Sunday, April 19, 2009

Walking Through California's Wine Country

Of course California's Napa Valley is synonymous with wines. But this picturesque land blanketed by vineyards is also dotted with leafy parks, perfect for human powered activities, namely hiking and walking. Whether you're an oenophile or a foodie, next time you're visiting this placid valley, pay a visit to any of the following for a whole different take on the wine country:

• Not far from downtown Calistoga, the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park has some lovely but rugged paths, including the Redwood and Ritchey Canyon Trails where you'll come face to face with towering redwoods and Douglas fir trees. With more than 10 miles of trails, you could easily spend the day here or make it just a short visit by passing the time strolling along the creek. This park is one of my favorite picnic spots in the area.

• Not only can you check out a grist mill from the 1840s at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park but you can also walk from here to the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. (It's only two miles.) The mill building is only open on weekends but it provides you with insights into an activity -- the milling of corn and wheat -- that was important to the community until it ended in the early 1900s.

• The Robert Lewis Stevenson State Park marks the spot where the author spent his honeymoon in 1880. I love the dense woodland of Pondersona pine, black oak and Douglas that the shady Stevenson Memorial Trail snakes through. Continue hiking farther uphill and you'll get a dramatic viewpoint of the entire Napa Valley, Mt. Diablo and the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains. If you've got the energy, you can continue climbing for several more miles to the top of Mount St. Helena for some supreme viewpoints of the surrounding peaks.

• What could be stranger than getting a fascinataing lesson in geology in the wine country? The Petrified Forest, the only such redwood forest in the world, allows you to take a self-guided walk to examine the curious gray-white specimens. (The Queen tree is said to have been 2,000 years old when it was buried.) In case you're wondering how the trees came to become petrified -- they were buried by volcanic ash more than 3 million years ago. But they weren't discovered until the 19th century. Visit on a Sunday and you'll be treated to a naturalist-led walk on the Meadow Trail where you'll learn more about petrification.


Lauren said...

J - Nice post on the wine country! I'd like to recommend instead of hotels, checking for a VRBO, Vacation Rental By Owner.

Also, thanks for linking to my site. I guess I have a problem with my site title though - you have it as "Travel stories, art and photography" but it should be simply Ephemerratic.

J The Travel Authority said...

Hi Lauren, Thanks for the accommodations recommendation. And thanks for pointing out the error with your blog name. I fixed it.

sunset canvas said...

Oh I love this walk, it's on of my favourites. SO much to see and it's great to get away from the city!