Ridge Trail Council adopts a bold new northern route.

Oat Hill Mine Trail

In December 2012 the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council board enthusiastically adopted an exciting new “GoNorth” route for the northern alignment of the Ridge Trail. Over the last decade, park agencies and nonprofits have protected properties along Napa Valley’s eastern ridgelines, adding to trail opportunities in northern Napa County. With this new alignment, twelve miles of Ridge Trail will likely be dedicated over the next two years, with more than seven miles this year. The new alignment adds sixteen miles to the Ridge Trail’s total miles, even though fourteen miles from the previous Sonoma and Napa alignment have been eliminated. 

Since the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council’s first trail dedication in 1989, trail progress in Napa County has been slow. Over a 23-year period, the council dedicated only 13 miles of trail in the county. This slow pace has been due, in part, to the original trail alignment being routed over steep slopes, multiple parcels, and many creek and road crossings. In addition, some landowner opposition created obstacles, and until six years ago, the county did not have a park and open space district or a tradition of public access on open-space lands.

Moore Creek ParkWhile the idea of extending the Ridge Trail north had been informally discussed for at least a decade, planning began in 2009, when the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council began working with agency partners—Napa County Park and Open Space District, Sonoma County Regional Parks Department, and Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District. The council conducted a comprehensive analysis of alternative options that could fulfill Ridge Trail objectives. Fortunately, the Napa County General Plan, Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District Master Plan, and Sonoma County General Plan all recommend, in concept, a trail corridor along the new alignment.

One of the most exciting aspects of the planned trail is its routing through park and open-space properties, including Rector Reservoir Wildlife Area, Lake Hennessey, Moore Creek Park, Las Posadas State Forest, Wildlake Ranch, Duff Ranch, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, and Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. Many of these properties have been publicly acquired since the original Ridge Trail route was laid out, and their advantageous positioning along Napa’s eastern ridgeline allows an opportunity to create a connected open-space corridor. And existing trails offer the enticing possibility of more Ridge Trail dedications in the next few years.  

Oat Hill Mine TrailThe trail will also follow the planned Class I Napa Valley Vine Trail from Calistoga to the entrance of Bothe-Napa Valley Park. And through Angwin, a town that is home to Pacific Union College, a loop option might also accommodate different trail users on separate routes. A two-mile section of the route passes through the streets of Calistoga.

The new route will connect communities to the Ridge Trail and to each other, and will also connect to wineries and other visitor-serving businesses. Twenty-one miles of the former alignment will become connector trails, including an eight-mile segment between Sugarloaf Ridge State Park and Calabazas Creek Open Space Preserve, and a thirteen-mile stretch between Rector/Stag’s Leap and Yountville. In addition, the Napa Valley Vine Trail south of Bothe-Napa Valley State Park will serve as a connector. The new route also includes a spur trail to the summit of 4,386-foot Mt. St. Helena, the tallest peak in the Bay Area. On a clear day, Mt. Shasta can be seen 192 miles away. 

Two trail dedications are scheduled for later this year: four and a half miles on the Lower Oat Hill Mine Trail and three miles in Moore Creek Park. The Lower Oat Hill Mine Trail extends from Calistoga up through Robert Louis Stevenson State Park to the Palisades Trail. The trail is managed by the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District with support from numerous volunteers, and crosses both public and private land using a road easement held by the County of Napa. The trail provides sweeping views of Napa Valley and beyond, but can be rough and rocky in places. In the late 1800s, the Oat Hill Mine Road provided transportation between Calistoga and several quicksilver mines.

In 2009, the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District acquired 673-acre Moore Creek Park, located on Chiles-Pope Canyon Road, adjacent to the City of Napa’s Lake Hennessey. The scenic land had been family owned and grazed for a few generations, and contains a diverse combination of plant communities. Over the past few years, volunteers have been building trails through the property, including a three-mile Moore Creek Ridge Trail route. 

Check the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council website, sign up for our email newsletter, and follow us on Facebook for updates about upcoming dedications on the new alignment in Napa County. We look forward to outings and openings to welcome supporters on the new Ridge Trail route!   

– Elizabeth Byers 

GoNorth Map

Parks and Open Space Along the New GoNorth Ridge Trail Route

Rector Reservoir Wildlife Area: 340 acres owned by the Department of Veterans Affairs and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game

Lake Hennessey: 930-acre watershed owned by the City of Napa with public access managed by the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District

Moore Creek Park: 673-acre park owned by the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District

Las Posadas State Forest: 796 acres owned by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection

Wildlake Ranch: 3,030 acres owned by the Land Trust of Napa County

Duff Ranch: 1,000 acres owned by the Land Trust of Napa County

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park: 3,511 acres owned by California State Parks, which includes part of the Lower Oat Hill Mine Trail

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park: 1,900 acres owned by California State Parks and managed by the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District in partnership with the Napa Valley State Parks Association

 

Image credits (from top): Phyllis Olson, John Woodbury, John Woodbury. Map by Ben Pease.

 

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