If you're wine-country bound but want to fit in a hike, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, between St. Helena and Calistoga, might be just the place. On a hot day, a pleasant two- to three-mile loop takes you along the redwood-shaded creek, following Ritchey Canyon Trail in one direction and Redwood Trail in the other. A longer hike along Ritchey Canyon will get you away from horses, and pretty soon away from most other hikers as well. The trail starts to climb soon after the second creek ford along this trail, with lovely views at the junction with Spring Trail.
What can set this park experience apart is hiking on History Trail over to the restored flour mill, still powered by a wooden waterwheel. The trail leads through madrones whose russet brown and limy green bark just insists on being photographed. At the beautifully restored mill, you can easily while away several hours talking with the miller.
If you are still thinking more about wine than woods, head along Vineyard Trail to see vistas of its namesake. And if a heat wave blows through, seek out the unexpected swimming pool right near the park entrance. Bothe-Napa also has a campground, with a few sites just a scramble away from the creek.
Getting there: From Route 37 and Vallejo, take Highway 29 toward Napa. The park entrance is off 29 about three miles past St. Helena. The drive-in entrance to the mill (Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park) is about a mile and a half before the main park entrance. For park information, call (707)942-4575.
Hike by Ayesha Ercelawn, originally published in the October 2009 issue of Bay Nature magazine