Yesterday, I had a completely free day off. Have been working very hard the last week, and was feeling the need for a hike. I headed over to Winters and up towards Lake Berryessa to the trailhead for the Stebbins Cold Canyon Loop Hike. This is a 5 mile loop hike, that takes in some stellar views, and offers plenty of hiking challenges. Most people hike this loop clockwise, but I’ve always preferred to do it counterclockwise, as I think that the downhill sections on the southern end are a little easier to negotiate.
The hike starts climbing immediately as it moves up the western side of the canyon. The old trail used to shoot straight up the canyon wall, and was slippery and scary at best. A few years ago the trail was re-engineered with some switchbacks which make the whole thing much more pleasant. The trail tops out at the northern end of this section of Blue Ridge. One is rewarded with a stellar view of Lake Berryessa and the coastal mountain range. It was a cloudy, overcast day all the way around, and perfect weather conditions.
Moving north on Blue Ridge, you have to negotiate five different “summits” along the way. There’s a lot of up-and-down along the ridge. Sometimes there is good trail, and sometimes you’re hopping and climbing over boulders and negotiating brushy bits. This is the hardest section of the hike, as you really can’t get a good walking rhythm. The views become increasingly spectacular as you move south along the ridge.
I found a fabulous lunch spot just before the halfway point. One could spend a long time here just soaking it all in!
At the end of the ridge the trail drops sharply back down into the canyon. This is all pretty steep in here, and there are lots of steps to make the descent easier & safer. This bit can also be a bit warm, as it’s all in forest and there’s no breeze to cool things down. As I got descended towards the canyon floor, I could hear the water of Cold Canyon Creek trickling down the valley. Finally one hits the canyon floor, and it’s straightforward trial hiking back to the ending trailhead.
Walking up valley, there were some extremely muddy and slippery bits. You just have to give in to the fact that you’re going to get muddy! There’s a creek crossing about half a mile from the end, sometimes easy, this time a little more challenging. I made the crossing ok, but slipped in the mud on the other side. There is also the remains of an old homestead along the way. What a wonderfully remote and spectacular place to live!
It was a great hike, with lots of physical challenges. Feeling a bit sore today, but it was wonderful to get away. You should try this hike sometime. It’s a challenging early season hike (hellishly hot in the summer), as you’re thinking about that epic summer backpack in the Sierras!
Kit: Smartwool t-shirt; Arc’Teryx Gamma LT softshell jacket; Arc’Teryx Rampart long shorts; Point 6 mid hiking socks; Vasque Breeze LT GTX boots; Osprey Statos 24 pack.