You might forget you came for the wine when you gaze upon the stunning panorama at the 4,342 summit of Mount St. Helena in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.
The peak north of Calistoga looms large above the rolling hills of Napa and Sonoma counties in the Northern California Wine Country. The five-mile hike to the summit has over 2,000 feet of elevation gain, so be ready for a workout.
The hike starts on Stevenson Memorial Trail, climbing just under a mile and passing through the area where the famed author Robert Louis Stevenson ("Kidnapped," "Treasure Island) honeymooned with his new bride in 1880.
Next in line is the Mount St. Helena Trail, an old logging road that climbs to the summit over about four miles. Note your turn-off point or you might miss it on the way back.
While the wide dirt road to the summit lacks the appeal of a single-track trail, the eye-popping views of the terrain below are a welcome trade-off.
Best time to go: Clear winter days will offer the clearest views, especially a day or two after a storm goes through. Spring and fall should be gorgeous, but summer will probably be too hot and the Wine Country too crowded.
Weather is a major wild card at Mount St. Helena -- it's one of the few areas near San Francisco that gets snow every year. The summit can be shrouded in fog and buffeted by high winds; make sure you're dressed for all the possibilities.
Contact: (707) 942-4575
Park hours: Sunrise to sunset
Directions: Take highway 29 seven miles north of Calistoga.
I thought this trail was pretty forgettable, honestly. 90% of it follows a dirt road (cars pass sometimes). It has consistent elevation gain so I would say it's challenging, kind of similar to Mission Peak. The 10 miles feels short. I imagine the views sweeten the deal on a nice day. The day we hiked it was hazy. Visited on May 17, 2015