Now that the rainy weather has mostly gone away in Northern California, we got a little nostalgic for a good local route…and some wine. Here’s a route that covers Napa Valley and the surrounding area.
This route begins and ends in Napa, CA – the epicenter of California wine country. But unlike many routes that might keep you there, this one takes you out and then back again traveling through varied geography and road types – from twisties to sweepers to some straightaways and a bit of freeway. It will both challenge you in some places and leave you plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery. A big chunk of the ride takes you along highway 16 which goes past one of the biggest casinos in northern California – Cache Creek. And once you clear the casino traffic, you’ll be on an open road that’s barely traveled and goes through Capay Valley — small canyons and open meadows of reminiscent of what Napa and Sonoma must have been like before grapes took over.
What You’ll See
Everything from vineyards to the south end of Lake Berryessa to open sunflower and lavender fields in the late spring and early summer. On the way back into Calistoga, you’ll go up through redwood covered hills with plenty of places to pull over.
What to Watch Out For
Traffic in Napa, fallen rocks in the road along the route by Lake Berryessa, and slow casino traffic once you leave the 505 and travel a few miles on the 16. The good news is that none of these last very long and traffic along much of the way is pretty light on weekends.
Where to Eat
The Cowpoke Cafe in Middletown, CA. You’ll hit this as you’re going back south toward Calistoga past Clear Lake. They serve coffee, hot chocolate and other drinks in cowboy boot shaped mugs. The menu is all American and helpings are huge. But get there before 2 on weekends. They close after that.