In Northern California’s wine country, that doesn’t just mean the area produces world-class cabernets. It also means it provides world-class hiking. Napa and Sonoma counties’ mash-up of rolling hills, gentle valleys, and sunny-to-misty microclimates shapes dozens of AVAs (American Viticultural Areas)—and gives the region some of the most appealingly varied hiking in the country. Easy hike? Tough hike? Hikes with history, hikes with a view? You’ll find them all in the wine country’s network of state parks and open spaces.
So think of us as your trail sommelier. We’ve chosen an entire flight of wine country hikes just for you. They range from short, scenic strolls perfect for working up an appetite at the French Laundry to peak climbs you’ll want to celebrate with a sprightly St. Helena viognier or a ruby red Dry Creek Valley zin. And we’ve paired each hike with a convenient spot where you can grab grub (and wine, if you want) to fill your daypack or picnic table. Because this is wine country—why settle for trail mix when you can fuel up with a spinach and bacon mezzaluna from Oakville Grocery or a baguette from Bouchon Bakery?
Bothe-Napa State Park
Rising on the west side of Napa Valley, the Mayacamas Mountains are best known for producing costly cabernets for wineries like Mayacamas and Mount Veeder. But they’re gorgeous, too, as this sprawling state park proves. For a beautiful, medium-challenging hike, follow the Redwood, Ritchey Canyon, South Fork and Coyote Peak trails on a 5-mile loop that leads through coast redwoods and up Coyote Peak to Instagram-worthy views. Then sit and snack on the sandwiches you got at Sunshine Foods in nearby St. Helena.
How to get there. The park entrance is off California 29, 4.2 miles north of St. Helena. Drive to the entrance station then drive 0.1 mile to the trailhead. $8 fee.
Napa River Ecological Reserve
The French Laundry, Ad Hoc, Bottega Napa Valley—there’s no small town in the world that boasts more celebrated restaurants than Yountville. It also has one of wine country’s sweetest, leafiest little retreats in this reserve that wraps around the banks of the Napa River. A flat, easy 1.2-mile trail makes a perfect amuse-bouche before your Michelin-starred meal, it loops through the reserve, showing off the quiet river and surrounding oak-dotted meadows. At one point, you’ll actually have to step-stone across the shallow water, so don’t hike in the shoes you’re planning to wear to dinner. Want to carry a little sustenance on your trek? Grab sandwiches or pastries at legendary Bouchon Bakery.
How to get there. From downtown Yountville, head north on Yount Street then turn east on Yountville Cross Road. Continue .9 mile; you’ll see the reserve parking lot on your left. Free.
Skyline Wilderness Park
This lofty, oak-studded park on Napa’s southeastern edge was singed by the disastrous 2017 wildfires that scorched much of the wine country. But it has recovered beautifully and makes a great break from wining and dining in downtown Napa or the nearby Los Carneros AVA. For a view-filled 3-mile hike, follow the Skyline Trail into the hills then return on Marie Creek Road, a fire road that leads through lush Marie Creek Canyon back to your starting point, where you can stage a post-hike picnic with provisions you bought at downtown Napa’s Oxbow Public Market.
How to get there. From Highway 29 in Napa, take Imola Avenue east for 3 miles; you’ll see the park entrance on your right. $5 fee.
Moore Creek Park
The wine west meets the Wild West. Only about 5 miles east of the opulent wineries that line the Silverado Trail, Moore Creek’s a different world—an unspoiled stream burbling through the heart of the rugged Vaca Mountains. From the parking lot, take the Moore Creek or Valentine Vista trails up the canyon, then follow the continuation of the Moore Creek Trail to an enticing series of swimming holes—round-trip distance is about 7.5 miles. Where to cater your swimming-hole lunch? Go for a Napa classic: Oakville Grocery in nearby Oakville.
How to get there: At the junction of Silverado Trail and CA 128, follow CA 128 east for 3.8 miles, then turn left on Chiles Pope Valley Road and stay on it for 1.3 miles. The park entrance is on your left; follow an unpaved road to the parking lot. Free.
Jack London State Historic Park
Call of the Wild author Jack London was at the height of his career when he and wife Charmian bought the Sonoma Valley acreage they dubbed “Beauty Farm.” Overwork and drink killed London young, but Charmian survived to tend to his legend and the land. This riveting history is on display at the park’s museum; stop there first, then tackle the tough-but-worth-it 7.5-mile (round-trip) trail to the top of Sonoma Mountain and one of the best views in California. Here you can enjoy the picnic lunch you got at Glen Ellen Village Market down the hill in Glen Ellen.
How to get there. From Glen Ellen (7.5 miles north of Sonoma), follow London Ranch Road 1.3 miles to the park. $10 fee.
Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve
Leave it to Healdsburg—the once-sleepy farm town that has morphed into one of wine country’s most sophisticated destinations—to boast open space that is discreet yet awe-inspiring. A few miles north of downtown, Healdsburg Ridge Open Space Preserve is tucked behind a tasteful residential neighborhood. But the minute you start hiking the preserve you’ll be wowed by Sonoma County nature at its most unspoiled: rolling hills lined with oak, madrone, and bay laurel trees and, at the ridge crest, incredible views of the Russian River. You’ll see all this on a 2.4-mile loop on the Nancy’s Hill, Ridge, and All-the-Oaks trails. For your trail lunch, hit the lavish deli counter at nearby Big John’s Market.
How to get there. From U.S. 101 in Healdsburg, take the Dry Creek Rd. exit and drive east on Dry Creek Rd for .3 mile; turn left at Healdsburg Ave. , continue north .8 mile, turn east on Parkland Farms Rd. and continue .7 miles to Bridal Path and turn right; park near the intersection of Bridle Path and Arabian Way then walk to preserve entrance. Free.
Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve
Sonoma County’s fog-cooled Russian River Valley is prime territory for chardonnay and pinot noir grapes—and for California’s moisture-loving coast redwoods, the tallest trees in the world. By far the best place in wine country to soak up the natural beauty of the trees (the Japanese call this shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing) is this 800-acre preserve near Guerneville. An easy 2-mile loop on the Pioneer Nature, Discovery, and Armstrong Nature trails ambles through the forest’s heart, revealing such marvels as the reserve’s oldest specimen, the 1400-year-old Colonel Armstrong Tree, named for the 19th-century lumberman who opted not to chop all these redwoods down. Before, after, or during your hike, don’t miss the chance to carbo-load on Oprah’s favorite biscuits or the curried-chicken-on-brioche Colonel Armstrong sandwich you got at Big Bottom Market in Guerneville.
How to get there. From U.S. 101 north of Santa Rosa, take the River Road exit and continue 15 miles west to Guerneville; turn north on Armstrong Woods Road and continue 2.2 miles to the park entrance. Free if parking’s available in the lot outside the entrance; otherwise, $10 fee.