We’re constantly on the search for a new day-long adventure to embark so I’ve been spending a lot of time researching trails that we live near. While there are hundreds, if not thousands within a 50 mile radius of us, the type of trail I’m seeking is one with a purpose, that has a sort of “reward” or “ta-da” factor at the end of it. It didn’t take me too long to find one that seemed like just what I’m looking for. It’s called the The Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail and it’s located on the south side of Lake Berryessa, the largest lake in Napa County, California. The trail is one of two in the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve and has everything a hiker needs to feel like their time spent was worth it.
Here’s a Hike on the Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail:
The Trail Details
The Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail is a 5.1 loop that climbs 1456 feet. The trail is lightly trafficked but for a good reason: it’s considered somewhat of a difficult hike due to the ascent it requires. Normally, I avoid the trails that are classified as difficult because in the past when I’ve completed one, there wasn’t anything too spectacular at the end. This trail, although it’s a bit strenuous, is completely worth it.
When we hiked this trail, it was only about a month and a half after the Sonoma wildfires rampaged through the area. We also hadn’t had much rain at the time so the river bed and storm drains we had to cross through were all dry. It’s important to note that if there’s been rain and the river is flowing, do not attempt the hike.
Finding the Trail
After parking in a dirt lot about a mile north of the Monticello Dam, we follow the printed signs towards the Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail. The first obstacle we come to is a dry river bed and two massive storm drains with graffiti plastered all over them. There were no signs indicating that we were supposed to go through these storm drains but assuming so, we pass through them and come out on the other side, working our way to the hill on the right side.
Starting the Climb
Immediately after crossing the river bed, the climb upwards begins. There are multiple spots where logs and sandbags have been put in to allow hikers to climb easier on the dirt trail. The legs are definitely burning at this point as the next 10 minutes of the ascent is very steep. This area used to be more shaded with brush and trees but since the fires came through most of the trail is wide open to the sun, causing temps to rise substantially. Some vegetation is growing back in certain areas but most of the trees that remain are singed black. Not long after the initial ascent, the trail begins to wind around the edge of the mountain so the climb isn’t as steep.
The Beginning of the Views
It doesn’t take long for the breathtaking views to present themselves. I like to think that we came here at the right time, right after the fires, so we were able to see more without trees in the way. Stunning views of the surrounding Vaca Mountains are around every corner as the trail continues to wind uphill.
Closing In On the Peak
At this point, shrubbery really doesn’t exist at this height of the mountain and the trail is wide open to the sun so the temps keep rising. At one point, we see a small peak to the right of the trail where a tree is shading a large rock. We trek on over to it, searching for a spot to sit out of the sun for a few moments and begin to see the treat of a view we were about to be in for.
The Grand Finale
After leaving this point, it was only about another 15 minutes or so until we made it to the top. We stopped and soaked in the views of the beautiful lake and then headed south to climb a little higher. Large boulders block the way to the very top but we climb up and over them, reaching another little shaded portion at the very peak. We sat here and ate our packed lunch and continued south again, stunned by the views in front of us, making us feel so incredibly small. The trail continues on over the peak of the mountains laid out in front of us, lining the tips and from here, looking like a photo of the Great Wall of China from space. The views are absolutely outstanding.
Quick-Info for Hiking the Homestead-Blue Ridge Trail
Location: Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve/Lake Berryessa, California
Type of Trail: Loop. Foot Trail Only
Distance: 5.1 miles
Elevation: +1456 feet
Features: Dry Creek Bed, Storm Drain Entrance, High Climb and Peaks, Panorama View of Lake Berryessa
More Info: Dogs NOT Permitted; If Water Levels are High in the Creek, Do Not Cross
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