One of the best-kept secrets among Bay Area outdoor lovers, 1,991-acre Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is nestled in the heart of some of Northern California’s most coveted wine country. By day, explore 10 miles of beautiful trails that wind through sequoia and redwood trees, secluded groves, a pioneer graveyard, and even an historic gristmill where flour is still made. By night, pop the cork on one of the bottles of wine you bought on the way in, settle in by the campfire, and toast to the good life.
What Makes It Great
Though there’s plenty of temptation for tipsy exploration of the surrounding acres of world-class vineyards and wineries, this scenic state park beckons with plenty of appealing options of its own. At the adjacent Bale Grist Mill State Park, a round-trip, two-mile trail offers a peek into the area’s rich history; highlights include a pioneer graveyard where crumbling tombstones date all the way back to the mid-1800s and a 36-foot, water-powered grist mill that was built in 1846 and was once the center of social activity in Napa.
Trails in the other direction along Ritchey Creek and through rolling forest beckon with more of Napa’s natural bounty. Scramble to the rocky top of 1,170-foot Coyote Peak, and you can glimpse views of the surrounding mountains through the trees; there’s also a redwood grove. Wherever you are, the network of forested trails evokes an almost magical aura: the sense that, if you look hard enough, you could see an elf or fairy winking at you from amidst the moss-covered oaks.
Campsites are secluded and mostly private; try to snag one along Ritchey Creek (take a look at the campsite map to pick and avoid #38 and #40, as they see a lot of traffic to the nearby restroom). Clean, well-maintained restrooms (with electrical outlets, too), hot showers (be sure to bring plenty of quarters), and even a swimming pool add some welcome creature comforts to the roughing-it experience. Don’t forget to bring cash for an $8/box of firewood.
The one drawback? Poison oak everywhere. Watch where you step and what you touch, and keep your appendages covered if possible.
Who is Going to Love It
Newbie campers, families, and time-crunched urbanites looking for a quick recharge will delight in the easily accessible serenity of Bothe-Napa Valley SP. Hikers and trail runners, especially, will love the miles of well-maintained trails. Meanwhile, ten recently added yurts accommodate larger groups; three 21-feet diameter ones sleep up to six adults, while seven smaller ones are designed for groups of four adults.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From downtown San Francisco, it’s about 70 miles to reach Bothe-Napa Valley SP. Take I-80E out of the city and follow the signs to CA-37 and then CA-29 toward Napa. Continue on CA-29 through Napa and St. Helena. The park is about three miles north of St. Helena. Once you pass Bale Grist Mill SP on your left, keep an eye out for the entrance, also on your left, just a few hundred yards up the road (it’s easy to confuse the two).
Campsite reservations can be made up to seven months out on Reserve America.