Mt. St. Helena Hike
by Wendy VanHatten
Ready for a hike…spring, summer, fall, or winter? Try Mt. St. Helena, just north of wine country.
Just about anywhere from the Napa Valley, you will see an imposing mountain towering above the valley floor. This landmark is Mt. St. Helena, a double-peaked rise overlooking the whole Napa Valley, preserved within the bounds of Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. Mt. St. Helena is a volcanic structure, but don’t worry about eruptions. The last one was about 3 million years ago.
Mt. St. Helena was first climbed by the Russian traders who settled the west coast from Alaska as far south as Fort Ross, a short distance north of San Francisco. They left a brass plate on the mountaintop. If you make it to the summit, you can see a replica of that plate.
Did you know that Robert Louis Stevenson, best remembered for his imaginative novels, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Treasure Island, honeymooned in a cabin tucked in one of Mt. St. Helena’s ravines in the summer of 1880? Stevenson filled his notebooks with descriptions of colorful Napa Valley citizens, from stage drivers to winemakers, and his experiences on the mountain. In fact, the mountain became the model for Spyglass Hill in his novel Treasure Island. Want to know more about Robert Louis Stevenson and his work? Head for the Silverado Museum in St. Helena, located seven miles south of Calistoga. The museum features books, letters, and other memorabilia of Stevenson’s life.
The best time to hike this trail is in the winter. Clear blue skies provide great views and the temps are much cooler. The main trail, the Stevenson Memorial Trail, switchbacks up a shady slope forested with oak, madrone, bay and Douglas fir. A pleasant mile’s walk brings you face-to-face with the granite Stevenson memorial, itself something of a historical curiosity, having been erected by “The Club Women of Napa County” in 1911.