Beginner Hikes

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Redwood Trail

When I think of wine country, I think of indulgence - from the famous chefs cooking seven-course meals to the wine-tasting at world-famous vineyards. Unfortunately all that indulgence comes with a lot of guilt. A quick stop and hike at the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park will let you indulge guilt-free.

At just 4.6 miles and roughly 1,000 ft in elevation gain, this rather easy hike right in the heart of wine country will help you burn some calories in under two hours. Even with a heavily packed wine-tasting agenda, you can stop here and race through the hike. That’s what we did this weekend before grabbing some gourmet pizza.

View from Coyote Peak

My favorite part about this hike was that it was almost completely shaded. Napa and Sonoma are usually much warmer than San Francisco and Point Reyes, and therefore represent a problem to those of us who are climate-control-challenged. But despite the warm temperatures in the high 70s/low 80s, this hike was quite comfortable. On the way up to Coyote Peak, the highest point in this hike, the breeze is like sangria…cools you down and makes you smile. Before we reached the top, we stopped to take a few pictures of the view and good thing we did because the views from the peak are pretty obscured (no good picture opportunities).

The creek was on the parched side in mid-August but it seems like it would be lovely when it’s full. We scrambled over rocks to cross the creek on a few occasions and had to dodge horse souvenirs on the first mile or so. Other than these small obstacles, the path was well maintained and the climb quite moderate and doable.

Wine Country Sunset

Overall, I would recommend this hike if you’re up in Napa or Sonoma and need a break from the wine-tasting, gourmet dining, hot springs-soaking lifestyle, but otherwise it’s not worth the drive from the city.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty and duration

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Castle Rock Views

Castle Rock Views

This figure-eight hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains was my very first hike with the new boyfriend (several months ago). Totaling 5.5 miles, I was quite doubtful beforehand that I could finish it and quite impressed when I did. In retrospect though, 5.5 miles isn’t that bad. And this hike is rather easy with the exception of the last uphill climb.

Castle Rock Falls

Castle Rock Falls

There was a promised waterfall, views, and sandstone formations, unfortunately most of which didn’t live up to the imagination. Although we went in early spring/late winter, there wasn’t enough water to make the waterfall memorable. It was also really, really cold! There were decent views of the mountains and surrounding areas, but I’m more impressed by coastal views than valley views. My high-maintenance side is coming out…these views just weren’t good enough!

Moss

Moss

Despite all this, I had a great time. I learned a couple things on that excursion. One, a pastrami sandwich from Robert’s Market in Woodside with a bottle of red wine transforms a hike into a gourmet experience. Two, my boyfriend and his friends talk about how to get women outdoors. Three, women talk about how to get men to talk to them. And four, men can get women outdoors if they talk to them and women will go outdoors since the only thing to do is talk. Perhaps that is how to solve life’s greatest mystery - how to make both men and women happy.

Fence

Fence

And this is how I determined that my first hike would not be my last. The conversations we had on this hike make it all worthwhile!

Tip: Beware the poison oak. This is a danger that us city girls aren’t so used to. We know to look out for men loitering in alleys late at night, and the occassionally over-aggressive creep at the bar, but this little plant can be just as dangerous and a bit more innocuous. Watch out for those three glossy leaves!

Overall rating: Flip-flops (figuratively, please don’t actually try to hike it in flip-flops)

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.
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