Alston Park,
City of Napa,
Napa County

In brief:
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.

Exposure:
Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic
:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
:
1 1/2 hours.

Season
:
Hot in summer; best in spring.

Getting there
:
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 park.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/36

GPS coordinates* for trailhead
:
Latitude 3819'22.62"N
Longitude
12219'57.36"W
(* 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.

Trailhead details
:
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.

Rules:
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

Map Choices:
• 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.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page



Trails through Trailheadan 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.Orchard Trail
     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 0.4 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.Dry Creek Trail 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 straight.
      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 second trailhead). Near the park's highest point
     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. Valley View TrailA plank crosses a feeder creek, and a few steps later the path rejoins with the spur and the 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.The off leash area off Prune Picker Trail
     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, and1.96 miles. Continue straight until 1.97 miles, and then turn right onto Prune Picker Trail. Leaving the off leash area
     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