Continuing my recent blog posts on short-ish dayhikes around the North Bay, I had a chance to hit a couple more interesting spots in recent days. You too? Uh, why not?
Healdsburg Ridge – I went here soon after it first became more publicly accessible a few years ago, and that was on a fairly hot spring day but right after a rainfall so I do remember the extreme muddy conditions. That wasn’t the case at all on a recent visit to the 161-acre space of parkland. The hiking took about three miles worth of some short loops, and maybe not even that much. The highlight is clearly the chance to overlook a particularly scenic stretch of the Russian River, to the northeast of Healdsburg. Also, the views of the Mayacamas and Fitch Mountain are up-close and impressive. It’s a ridge worthy of picnicking or just sitting for a while. Expect to not be alone as it’s a very family-friendly preserve of oaks, grasslands and chaparrals. A reminder on hiking at Healdsburg Ridge – you’re parking in a residential neighborhood (there are no dedicated restrooms or parking spots) and hiking adjacent to one. That shouldn’t prove too much of an impediment for courteous hikers but it’s something to keep in mind.
Skyline Wilderness Park – One of the most underrated parks in the Bay Area and probably not on your radar. It’s a park worthy of solid day hikes, ranging from short walks with the kids to long, 10-mile-plus hilly explorations. Where is it? It’s just southeast of downtown Napa. Why haven’t you heard of it? For one, it’s not a public park but one run by a private organization.The 850 acres are adjacent to state hospital land (the park comes from surplus state property) so there are some interesting signs on the property as you head up into the 20-plus miles of trails. Once ascending, hikers can do a small segment of the greater Bay Area Ridge Trail, or head to the two larger ridge paths, the Skyline or the Manzanita. Both feature rugged climbs (1100 feet up or so) but breathtaking views of the Napa Valley in all directions. An easier hike is the straight route to Lake Marie, the scenic heart of the park and a good place for a picnic. To their credit, they’ve kept it accessible, reasonably priced ($5 fee for day access per car) and open to all sorts of uses, from archers to mountain bikers to equestrians to hikers to campers to disc golfers.