• An "Innsider's" View of Napa Valley

A Hike, Some Hope, and a Bottle that Hops

If you’re an adventure seeker, crazed hiker, or looking for exercise outside of the gym, try a trail in wine country. And if you’re not looking for any kind of adventure…well, you probably wouldn’t be coming to Napa!

Skyline Wilderness Park is located about 10 minutes away from the hotel by car. Before you set out, be sure to bring lots of water, as well as sunscreen and snacks. The terrain can change drastically, so dress accordingly. I went on a morning hike in mid-February and was greeted by gorgeous sunny rays. As soon as our hike ventured into the shaded territory, the temperatures dropped incredibly. You may consider wearing several layers (Mt. Shasta style!) for your hike. If you’ve ever attempted to climb Mt. Shasta, or attempted and failed like me, hiking in layers may be second nature to you. After I stop shaking my fist at that mount, I’ll be back with a vengeance! One of the great things about climbing at Skyline is that you can take the same trail many times, but end up in many different locations. Part of the fun is discovering where that side trail actually leads. There are plenty of trail maps at the visitor area, so getting lost won’t be an option. There is a small fee for parking, which helps support trail maintenance and park preservation.

If you head north on Highway 29, exit at First Street and look for Westwood Hills on the left. I would recommend this hike for families, or those looking for a nice view without too difficult terrain. The trails are much milder and not as demanding as those at Skyline. Always bring water and snacks, and a light jacket if hiking in the late afternoon. There are picnic tables at the bottom of the trailhead and the trail is large enough for groups to walk together. Follow the trail up and up until you reach some mildly-steep rocks. Climb over these and keep pulling yourself up the hill. The view is well worth the struggle! From atop the hill, you can see all of downtown Napa. Try and find the hotel while you’re up there.

If you’re headed up the valley from the Silverado Trail, stop at Mount St. Helena on your way. One catch – there is limited roadside parking. The trail starts in a lush and cool environment as it winds its way up the side of the mountain. Once it opens up to the fire road, the temperatures can get pretty warm in the summer months. I was last there in October and the weather was breezy all afternoon. I would again suggest wearing layers, bringing plenty of water, and snacks. The road winds around and around offering magnificent views from each side. You may be lucky enough to see some gliders catching the high winds. There’s even a rock wall that many climbing enthusiasts attempt each time they visit. If you’re interested, be sure to bring your own rope. This hike lasts about two hours each way…unless you’re sprinting. A top is a great place for a victory picnic!

Now for your reward. If you’d like to celebrate your hiking accomplishment in true Napa style, stop for a mid-afternoon cap nearby each trailhead. In St. Helena, visit Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for an appetizer, a beer, wine, or maybe just some ice water. Near Westwood Hills, there’s a grocer called Browns Valley Market that’s sure to refill your empty stomach or quench your thirst. Just a short drive from Skyline Wilderness Park is the Oxbow Public Market. Here you can find food, drinks, gifts, cheese and more to celebrate your return to the living.

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