Hiking Close to Home

posted Nov 28, 2011, 8:44 AM by Paul Wagner
With the mountains full of snow and ice, and our free time quite limited, we stayed close to home for the Thanksgiving holidays.  But that's not to say that we didn't get out and enjoy ourselves.
You may know Stag's Leap as a part of the Napa Valley (a couple of wineries share that name) that is famous for world-class cabernet sauvignon.  But the name comes from a mountain in the Vaca Range east of the Napa Valley.  And there just happens to be a trail to the top of it.  With a nice more or less sunny day in late November, we couldn't resist the temptation to climb up and take a look around. 
There is no official trail or trailhead, just a parking area on the side of the road, and a use trail heading up the hill.  And it's quite a hill.  The trail climbs about 800 feet in the first 3/4 of a mile.  The good news is that the views start almost immediately, and so there are lots of reasons to stop and rest--I mean look at the views.
Once up on the ridge the trail tracks the ridgeline southwards, showing first one side and then the other of the views.  Napa Valley to the West, Rector Reservoir and Pritchard Hill to the East.  And looming over it all is Stag's Leap. 
The last mile is a steady and sometimes steep climb up the rocks to the top, where you have views over the whole northern San Francisco Bay area, from Mt Diablo to Mt. St, Helena and Cobb Mountain.  And if you looked carefully, you could see the peaks of coast range even further North. 
Best of all, since it was autumn, the leaves of the vineyards were a wild range of colors, from bright yellow to deep red, and often in fascinating patterns. 
The hike was six or seven miles, and we loved every foot of it!