Survived the Palisades Trail in Napa County

Oat Hill Mine - Palisades - Table Rock | Smiling in Sonoma

There should be shirts made up that say “I survived the Oat Hill Mine – Palisades – Table Rock trail!”. Seriously, the Palisades trail was probably the most technical trail we have been on and I really don’t want to go back. It tested my mental ability to deal with heights for a couple of miles / hours as well as my physical ability. Don’t get me wrong, it was absolutely gorgeous and so incredible to hike at the base of these amazing volcanic rock formations but I would have liked a little more trail under my feet while doing it.

The 10.27 mile 3,678 ft elevation gain (per the app which includes all the ups and downs) hike took 6 hours 43 minutes…it should have taken more like 5 hours. We started the early morning off by dropping off one car off at the top off Highway 29 at the Table Rock trailhead hopping in the hubs’ car and driving back down to Calistoga where Highway 29 and Silverado Trail meet to start the hike. We had done the first part of this hike earlier in the year and were super eager to come back to finish the full hike. The first bit of the climb was familiar and gave way to some absolutely amazing views of Calistoga and Napa Valley!

Ok, don’t get distracted by the views there’s so much more to see! Once you get up to the open and a bit barren area the view of the palisades pops out at you! I drive by these almost every day and love the way they feel…well, I was able to hike on them and get very intimate with them…more like clinging to them. More to come further down in the post. Just enjoy the views you are getting at this point and keep going up! The views only get better!

From here you are on more of a smoothed out “road” from years of weather and wagon wheels. Did I mention to take plenty of water for this hike? You are out in the open the majority of this hike and especially with this part of the trail. It is wonderful because you have uninterrupted views but can be a bit hot in the sun. Don’t forget to pause every now and again to notice how high you have hiked and how amazing your views are!

Once you get up to the top you start seeing signs of official  so you know you are indeed on a trail…and the correct one! This will be Holm’s place. There’s some history you can read about here regarding the homestead. This is where the trail gets a bit tricky. I would highly recommend turning around here and enjoy the gorgeous views on your way back down. If you are tiny bit crazy and heights don’t bother you, well then keep on going! At the Holm’s place sign walk through the old homestead ruins and find the trail going up just next to the “waterfall” (I am sure it will be a waterfall again someday). You will reach a spot where you will see a trail going left. Take it and watch your step. It can be slippery! You’ll walk around and this is where the fun, or as in my case, the terror ride starts.

Ok, yes the views are totally worth it! But on a side note, if you don’t like heights this is probably not the best hike for you. The hubs kept saying “you skydive and ride roller coasters but you can’t handle this” to which I promptly replied, “I am not strapped in to a safety harness!” My hands were sore from clinging to the side of the volcanic rock to make my way around some spots and my wits were coming to an end. Each moment the trail was wide enough for me to not feel dizzy I stopped to enjoy the views of the valley as well as the Palisades above us.

Tired of the gorgeous views yet? At this point I was tired of the not so well-marked trail. Be on the look out for stairs made from boulders, this is pretty much the only way you know you are still on a trail. Use your best intuition here! Once you get past all the scary parts (I absolutely admit I am a wuss when it comes to heights for an extended period of time…longer than a few seconds) you reach what you believe might be civilization. Sorry darling, you are just now at Table Rock and have a few more spectacular experiences and miles to go before you reach your car!

Table Rock is a large flat rock formation, duh! I guess kids like to hang off the side and rock climb this thing. No thank you for me! The views would be great to see but I can do that with my feet on the ground! Once you reach the lovely sign that shows you that not only are you on a real trail but that you only have a couple more miles to go. This is where we started seeing more and more people on the trail which was a welcome sight since we knew that meant our car was not so far away! I gained a renewed sense of energy here hoping to see the parking lot soon. Well, it wasn’t so. We hiked up through some beautiful area thinking we were on a trail and thanks to the hubs’ great sense of direction we were! We found a couple of rock labyrinths that were very cool to see! I just wish I had more energy to stop and play in them and take more photos! From here keep following the trail up (oh did I mention this was pretty much all uphill?) until you reach cover from trees again. This is nice especially if it is a hot day. You’ll reach the parking lot and probably find a small hippie party happening. Everyone is super friendly and more than likely not as sweaty as you but do say hello!

The hubs and I sat down in the car, me grateful he was there to cheer me on when I didn’t want to go anywhere and just wait to be helicoptered out, and him probably grateful it was over and he didn’t have to watch me have a melt down. Back down the winding road to Calistoga and your second vehicle, stop in at La Prima Pizza. There’s flushing toilets and good food…yes, my excitement was in that order!

Have you had a trail that drained you mentally?

Enjoy the pics of the end of the trail below!

2 Comment

  1. You really ought to give this hike a second chance. Go in April, especially after a rain if possible. Rather than starting at the bottom, do it in reverse. Start at the parking area at RLS State Park and hike down to Calistoga. There are a couple of short uphill sections at the beginning but then it is downhill almost the entire way. You can enjoy the views at your leisure and just coast all the way down. If you go in April, there are a fair number of wildflowers and some really nice waterfalls. One of them is 30 feet or so high and you can sit right on the precipice next to the falls with a spectacular vista overlooking Napa Valley. It is unforgettable. On top of all that, when you get to the bottom, you can get a pizza at La Prima, which is the perfect way to end a spectacular day on the trail.

    1. Thanks for the advice! Cross our fingers for some good rain so the waterfalls do come back!

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