The Wheel Deal

Home to numerous mountain bike races and even a World Cup, Napa's Skyline Wilderness Park is a must…

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Home to numerous mountain bike races and even a World Cup, Napa’s Skyline Wilderness Park is a must for fat-tire aficionados. Intermediate and advanced mountain bikers can get their thrills on the swooping singletrack of the Skyline, Chaparral, and Buckeye trails. Start with a slow, steady climb paralleling Marie Creek all the way to tiny Lake Marie. Cross the dam and get ready for a short, intense section that might require a hike-a-bike before the path joins the Skyline Trail and the real fun begins. Dart up and over hills high above Napa Valley, blast through dense oak forest, and veer onto the highlight of this route, Buckeye Trail—where smooth singletrack descends back to the start. Two important things: hit the trail early during Napa’s baking summer, and be sure to pick up a free map; trail signs are sporadic, keeping you on the tips of your pedals!

To reach Skyline Wilderness Park: From Hwy 29 in Napa, go east on Imola Ave. Follow Imola Ave. 4 miles to the park entrance on the right. It’s $6 to park. From the parking area follow signs through the RV park to the trailhead. Make a left on Lake Marie Rd and follow it about 2 miles up to Lake Marie. Make a left and cross the dam; then follow the signs to Chaparral Trail (steep sections may require a hike-a-bike). In .5-mile you’ll reach a T-intersection; go right on Skyline Trail. In about 2 miles there’s an unsigned three-way intersection. Go right (downhill) and come upon the Buckeye Trail. Follow the Buckeye Trail down and to the left back to Lake Marie Road. The ride is just under 7 miles. No dogs.

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