For those of you in search of a solid road trip that doesn’t last more than a day (unless you want it to), I believe I may be of assistance. This trip covers the best of the Napa Valley as well as the surrounding mountains and Lake Berryessa. I first did the following trip with Siena and have now perfected it with Kira and Elle.
I’ll give the directions first to get the technical stuff out of the way and will then proceed to the pictures and analysis. The directions I am giving are for an approach from the east which is what I would recommend (even if you’re coming up from the Bay Area, it’s only a few minutes more to start with Route 128), but if one wishes to enter through Napa, simply reverse my directions.
1) Starting on Interstate 80 West, you’ll take the 505 North exit
2) After about 10 miles or so, you’ll take the exit for Route 128 East. Now, I know we’re going west, but there is no sign for 128 West. You just take the Route 128 East exit and turn left at the stop sign instead of right.
3) Follow Route 128 until it runs into Silverado Trail. Cut across the valley on Rutherford Road (within viewing distance of the stop sign on Route 128) until you get to Highway 29.
4) Turn right on Highway 29 and follow it up to Calistoga and then turn right on Lincoln Avenue to cut across Calistoga.
5) Lincoln Avenue runs into Silverado Trail on which you will make another right turn. Silverado Trail is prettier than Highway 29 and has less traffic.
6) You’ll follow Silverado Trail down the other side of the valley until you get to Trancas Street in Napa where you will turn right.
7) Follow Trancas Street across Napa and then turn left to get back onto 29/12.
Lastly, follow 29/12 to Interstate 80 (East or West depending on where you wish to go next).
Now, if you’re sick of the traffic on I-80, things will immediately improve once you turn onto 505 North:
Shortly after passing through Winters, you’ll come across the Lake Berryessa dam:
And a sign letting you know that, yes, you are now in Napa County:
Now, the Lake Berryessa dam is actually famous for its spillway. No, seriously. It’s called the “bathtub drain” and is quite unique. The water level was very low when we went, so I took this picture of a picture to give you an idea of what the well-known “bathtub drain” is all about:
Here’s a view of the canyon overlooking the dam:
Unless you’re the Zodiac killer (who prowled around Lake Berryessa) or you’re into water skiing, there isn’t much to recommend Lake Berryessa – it’s a man-made reservoir and they are never attractive. However, it is worth stopping at the dam to check it out.
Route 128 starts getting pretty as soon as you leave Winters, but it really comes into stride after the dam. Oaks line the road and Spanish Moss covers everything. Also, unless you go on the 4th of July, the road is blissfully free of traffic:
Here Kira displays a closeup of Spanish Moss and demonstrates its functionality as a fashion accessory or a cheap fix for balding men:
The following are pictures I took along the rest of Route 128 as it makes its way toward the Napa Valley. I apologize for the lack of crispness in some of these pictures, but hey, I was driving… I think they still give a good sense of the area.
Now, for most of you, this is what it’s really all about – getting to the Napa Valley and boozing it up… This is the first winery you will encounter as you arrive in the Napa Valley and turn off of Route 128.
Not that the scenery is over though… We stopped to take these pictures on Rutherford Road:
Now, I’m not a big wine guy, but I am a complete cheese whore. Fortunately, many of the wineries also offer a fine selection of cheeses and other non-wine items… This was taken at the V. Sattui Winery:
One of the V. Sattui buildings:
The normal tasting room at V. Sattui was closed for remodeling when we went. So, a temporary tasting room was set up in the wine cellar. V. Sattui was quite apologetic about this “inconvenience”, but I was pumped to go down in the wine cellar:
More wine cellar scenes:
There is a requirement which compels every winery to have at least one cat. Fortunately, this one is in compliance:
All of the wineries show off the celebrities that have visited… V. Sattui is no exception:
I think we had more fun in the expansive gardens of the next winery than we did indoors drinking the wine. See, there’s plenty to do if you’re not into wine:
Kira found some olive trees:
And some lemon trees:
I found a fountain:
And this balancing rock:
Which I assumed was bolted to the rock beneath it. However, I discovered I was mistaken when I gently pushed the balancing rock and it promptly fell over on my hand. Fortunately, after several minutes I was able to balance the rock again. I left the scene quickly though in case it fell over again…
Again, even though we were in country thick with wineries, there was still plenty of scenery:
On the way out of Calistoga, we felt it necessary to stop and assess the Calistoga water truck statue:
Plenty of wineries along Silverado Trail as well… Kira’s a happy drunk, fortunately:
And easily transfixed by the pour:
So, that’s a sampling of what’s available on this trip. If you have more time or wish to extend your trip, check out Jack London State Park or head south of Fairfield and check out Bird’s Landing and eat at Foster’s Bighorn in Rio Vista.