As the air becomes crisper and the sun a little lower in the sky, we welcome the changing of the seasons and the vivid hues that Autumn’s fall foliage brings. And what better place to witness this annual change than in Napa Valley – where the stretches of vineyards along the valley floor and hillsides, along with a plethora of native trees, turn brilliant shades of gold, orange, and crimson.
This October, pack up your car for a stunning road trip or snag a fun rental – perhaps a convertible – and experience the vibrance of Fall paired with fragranced breezes of fermenting grapes in Napa Valley during harvest! But fall doesn't stop there – the golden and crimson hues last well into late November in the vineyards.
Leaf peeping in Napa Valley can be enjoyed in a variety of ways – on foot or bike, by car, 4x4 or paddle, or even by air, and last, but certainly not least, while sipping and dining on some of the best wines and food in the world.
Below are a few suggestions to get you started. However, we highly recommend you deepen your exploration – there is much to discover here in the valley and taking a road less traveled may make all the difference!
Spots to Linger
Harvest Inn in St. Helena
As the name suggests, this property is nestled into western-facing vineyards and groves of redwood trees, offering a secluded and serene escape filled with wondrous nature and memorable sunsets. Enjoy sweeping vistas from your room or garden vibes while dining on farm-to-table cuisine and local wines from Harvest Table’s patio terraces.
Rutherford Hill Winery in Rutherford
Pack a picnic and head to this hilltop property to enjoy bottle service and scenic views of a colorful Napa Valley from the winery’s Oak Grove. Since 1972, Rutherford Hill has crafted Bordeaux inspired wines and is celebrated as a pioneer for California Merlot. Be sure to try their flagship varietal – perfect to pair with the autumn environment – and snap and share a photo on social using #MerlotMe. Pink lovers should try the Rosé of Merlot for something unique!
Far Niente Winery in Oakville
Stretches of vivid golden gingko trees greet you along Far Niente Winery’s tree-lined Acacia Drive. Book a tasting appointment to continue beyond their famous iron gates where you will be treated to stellar wines and views of the valley, awash in autumn colors.
Chateau Montelena Winery in Calistoga
Award-winning wines and Instagram-worthy photos against a colorful ivy-covered castle backdrop await at Chateau Montelena in Calistoga. Famed for its historic “Judgement of Paris” win in 1976, this winery continues to innovate and craft wines that capture the essence of that vintage and unique vineyard site. After your tasting, walk the estate grounds which include a scenic lake with boardwalk and Chinese gardens – further enhancing the autumn ambiance.
Experiences & Activities
Nimbus Arts in St. Helena
Capture the rich colors of fall in Napa Valley on canvas while sipping on local wines at Nimbus Art’s popular “Sip and Paint” events. Offered every third Friday of the month and annually via an Open House, there are three options to join in on the fun – 10/21, 11/13, and 11/18.
Hess Persson Estates near Napa
Adventure by ATV through a colorful collage of rolling vineyard rows atop Mount Veeder at Hess Persson Estates’ historic Mont La Salle vineyard. The “Vineyard Tour and Wine and Cheese Pairing” also presents an opportunity to delight in seasonal fruits and ingredients from the winery’s culinary gardens curated by the Hess Persson executive chef.
Hikers are in for a treat with any one of Active Wine Adventures’ private elevated hikes and wine tours. And the valley’s fall foliage provides an inspirational setting to ascend secluded trails to view the incredible vistas while savoring Napa Valley wine and picnic bites.
Napa Valley Gondola in Downtown Napa
Experience romantic and autumnal vibes aboard an authentic venetian gondola as it glides on the Napa River with Napa Valley Gondola. This route will pass the charming exteriors of downtown Napa and weave around the tree-lined banks and quiet woodland areas just north of it.
Balloons Above The Valley in Napa
Enjoy a kaleidoscope of colors with early morning lighted skies, bird's eye views of vibrant vineyards stretching for miles, and, of course, the iconic, playful patterns of your mode of transportation – a wondrous hot air balloon!
Scenic Walks, Drives, and Rides
Drive Silverado Trail/CA-121 and Highway 29
A fall foliage trip isn’t complete without cruising up Silverado Trail/CA-121 (on the east side of the valley) from Carneros to Calistoga and then back down the valley via Highway 29 (on the west side of the valley) as the sun sets on the Mayacamas mountains, casting its golden rays on the garnet, gold, and emerald hillsides.
Oak Knoll Avenue near Napa
Drive the tree-lined valley crossroad that closely cuts through the vineyards showcasing nature’s glory along the way with its vivid display of autumn colors.
Downtown St. Helena
Stroll north along tree-lined sidewalks on St. Helena’s Main Street and continue beyond the shops to see historic Victorians. By car, head further north to pass through the “tree tunnel” between Beringer Winery and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. Stop at the latter to enjoy the grounds, grab a snack at the café, and capitalize on photo ops at the castle flanked by a colorful hillside.
Napa Valley Vine Trail from Napa to Yountville
Explore the changing of colors by bike as you pedal north to Yountville taking in vineyard views to the east and the west, while the scent of Eucalyptus fills the air and falling leaves gently cascade overhead.
The end of harvest may also be the sunset for an older vine’s life. Occasionally, if you happen to be at winery as vintners prepare for a new vineyard planting, you might happen upon a heap of pulled vines. You may want to request to keep one of these vines as a memento – an authentic gnarly vine can serve as a unique bit of décor for your home or wine cellar and always makes for a good story.
This October and November, come explore the abundant beauty and fruitful bounty of Napa Valley with a trip to experience not only the fall foliage, but the culmination of harvest. As the current vintage goes into barrel, be sure to sample any number of current releases and, of course, enjoy the fresh seasonal cuisine up and down the valley. Collect a memory – whether a quintessential photo-op, a painting, or even a gnarly vine. And, take Robert Frost’s advice…discover what’s hidden off the beaten path. You won’t regret the moments you’ll experience in this extraordinary agricultural preserve.