|Robert Louis Stevenson
National Park Service,
Mount St. Helena is the Bay Area's highest publicly accessible (by trail) peak, topping out at 4,304 feet. This trek begins uphill on a short, eroded trail, then continues to the summit on a long, sinuous, well-graded fire road. There's very little challenge here, just a steady climb to the top, where views unfold, spanning the distance from the San Francisco skyline to Mount Lassen (on a clear day).
Distance, category, and difficulty:
11.2 mile strenuous out-and-back.
Some pockets of shade, but largely exposed.
Dirt fire road.
6 hours (varies according to your hiking skill).
Very hot in summer, but good anytime.
Leave San Francisco via the Bay Bridge. Drive north on I-80 26 miles, then exit #33 onto CA 37. Drive west on CA 37 2.5 miles to the junction with CA 29. Turn right and drive north on CA 29 38 miles to the junction with CA 128. Turn right, and continue another 9 miles east on CA 29 into Robert Louis Stevenson State Park, where there's roadside parking on the left side of the road (there's a larger dirt lot on the right).
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:
No camping in the park (nearest campground is at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park). All services are available in Calistoga. I highly recommend combining a Mount St. Helena hike with an overnight stay in one of Calistoga's mineral springs resorts. There are a variety of lodging choices, from basic motels to luxurious inns-just be sure to pick a place with a heated mineral pool to soak your tired legs after climbing the mountain.
No fee. No facilities. Side of road parking in small dirt lots.
Dogs are not allowed on the park trails.
The Official Story:
CSP's Robert Louis Stevenson State Park page
Park office: 707-942-4575
This hike is described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber (order this book from Amazon.com). (Yup, that's me, the creator of this website.)
Map from CSP
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of this hike.
North Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com), has a map and description of this hike.
Robert Louis Stevenson State Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
This long hike begins on the west side of CA
29 at the Stevenson
Memorial trailhead. A few steps bring the trail up into a small grassy
meadow dotted with a few picnic tables, then the climb begins through
a mixed woodland of California bay, Douglas fir, tanoak, madrone, and
live oaks. You might see red larkspur and columbine blooming in late spring,
preceding pink flowers on wild rose shrubs. Visitors have worn ugly shortcuts
into the hillsides between the switchbacks here--for anyone considering
following their lead, consider the erosion you will cause, as well as
the copious amounts of poison oak along the trail. After ascending through
woods and a few pockets of manzanita, chamise, and pine, the trail reaches
the Stevenson Memorial spot at about 0.7 mile. Author Robert Louis Stevenson
and his wife spent their honeymoon here, sleeping in a decrepit old mining
building. Stevenson's slim memoir, Silverado Squatters, is a vivid description
of their adventures. Just past the memorial the trail becomes badly eroded
with several steep sections over exposed rock. Manzanita and knobcone
pine line the last steep stretch, then the trail ends at a T-junction
with the Mount St. Helena Trail at 0.8 mile. Turn left.