The hike up Mount Saint Helena on the Bay Area Ridge Trail begins with a mile-long ascent on shaded, sometimes rocky switchbacks at Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. The single-track trail connects to a broad fire road that winds the last four miles through the slowly healing burn scar left by the 2017 Tubbs Fire. The views of Northern California wine country from the 4,342-foot volcanic summit are magnificent. This hike marks the northern-most point of the Ridge Trail.
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TRAIL MAP (date hiked)
- Robert Louis Stevenson State Park to Mount St. Helena Spur (Nov. 2, 2021)
We picked a nearly perfect day to hike up Mount Saint Helena. The remnants of the “atmospheric river” that had soaked the Napa Valley over the weekend had fled. The day was cool and sunny. Big fluffy clouds filled the sky.
The first mile of this hike is unique from the rest. We enjoyed winding up the wooded hillside with occasional minor scrambles on the rocky, sun-dappled trail. A small monument near the trail’s intersection with the fire road marks the location of author Robert Louis Stevenson‘s honeymoon cabin, where he wrote “The Silverado Squatters.” We wondered why Stevenson would spend his honeymoon writing a novel.
The grade up the fire road to the peak is moderate and the views magnificent. Unfortunately, the Tubbs Fire created many of the views by destroying the forest that once lined the road. New growth among the charred and broken trees and shrubs looked refreshed from the recent rain, but it will take decades for the forest to fully recover. A few sections that escaped the fire gave us a feel for what the hike might have been like before the inferno.
The view of Napa Valley and the Mayacamas Mountains from the peak was mostly blocked by passing banks of clouds, but we still enjoyed our lunch at the summit, bathed in sunshine, before an easy downhill walk back to the trailhead. Options in Calistoga for a pub at the end of the trail plentiful – a perk of hiking in wine country.
Miles we hiked0
(with returns and connectors)
Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 160.5 out of 400 miles41%