Napa County High Point Trip Report

Mt Saint Helena - East Knob (4,200+ ft)

Date: March 21, 2002
Author: Dave Covill

This is a relatively easy hike, some trail, mostly graded road. One starts at the MM # 45.41 on highway 29, as per Gary Suttle's book. This road is VERY tortuous, and snakes up about 8 miles from Calistoga. As it crests and heads down, there is parking for about 10 cars on the southeast side of the road, and perhaps 2 cars on the northwest. There was an amazing amount of traffic at 6:15 am, perhaps 5-10 cars per minute.

The trail heads up to the north and is rough, apparently not any maintenance for years. It goes about 1 1/2 miles steeply up through the woods, switchbacks a few times, then intersects a road which allows for access to the radio towers on top. From here, follow the road up about 3 miles, switchback 3 times, until you reach a saddle, and St. Helena East comes into view. Proceed, going down maybe 40 feet, and at the low spot, look for the only available shortcut of the whole hike, straight uphill on the outside right edge of the curve. This saves 1/4 mile and 5 minutes maybe. The road winds around the north end, and a fork is reached. Stay left, uphill, to St. Helena East, and don't go on to the higher St. Helena summit in Sonoma County unless you choose to do so. It adds maybe another 15 minutes each way or less.

St. Helena East has only 1 radio facility on top. St. Helena has a dozen or so. Also, 2 other lower subsidiary summits you pass by also have towers, so don't be confused. There is a clump of pines right in front of the tower fence, and a cairn with register is under the trees, visible, but not conspicuous. I noted that Anthony Chan did it in 1 hour 40 minutes up, which is practically jogging! We made great time on the roads. No snow at all. Cobb Mountain was very visible to the north, and other higher peaks another about 20 - 40 miles north which might have been Snow Mountain in Lake/Colusa Counties. Some smog in Napa and Sonoma valleys, and we couldn't see the ocean at all. About 55 degrees all day, and 65 degrees when we returned to the car.

We got back to the spa motel in Calistoga by 11 am, with time to shower before checking out at noon. Allot about 5 hours for this hike, in case you don't want to rush like we did. We considered doing Cobb Mountain in Sonoma, but had too much fun at the wineries, along with viewing dozens of grey whales at Point Reyes from about 100-200 yards, as well as sea lions, seals, & elephant seals. Amazing how close the whales came to the lighthouse there! Some were a mile or more offshore, others you could have hit with a rock. Elephant seals were huge, up to 3-4 tons. Visit Jenner, at the mouth of the Russian River, and go to the Murphys Restaurant which hangs out over the ocean. Best time is February and March. Unfortunately, bad time for wineries and flowers, although rates were much cheaper in the off-season.

2 hours 10 minutes up, 20 minutes rest, 1 hour 30 minutes down