2.7 mile loop through old orchards and grassy hillsides outside of Napa.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.7 mile loop hike, like all hikes at Alston, is easy. Total
elevation change for this hike is about 200 feet. Trailhead elevation
is about 110 feet, and the park's highest point is about 290 feet.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
1 1/2 hours.
Hot in summer; best in spring.
From CA 29 in Napa County (about 4.5 miles north of the 29/12 junction),
turn west onto Redwood Road (exit 19). Drive about 1 mile, then turn right
onto Dry Creek Road. Drive north about 0.5 mile, then turn left into the
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* based on Google
Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants back near CA 29. No camping.
Parking in a gravel lot, with portable toilets and drinking water at the
trailhead. No entrance or parking fees. There's a simple map at an information
signboard, but there are no paper maps to take with you. There is no direct
public transportation to the park.
Park is open from sunrise to sunset. There are no rules posted restricting
trail usage; apparently the custom is multi-use. Dogs are permitted on-leash
throughout the park, and off-leash in a large designated area.
The Official Story:
Napa Rec's Park page
(no specific info given about Alston Park)
Park info 707-257-9529
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there
North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com) has descriptions of two Alston Park hikes,
and 2 maps.
photos from this hike.
through an old plum orchard might not seem extraordinary
to Napa County residents, but for city folk (and their dogs) Alston Park
is more than a breath of fresh air. It's a place where hikers can
delight in acres of fruit and oak-dotted grassland offering sweeping views
of Napa Valley, and canine companions can run freely (in a designated
off leash area; dogs are required to stay leashed in the rest of the park).
Alston Park's plum trees are particularly pretty
in winter, when they are covered in frothy white blossoms, but the park's
grassland delights in spring as well, when a variety of wildflowers pop
up. On a hot summer day you'll probably want to head elsewhere,
for there's very little shade here.
Most visitors opt for a loop on either Prune
Picker or Dry Creek Trail. The off-leash area sprawls through the heart
of Prune Picker's 1/2 mile circuit, but if you and your dogs want a longer
loop, you can park at Alston Park's second trailhead (just
another .4 mile further along Dry Creek Road) and hike the Dry Creek Loop,
which is about 1.25 miles. Both loops are easy; Prune Picker is
nearly flat, and Dry Creek ascends about 170 feet before dropping back
to the trailhead. The longest loop at Alston Park combines the
two shorter circuits, and is described below.
Start in front of a gate before the portable
toilets, and veer right onto an unsigned path. Orchard Trail winds
at a level grade through a meadow of plum trees. When I visited in March
the peak of the bloom was past, but there were still quite a few trees
holding on to their sweet-smelling white blossoms. Along the length of
Orchard Trail, several unsigned paths feed in from the left; at each junction
continue straight. A few steps past a footbridge the
trail passes under an enormous valley oak, which was just putting forth
new leaves in mid-March, about the time you might see buttercups and wild
radish blooming in the grass. California poppy and vetch wait until spring
for their show. There are a few poison oak shrubs, but they keep
to themselves a few feet off the trail. At 0.27 mile, a trail heads back
uphill to the left, marked by a generic "trail" signpost. Continue
The trail crosses a small creek and climbs
slightly. At the crest, at 0.38 mile, a path starts, following along the
fenceline to the right, and another trail veers left. Continue straight
on Orchard Trail, descending toward a parking lot (Alston Park's
After another footbridge, Orchard Trail
ends at an unsigned 3-trail junction, at 0.46 mile. A paved trail
shoots uphill to the left, and two dirt paths begin on the north
side of the paved trail. Take the trail to the right, which slips
to the right of the hillside.
Dry Creek Trail draws near the park boundary.
A trail which began back at the last junction feeds in from the left.
A few young planted coast live oaks dot the grassland. You'll reach a
damp clearing and unsigned junction at 0.75 mile. This area can get very
muddy in winter and early spring. The path to the right, visible as it
climbs a hill, reconnects with Dry Creek Trail and is an optional route.
Continue straight on Dry Creek Trail.
Two paths depart uphill, one near the creek,
and another slightly to the left. You can take either one, but I stuck
near the creek. This trail flirts with the tree-lined creekbed, where
coast live oak are prominent, along with a few madrones. A plank crosses
a feeder creek, and a few steps later the path rejoins with the spur and
two head uphill together. Spiky teasel plants line the trail, but you
might see milkmaids and buttercups as well, if you're visiting in late
winter. Dry Creek Trail levels out and curves left. A trail joins from
the right. At 1.15 miles, a path departs out of the park to the right.
Continue straight on Dry Creek Trail.
The trail sweeps through the park's highest
elevation, a grassy plateau where you might see johnny-jump-ups and wild
radish in late winter. A vineyard sits to the right, past the park's border.
On a left a swath of disturbed vegetation including blackberry and thistle
fails to tarnish views north of Napa Valley, and east to the Vaca Mountains.
At 1.44 miles, a bit past a water tank, you'll reach an unsigned junction.
(Either trail is an option, but I noticed flowers blooming to the right,
so that's the path I chose. There's a nice picnic table off the other
trail.) Veer right.
In mid-March the sides of this trail were
sprinkled with quite a few surprisingly
sturdy wildflowers, such as tidytips, baby blue eyes, goldenfields, and
yellow owl's clover. Although there were smatterings of flowers elsewhere
in the park, this location, within shouting distance of the service yard,
had the best display. The area could have been seeded, as there were a
few surveying flags around. At 1.55 miles, the trail feeds into a paved
road. Turn left.
Stay alert for vehicles along the service
road, which descends easily. At about 1.67 miles, you'll reach a cross
junction. Turn right. As the path angles through grassland, ignore
a trail following the fenceline to the right, and proceed to an unsigned
junction at about 1.71 miles. Turn right onto Valley View Trail.
The flat trail heads south, passing connecting
trails that descend back to Orchard Trail at 1.77, 1.82, and
1.96 miles. Continue straight until 1.97 miles, and then turn
right onto Prune Picker Trail.
Prune Picker Trail keeps a steady pace as
it curves through another plum orchard. A sign marks the entrance to the
off-leash area, which on my visit was unfenced from the rest of the park
(although there were fenceposts in a line, so perhaps a fence is in the
works). A few other minor paths cross the trail, but it's easy enough
to follow Prune Picker. The trail heads back north, seeking to close its
loop, but first you'll reach a junction at 2.55 miles, near a few magnificent
valley oaks. Picnic tables nearby suggest a lunch stop. Hawks are common
in the trees and skies near here. Turn right and descend on the obvious
trail back to the visible trailhead.
Total distance: 2.68 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, March 14, 2002
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page