Fitter four-pawed pals in search of a challenge will certainly find one on the Oat Hill Mine Trail! This furrific former stagecoach route for just over eight miles from downtown Calistoga, CA to Aetna Springs Rd. in Pope Valley. There’s limited (free) parking at the trailhead on Oat Hill Mine Rd. in Calistoga -- it’s best to get there early to avoid having to park streets away! The route can get a little crowded on the weekends, so be mindful of your pup’s temperament. Once you’ve walked to the end, you have the option of getting a car shuttle from Pope Valley to return to the starting point. As an added bonus, your buddy is free to sniff and explore the trail off-leash -- as long as they’re under voice control, of course. Just keep an eye out for poison oak!
Originally constructed to bring supplies to mercury mines in Pope Valley, the Oat Hill Mine Trail is now famous for its unparalleled views over the Napa Valley, taking in the Palisades and Mt. St. Helena. The route meanders through oak, cypress, and pine forests, as well as grasslands. If you can, visit in spring -- the fields of wildflowers along the trail are truly a sight to behold. Hound dog history buffs might also be interested in the ruins of the homestead of Karl Gustav Holm, constructed in the early 1890s. On parts of the trail, you can still see wagon tracks, and there are also some interesting volcanic rock formations.
The Oat Hill Mine Trail is not suitable for the unsure of foot or unfit of heart -- the terrain is quite rocky and uneven in places, and even athletic animals might find the steep inclines provide a thorough workout. There aren’t any restrooms along the trail, so make sure to go before you go! As always, remember to bring waste bags and water for your buddy, and enjoy the sweeping vistas!