Trail Run from Calistoga to the Top of Bald Hill

Palisades from Bald Hill

We’d just arrived in Calistoga for Amanda & Brett’s wedding, and I was looking through the “where’s the ice machine” info provided by the B & B. A couple pages down, past the wineries and restaurants was a list of local hiking trails. What better way to work off the torpor of I-5 than to do a trail run?

The trailhead for the Oat Hill Mine Trail was just a half-mile away and in a few minutes I was jogging north on Hwy 29 toward Silverado Trail road. I had about two hours before I needed to be back. The sun would be setting in a couple of hours anyway, so I could run up the trail about 75 minutes before turning around.

Other than the brief description in the B & B info, I had not researched the trail. It looked like it worked up the east side of a ridge through oak, pine and fir toward some volcanic outcrops. On a hot day the trail would be brutal. This afternoon the temperature was around eighty, and in the long shadows of the ridge, it was relatively cool and shady.

Since it follows an old mine cart road, the grade of the trail is generally not too steep and is very runnable. It’s rough and rocky in places, but most trails I run are rough and rocky in places. Heads up – the trail appears to be multi-use. Judging from the bear scat there are some bears (and other animal life) in the area as well.

Low on the trail there were oak and pine framed views of the vineyards north of Silverado Trail, and higher up nice views of Napa Valley.

I could have pushed it a little further up the trail, but the natural spot to turn around was the top of Bald Hill. A short use trail leads to the top from the saddle northeast of the hill. Oddly shaped fingers and pinnacles of weathered volcanic rock (andesite) form its summit.

The volcanic bluffs known as the Palisades encompass much of the view to the North. To the northwest is Mt. St. Helena, abutting the west end of the Table Rock-Palisades escarpment. To the west is Napa Valley, and in the distance, the coast near Bodega Bay.

The Oat Hill Mine Trail page of the Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District web site has more info about the trail, including a PDF brochure, trail map and a self-guided tour of the geology along the trail. The round-trip length of the run from near Brannan & Lincoln in Calistoga was a little under eight miles, with an elevation gain loss of about 1500′. From the trailhead it’s about a mile less.

With a car shuttle, the approximately 11 mile route linking the Table Rock, Palisades, and Oat Hill Mine trails looks like it would be an outstanding trail run. The Table Rock trailhead is about 8 miles north of Calistoga on Hwy 29. Next time!