Humbled at the summit – Mt St Helena

Mt St Helena | Smiling in Sonoma

“Arriving at one goal is the starting point to another” – John Dewey

When the hubs and I first started hiking in wine country we had our eyes set on hiking to the top of Mt St Helena. It’s our tallest peak in the area at 4,341 ft and towers over the gorgeous Napa Valley. Talk about a hobby photographers dream! We have been training all summer to get our stamina up to be able to do this hike by doing long hikes, short hikes with high elevation gain, not letting a weekend go without a hike. We finally decided to hike her made it to the top and it was amazing! We could see the Pacific Ocean, Mt Diablo, Mt Tamaplais, the San Francisco city skyline, Lake Berryessa, north to Alexander Valley, all of Napa Valley and what we have been told the slight outline of the Sierra Nevada range!! It was a gorgeous fall day to summit Mt St Helena!

The beginning of the trail is across the road from the end of our last hike that was soooo much more difficult than this one! The first part of the hike is full of excitement and anticipation of the views to come while the trail switchbacks climb at a mild incline and under the forest canopy. Enjoy the shade here! First stop is the Robert Louis Stevenson (yes the writer) memorial who honeymooned in the area. Take a breath and get ready to hike up uneven and eroded trail (hiking poles would help here). Once you reach the top of this trail you meet up with the fire road. Head up and left and know that you will have a nice easy and wide grade the rest of the way up.

Enjoy the views you are immediately rewarded with!

From here you round a corner while enjoying views of Alexander Valley and run right into Bubble Rock which has signs of mountain climbers all over it. Go ahead and see how far you are comfortable free climbing! The hubs got up a little ways without using any ropes. My little monkey.

Some long hikes can be boring. This one definitely is not. Between the amazing views, all the other friendly hikers and oh ya did I mention the views? You won’t get bored. This part of the hike would probably not be fun during the heat of the summer. It was in the mid-60’s when we went up and it felt hot with little shade and on a fire road but there was a nice breeze. At mile 4 you reach a saddle and if you go left and up you will summit the lower east peak, keep heading straight ahead toward the communication towers on the north peak. The last half mile to the top is a bit steeper than the rest of the hike but keep going you are almost there! Enjoy a little shade and the fact that you are practically standing in 3 different counties at the same time! Sonoma County is to the east, Lake County (where the tragic fires were this summer) to the north-east and Napa County to the south. Each time you make a turn on the road you have a whole new set of crazy beautiful views!

Then…Tada! Welcome to the highest peak in wine country! Please take a drink of water and sit on our comfy volcanic rocks and enjoy your accomplishment with 360 degree views as your backdrop! Look north and you see Cobb Mountain in Lake County where you can see how close the fires came to the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Look east and see if you can see the outline of the Sierras. Look south and enjoy the views of Napa Valley to Mt Diablo…then turn to the right just a tad and you can make out the San Francisco skyline and lovely Mt Tamalpais. Then look to the west, my absolute favorite, you can see the ocean. We could have stayed at the top for hours just gazing on all the views. This would be an amazing meditation spot. The rocks are strong up here and you can walk out pretty far on them (even for a scaredy cat like me) to see all your vantage points. Some guys that had passed us going up the mountain were relaxing having lunch out on them…at the top of the world. So rewarding to reach our goal, so humbling to be able to experience such beauty, so amazing we have this so near to us.

Now that we have reached our goal we are still deciding on what should be the next one. This was so much fun to train for and we look forward to another adventure! Any suggestions are welcome!


8 Comment

  1. As far as ideas for what to try next, have you done the Pomo Canyon/Red Hill loop? For my money, it is one of the top hikes in Sonoma County. It has redwoods, good views along the trail, beach access, interesting rock formations and then the summit vista on Red Hill, which is among the finest in the county. The view of the Russian River meeting the Pacific is tremendous and unforgettable. Also, if you have not hiked the Coast Trail at Point Reyes from the Palomarin Trailhead to Wildcat Camp, you are missing out. You get to see Alamere Falls, easily one of the best waterfalls in California. Imagine a 30 foot wide, 50 foot high waterfall plunging off the cliff right into the ocean. You can’t beat that. When the tide is out, you can stand on the beach and hear the crash of the waterfall on one side and the pulse of the surf on the other. It is a fantastic combination. There are some great trails in Napa worth checking out too…

    1. Thank you!!! Yes, Pomo Canyon is an amazing trail! We went when blackberries were ripe and were treated to some treats there but unfortunately the waterfall at the campground was not flowing.
      Alamere falls, Angel Island, and ones around Lake Berryessa are up on our list. Oh and I found one in Mendocino county that we are waiting on some rain to do since it has some smaller waterfalls. Love all your advice!

  2. Also, if you really want to get into the tall weeds, there are gems like this hidden just miles from town:
    It is amazing how much stuff goes under the radar. That thing is about 100 feet high and it can really get roaring in the winter months. I have some shots of it at high water and it is incredible.

    1. Love hidden gems and love waterfalls! Where is this one at?

      1. This one is right outside of Sonoma off of Cavehill Road. It is sort of secret, so I will just point you in that direction, if you want to find it. It is a few miles up the road and you can park at a sharp bend where there is one of, if not the best, drive-to vistas in Sonoma County. It is spectacular.

        1. I am so excited for this little adventure! Thank you!

  3. Absolutely stunning! What a gorgeous reward 🙂 It’s fun to have a goal like this to work towards – can’t wait to see what the next one will be! Phoenix hosts a Summit Challenge each year where you hike a certain number of summits in a day – I’ve been thinking that may be my goal for next year.

    1. Thank you! It was an amazingly beautiful reward! I would definitely do this one again. Oh dear! Phoenix and summits…I hope during the winter! There is some very pretty hiking out there…you have found some great places!

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