Hidden Gems of Napa Valley: Linda Falls
March 27, 2020
High in the hills of Angwin, on the western flank of Howell Mountain, you’ll find one of the most spectacular cascades this side of Yosemite.
Icy water from the Conn Creek tumbles over granite steps, splashing into pools below. Along the exposed rockface, moss grows in abundance. West of the falls, giant boulders divert the water into winding patterns as it heads downstream.
The scene is spectacular. And it’s no more than 20 minutes from the Napa Valley floor.
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The natural attraction, dubbed Linda Falls, is a short hike (less than 15 minutes, even if you’re super-slow) from the trailhead and delivers almost unbelievable sights. During rainy season, water comes rushing over the falls and drops 50 feet. During dry season, the volume slows to a trickle, still beautiful, just in an entirely different way.
The waterfall is the highlight of the Linda Falls preserve, a 177-acre tract of open space owned and protected by the Land Trust of Napa Valley, a nonprofit dedicated to conservation. Along the way, trails wind past more than 130 species of native plants—one of the most diverse habitats in Napa County.
Among these species: manzanita, oak, bay, and more.
“The preserve is one of a kind,” says Kimberly Howard, development manager for the Land Trust. “Many people say it’s the best waterfall in the county, but I like to think it’s one of the best in the region.”
While the payoff of the hike is unforgettable, it’s a little tricky to find the trailhead if you’ve never hiked it before. Another challenge: Parking. To get there from the valley, take Howell Mountain Road up the mountain, and when you drop into Angwin, look immediately to your left for a tiny parking lot west of the tennis courts at Pacific Union College.
Once you’ve parked your car, walk back along Howell Mountain Road, as if you were retracing the steps you just drove. At the far end, before the road rises over a bridge, you’ll spot the trailhead on the left.
From here, follow the paved trail over the Conn Creek and around to a sign informing visitors about the parcel and about what the Land Trust does. This sign is a great resource for information about what you’re about to see—namely that the Conn Creek is a perennial tributary of the Napa River, and that it also feeds Lake Hennessey, which is the source of drinking water for the city of Napa.
The hike descends gradually beyond the sign, heading through a thrush of manzanitas and past (turn right!) a well-marked junction. About 10 minutes in, the descent steepens, following a steep switchback down past giant redwoods and some ancient oaks.
By this time, you can hear the waterfall approaching; it whets your appetite for the view to come. Within moments, you are upon it.
Once you get there, once the waterfall is cascading in front of your very eyes, carefully clamber out onto those giant boulders in the middle of the creek for a closer look. Provided the falls aren’t roaring, these rocks are a great place to spend a day writing, reading, meditating or playing guitar. The boulders also provide a safe and comfortable spot for a nice afternoon picnic. Or a nap.
On your way back to the trailhead, scan the sides of the trail for litter, pick up what you spot, and carry it out to the nearest garbage pail. Unfortunately, many visitors fail to adhere to a “leave no trace” philosophy. “Linda” means “beautiful” in Spanish. Let’s all do our part to keep this treasure that way.