A visit to Bothe-Napa Valley State Park allows hikers to make a trip back in time. The park is a still-forested hill nestled among several of the famous valley's wineries. It stands as a reminder of the natural flora and fauna of the area before much of it was cleared to create vineyards. Though the trees and other plants have been largely removed from the land used as vineyards, the soils and microclimates that have drawn grape growers for over 100 years remain.
The park is also teeming with plants used by Native Americans in the region, who were likely the first people to use the Valley's bounties to make intoxicating concoctions.
Most of the park is rugged, with elevations ranging from 300 to 2,000 feet. You will notice a pattern in the vegetation: the forests are on the north-facing slopes and in canyons, while south-facing slopes tend to be brushy; redwoods grow only near creeks or springs.
Plant life hides much of the park’s geology, which is principally volcanic, but you can see a reminder of the area’s violent geologic past in the volcanic ash cliffs of upper Ritchey Canyon.
The park is home to raccoons, gray squirrels, deer, foxes, bobcats, and coyotes to name a few, but they are sometimes difficult to spot because of their nocturnal habits and the heavy forest cover.
Several species of birds can be easily detected though, including the six kinds of woodpecker that inhabit the park. The spectacular crow-sized pileated woodpecker is one of them. On a more rare occasion a spotted owl can be found, perched high in a redwood tree.
Located by the entrance to the park is the Visitor Center. The Visitor Center and entrance station are open intermittently when staffing is available. Brochures (hiking maps) are also available by mail.
Next to the park’s visitor center is the Native American Garden which displays some of the plants important to the first people of this area. Today, many of the same plants are used by the Wappo people.
This Exploration created in collaboration with the Exploratorium
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
3801 St. Helena Highway North
Calistoga, CA 94515
The park exhibits more seasonal changes than most Californians experience. Hot, dry summers change to mild, wet winters; in between, in spring and fall, the park and its surrounding area are probably at their finest.
Summer temperatures may reach 105 degrees Fahrenheit, but nights are usually cool. In the fall, when daytime temperatures are more pleasant, the leaves begin to turn, creating a dramatic and colorful display.
Temperatures don’t often go below freezing and snow is infrequent, but nearly 45 inches of rain are apt to fall during a single winter – between December and March.
5 miles north of St. Helena and 4 miles south of Calistoga on Highway 29/128.
South – Near the Coast
Take Highway 101 north to Highway 37 at Novato, east on Highway 37 to Highway 121, north on Highway 121 to Highway 29 near Napa, north on Highway 29 to the park entrance.
South – Inland
Take I5 north to I580, west on I580 to I680, north to I780, north to I80, east to Highway 37, west to Highway 29, north on Highway 29 to the park entrance.
North – Near the Coast
Take Highway 101 south to Calistoga exit, go east on Mark West Rd., continuing on Porter Creek Rd. to Petrified Forest Rd., turn left, go to Highway 128, turn right and follow Highway 128 past Calistoga to the park entrance.
Take I5 south to Highway 20, west to Highway 53, south to Highway 29 at Lower Lake, then south on Highway 29 to the park entrance.
Take I80 west to Highway 12, west to Highway 29, then north to the park entrance.
Hiking: there are well over 10 miles of trail.
Swimming: Memorial Day weekend through mid-June, then daily through Labor Day, from 12- 6 p.m. There is an additional fee for the use of the swimming pool, to be paid at the park entrance.
Horseback riding: horseback ride during the spring, summer, or fall. Reservations for horseback rides can be made through Triple Creek Horse Outfit by calling (707) 933-1600.
Picnics: The large picnic grounds are located in the day use area, and are even available for group events and getaways. A covered area for group use contains picnic tables, a sink and an electrical outlet with a horseshoe pit and wheelchair-accessible restroom nearby.
Interpretive programs: offered throughout the year. Special programs can sometimes be arranged for groups by calling the park in advance.