No offense to hot air balloons, but we have a better way to get a bird’s-eye view of Napa Valley. The Oat Hill Mine Trail out of Calistoga climbs up into the Palisades on an old stage coach route. This 8.5-mile (round-trip) hike starts with a steady and ongoing climb, but right off the bat you get gorgeous views of northern Napa Valley. The trail then ducks back into a forest of oak, Douglas fir, and chaparral. After 3 miles you’ll reach Bald Hill, the best spot for taking a lunch break by one of the numerous volcanic boulders, easily the best seats in the house for big-time views. The panorama sweeps the valley, all the way out to Lake County and Sonoma County.
Mount St. Helena lords in the north. Even better, after Bald Hill, the trail is simply spectacular. Wide-open views, dramatic volcanic rock formations like something out of Game of Thrones, and—in the spring: wildflowers! The rock walls of the Palisades rise to 40 feet in places. Your turnaround point is the old Holms Place, a long-gone homestead from the late 1800s. You can still see some of the stone wall from its barn. Return the way you came. No hot air about it, this hike is two thumbs up (and up!)
BONUS FOOD + DRINK: Just a half-mile down the road is the stylish Solbar in the Solage Calistoga resort. They have bocce courts, a large outdoor patio, and wines galore—from super local to sweet and fortified.
The Oat Hill Mine trailhead and parking is at the corner of Silverado Trail and Hwy. 29 in Calistoga. Dog-friendly!