Berryessa Peak Trail is a 12.6 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail located near Napa, CA that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and trail running and is accessible from January until May. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
Seven miles up, seven miles down, a strenuous, 8-hour adventure above the north shore of Lake Berryessa. The trail is mostly on the Napa County side of the peak, with a brief dip into Yolo County on the approach to the summit. Beautiful, mostly single-track hike through chaparral to a 3-part summit with views of Diablo, Tam, the Mayacamas, St. Helena, Cobb, Konocti, the Mendocino National Forest's Goat Mountain and Snow Mountain, Lassen, Sutter Buttes, Sierra Buttes, downtown Sacramento, and Lake Berryessa. When especially clear, views of Shasta and the Sierra Nevada are possible. Not suitable for dogs, horses, bikes. Expect a little mud. Spring wildflowers are mediocre. The winds get severe when a front comes through, so watch the weather before you go. It is important to stay on the trail for the whole hike in order not to trespass on private hunting lands. In the chaparral, after a brief but rather steep ascent, the trail crosses a barbed-wire fence.
Lovely hike not well maintained passed property fence. I went mid summer... Not a good time to go if you want to avoid heat but still a very lovely view.
I've hiked this trail a few times. I always just go to the water fall and back which is around 7 miles. This trail is always over grown. There are about 8 creek crossings one way. During the summer they are dried up and during the rain season they are uncross able. Best time fall and spring when it hasn't rained for at least a week. The water will be about 6" deep and there are enough rocks at each crossing to get across. I went summer of 2016 and the only water to be found was near the water fall, even with my filter it tasted like pond scum, 100 degrees that day, should of brought more water. There is a nice camp spot near the base of the falls. Here are some coordinates-
trail head- N38.75190 & W122.28355
Camp- 38.78105 & 122.31963
Trail fork- 38.77872 & 122.31464 right camp, left up to top of water fall and great view.
This hike is for those of us that enjoy a good challenge, peaceful surroundings, and a low body count.
Be ready to climb. Bring plenty of water and protein. Be ok with taking pit stops.
In Feb. it was a hot day , around 80 degrees. There is not much shade, i would hate to do this trail in summer. There was nothing to see, but when you get up on top the view is nice. Also i had no idea where i was and how much longer to keep on going. There are couple signs ( BPT) !!! Ok... BPT what? 5 miles left? 10 miles... what? At some point there was a barbwire fence and said private property, i assume you can stay on the trail, but i gave up. was very steep and felt like rock climbing :) i did enjoy the view of the lake
Yes, a bit over 7 miles to the peak, but it felt like a mile more to me. Distance is one thing... they there are the elements and the level of maintenance of the trail.
The elements: I went on a hot (95) August day and, the trail being mostly exposed and the sun beating down on me, I suffered a mild case of heat exhaustion at the 11 miles mark.There are shaded spots here and there under the trees' canopy and I put these to good use to bring my body temperature down and rest a bit.
The condition of the trail: this is not a national park or state park maintained trail. As others have pointed out, it is mostly a hunting trail; the only parties I encountered on my 10 hours that day were 3 parties of hunters -- not a single hiker. It is a bit of a blessing that the private land owners allowed an easement for the trail to go through, and for volunteers to do the hard work to cut that trail to the peak. So, you should expect to have to perform some level of "technical hiking" (say, watch were you put your feet, some scrambling, some sharing the trail with encroaching vegetation... hiking poles do help on some steep sections).
The trail offers a series of somewhat very contrasted sections to get to the peak.
Section 1: the first 1.6 miles are following (and crossing a couple times) a creek on an overgrown dirt road. Not many challenges there (unless you have to ford the creek during a heavy rainy season I guess). This section ends at a sharp right turn with a 4x4 post bearing the sign "BPT" (these will follow you for the first half of the trail or so.
Section 2: the next 1.5 mile continues first on the dirt road, ascending the hill side. All would be well and good if it wasn't for the fact that the dirt road is ripe with countless small crevices (the result of the very long California drought?) that are apparently catnip for my hiking poles. I spend half he time walking and the other half prying my pole out of the crevices and sinking ground. Happy when the crevices disappeared, I face the last third of that section with less than full glee: he dirt road makes way for a trail that goes straight up the hillside without even the pretense of a switch back. In a couple places I just starting sliding back down (thanks poles from stopping my slide back) due to how steep the trail was and the loose/fine dirt that covered it. This section ends at the private land easement and a wooden staircase that allows you to "step" over the barbwire fence.
Section 3: After the steep climb at the end of section 3, I was looking for a more level journey southward as the trail edges its way about 300 feet below the ridgeline. While the grade is much gentler, the surface of the trail is quite degraded. The slope of the hill is quite steep and the half of the trail on the downside has mostly been washed away or is rather unstable. The first half of section 3 (about 3/4 mile) gently ascends up and offers sweeping views to the West and the South. A couple fallen trees have forced hunters and hikers to blaze a short bypass around their trunk. The second half of section 3 (another 3/4 mile) now descends quit a bit, hugging the hillside at the base of an escarpment and is a bit more rocky than the first. The last 0.1 mile steeply descends (a few wooden steps help) to cross what must be a small stream in the wetter part of the year (Green Canyon). On this sweltering summer day, the creek-bed was a good spot for a short break in the shade.
Section 4: Past the shaded creek-bed, the trail enters section 4 (again 1.5 miles) that ascend out of the south side of the creek to cross another (small/not-shaded) creek-bed about .2 miles later). The trail then goes through a couple switchbacks to reach the ridgeline that it follows for the next 1 mile. There are many viewpoints to enjoy the panoramas all around. The trail alternates short nice dirt paths and walks over rock slabs and small boulders. There are many flat and almost horizontal slabs to sit on for a minute or two before forging ahead to the lat section.
Section 5: A bit after the 6 miles mark, the trail finally connects with the gravel road that that serves the communication equipment at Berryessa Peak. That last mile stretch is less scenic but quite welcome as it does not require constant attention to footing and direction. The peak itself is home to a couple telecommunication towers and associated buildings. However, it is worth sitting at the Western edge of the ridge and take in the amazing views over the lake and (probably) way beyond. Weather was a bit hazy on my visit to the peak and I really could not see distinctly very far... but others have noted how far we can see on a clear day.
Bottom line, this was not a walk in the park (ha! ha!) but it definitely would deserve a repeat on a cleared and cooler day if my old legs don't complain too much.
A few useful links:
It's is really breath taking. Note a few things. This is a hunting trail. Also the first 3 or 4 miles in along the 4x4 trail is very easy and relaxed hiking. When it ends it is a bit more moderate in difficulty. Recommend long pants or gators of some sort as at the start you'll be torn up. It clears up about 2 miles in. Enjoy :)
Trail is well marked, but so lightly used as to be overgrown after the halfway point. There appeared to be lots of previous water flow throughout the trail, but all of it was completely dried out. Very pretty overall, and great view of Berryessa from the top. This year the wild flowers are abundant, and intensely colored.