The Outside Scoop to Exploring Calistoga

Perched at the top of the Napa Valley, Calistoga offers travelers myriad opportunities for outside exploration. Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple or with kids in tow, here are a few itineraries that allow you to experience outdoor activities and an array of premier wine, food and wellness.

Day One

If you’re traveling via RV and want to “park it” for a few days, the Calistoga RV Park at the Napa County Fairgrounds is the perfect spot. From here you’ll have views of Mt. Saint Helena and the Palisades, and you’re still within easy walking distance to downtown Calistoga. Make your first stop at Cal-Mart, where you can pick up provisions and gourmet groceries during your stay. If you brought the kids along, Copperfield’s Books has a nice selection of children’s games and books. For all your picnic and BBQ supply needs, Silverado Ace Hardware is a great stop.

Now that you’ve stocked up on necessities, it’s time to head to one of two favored hiking spots in the area. On the outskirts of town, the Oat Hill Mine Trail rewards with sweeping views of the valley below, while the middle and upper sections of the trail cross boast striking volcanic formations. Alternatively, you can head seven miles north of Calistoga to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. RLS State Park is the place where the famous author of Treasure Island and Kidnapped spent his honeymoon in 1880. Although missing the actual Stevenson’s cabin, this famous site is identified on the trail to the summit.

The area features rough terrain, with evergreen forests in the canyons on north-facing slopes and chaparral on the south-facing slopes. Set off on the five-mile hike to the top of Mt. St. Helena to view much of the San Francisco Bay Area, on a clear day, the top of Mt. Shasta can be seen 192 miles in the distance.

Upon your return to the RV Park, pick up some picnic provisions and make your next stop at one of Calistoga’s favorite wineries. A short stroll from the RV park is Vincent Arroyo Winery, rated #1 vineyard in the U.S. by Travel & Leisure Magazine, as well as recently being named #1 winery in California by House Beautiful. In this quaint family-run winery, be sure to sample the signature petite sirah or one of its other available varietals such as merlot or zinfandel. Keep in mind, however, that you may only purchase wines here at the winery; be sure to buy a bottle or two to bring home.

With wine and other necessities in-hand, head further afield to Old Faithful Geyser, one of only three Old Faithful Geysers in the world. The Geyser is a popular outdoor destination for adults and children alike: be sure to bring takeout food and a bottle of your favorite Calistoga wine for a picnic. Inside the gift shop, you’ll find a picnic prep area with everything you need outside of the actual food: wine glasses of plasticware, and silverware, plates and wine chillers to keep those whites at drinking temperature. While the adults enjoy a glass of Vincent Arroyo wine in a shaded cabana, the kids can explore the on-site petting zoo, complete with Tennessee “fainting” goats and guard llamas. An on-site geology museum is also sure to please all ages, and everyone can enjoy a spirited game of bocce ball while waiting for the geyser’s frequent eruptions.

Later that same evening, make your plans to head downtown for a dining experience at one of Calistoga’s many restaurants that offer outdoor dining.  Your choices include the expansive outdoor dining areas at Calistoga Inn, Evangeline or Sam’s Social Club, to name a few.

Day Two

Begin your day fueling your appetite at Café Sarafornia, where the Dierkhisings have been serving breakfast since 1976. Take your pick of omelets, pancakes or a Belgian waffle served with a steaming cup of hot coffee to get you going for the day. A patron once declared Café Sarafornia the “cheeriest place” in Napa Valley. You decide.

Plan your next stop at the Calistoga Bikeshop, where knowledgeable staff can assist you with bike and helmet rentals and provide suggestions on customized biking routes that suit your time frame, preferred terrain and distance. If you’d like a more structured option, they have numerous guided tours with stops at a few local wineries. The concierge at the Bikeshop can also assist you in booking tastings and lunch.

Post-pedaling Calistoga’s wine region, climb back in the car and make your way to a place like no other in the region, to Safari West. Nestled in the hills outside of Calistoga, this 400-acre wildlife preserve is home to over 800 animals representing the biodiversity of Africa and beyond.

You have the choice to extend your adventure with an overnight stay in a luxurious Safari West tent. Imported from Botswana and customized on property, each of the 30 tents showcase a private viewing deck, en-suite bathroom, and polished hardwood flooring. This is camping, so you will hear all the wildlife sounds of the Sonoma Serengeti during your stay. For dinner on-property, be sure to book your reservation at the Savannah Café, where savory smells rise from the custom-built wood-fired grill. To satisfy your sweet tooth, a huge assortment of delicious sides and desserts is available, as are beer, wine, and other beverages.

Day Three

It’s family-friendly time and we will keep you outside to enjoy the Petrified Forest, where you can step back in time over 3 million years and follow a trail of majestic, giant redwoods that have turned to stone. Choose from a self-guided tour of the trails or a 1.5-hour docent-led tour. Visit the on-site Museum and Nature Store following your tour and you will not be disappointed.

Before your next hike, stop back in town for lunch. If you want to save time, order takeout at Buster’s Southern BBQ, which serves ribs, tri-tip and chicken smoked from their outdoor grill. (Try the BBQ oysters if available)! Another option is Pacifico Restaurante Mexicano for fresh Mexican fare. Indoor and outdoor dining options are available at both establishments.

Bothe-Napa Valley State Park is a great plan for your next stop. Here you can enjoy camping in the heart of Napa Valley with overnight options from RV’s to tents to yurts. There are also five charming rustic cabins available. Once you’ve chosen a camping option, set off on one of 10 miles of trails featuring redwood groves, streams and a mixed-evergreen forest. The hikes offer something for bird and plant lovers to history buffs. The park also offers picnic areas and a seasonal spring-fed pool.

If your visit falls during a weekend, hike from Bothe over to the adjoining Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park. The Mill is a significant part of California history dating back to the mid 1800’s when farmers brought their grain to the mill to be ground and bagged. The mill is still operational to this day. Kids of all ages will love exploring the interpretive displays and watching the demonstrations.

For your final stop of the day choose from one of two wineries that offer something for kids as well as adults. At Sterling Vineyards, the kids will love riding the aerial tram to the top of the property as well as enjoying viewing the various stages of the wine-making process through the self-guided tour of the property. Adults can choose from a variety of tasting options we recommend the Silver Experience with an enhanced artisan cheese and charcuterie pairing.

Another family friendly winery is Castello di Amorosa. Perched high on a hill with outstanding valley views, the 136,000 square foot Castello features 107 unique rooms, 8 levels, 900 feet of caves, a drawbridge and hand-painted Great Hall. The children will enjoy the wide variety of farm animals which make their home at the entrance of the Castello. After you guided or self-guided tour the kids are treated to grape juice and coloring while the adults sample some of the intensely flavored wines.