal in its celebration of colors and contours. Rolling hills leading to breathtaking views of valleys almost sound a clarion call to hiking enthusiasts. And to be sure, there is no shortage of incredible opportunities to strap on your boots and hoof it up and down amazing winding paths here. Quiet surroundings loaded with wildlife, water features and beautiful native vegetation beckon, and those who are prone to grabbing their walking sticks and getting lost in the woods for a while are quite welcome.
Whether you’re looking to gain lots of altitudes or prefer rambling along flat terrain, there are plenty of trails in the Sonoma and Napa region to choose from. Regardless of your preferences, rewarding strolls and challenging climbs are here for your enjoyment. Riverside rambles and pastoral pathways are among the selections. Easygoing routes are just as available as expert trails, both with their fair share of sights to behold. Ready to get those legs pumping? Here are just a few of the incredible hiking destinations to try out while you’re in the area:
Right in the city of Sonoma is one of the more easygoing hiking opportunities which nevertheless has plenty of rewards awaiting the senses. The Sonoma Overlook Trail is easy to find, just north of the main plaza in town. Here you will find rolling grasslands with a gradual incline flanked by majestic oak trees on all sides. Meadows stretch before you, and if you’re here during the right season, an explosion of wildflowers will greet you as well. In no time at all, you will be up high enough to enjoy sprawling views of the valley below in all its glorious colors. Feel like going a little further? The land is adjacent to the Montini Open Space Preserve, with loads more trails to choose from and explore.
Call of the Wildflowers
Remember those wildflowers we just talked about? Well, if you travel north a little bit from the city of Sonoma, you may see some of the best beds of colorful, petaled fields your eyes have ever taken a gander upon. The Bouverie Preserve is run by a non-profit that restricts access to the area to let wildflowers grow undisturbed. Tours are available, however. And once you’ve seen that, you’ll find yourself right next to the Sonoma Valley Regional Park. Follow its astounding Valley of the Moon trail all the way to the other side of the park, enjoying the streamside amble and wonderful valley views. At the far end, you’ll find the Jack London Village, a local homage to the legendary Call of the Wild author, loaded with eateries and shopping — a perfect landing spot after a nice few hours of hiking.
Of Ridges and Skylines
Just south of the city of Napa is a curious trail known as the River-to-Ridge Trailhead. It’s a relatively easy path, except for the fact that it’s fairly narrow. Since hikers will find themselves sharing the path with horses and bikes, there should be preparations to step a little off the trail to make way for the larger traffic coming through. That aside, it’s a serene — and with less than 400 feet of elevation gain — not an overly challenging hike to take. Walk its three and a half miles, and you will find yourself in the large preserve known as Skyline Wilderness. Here one will find perfect Instagram opportunities as the scenery just opens up along seven different trails loaded with more local wildflowers. The park also offers overnight camping, fishing and great wildlife viewing.
A Rush of Water
For those hikers looking for something a bit more inspiring, there are some aquatic features to consider. Over at Green Valley Falls, a simple half a mile of hiking will be rewarded with a lovely waterfall. These are easy to reach just east of the city of Napa. A bit to the north, you can try out the Napa River Trail Head. This asphalt course sticks close to many amenities, including playgrounds for kids and wine tasting for adults, all while hugging the eponymous waterway. If you go just a little further up the map, you’ll land in Trancas Crossing Park, which, while short, will extend your views of the river.