Even those of us who have lived in this valley for decades are occasionally caught off guard by the pure beauty that surrounds us. If we ever get jaded or start to take it for granted, all we have to do is find our way to a nearby look-out point and survey the view. Then we’re back in love, pinching ourselves that we actually live in this little piece of heaven.
A friend who has traveled all over the world and recently settled nearby puts it this way: “It’s Italy where everyone speaks English. Every morning I get up and feel the beauty fill me with some sort of generosity of spirit.”
Here are a few of my favorite spots for taking in some spectacular views.
Should you have a few hours to spare, the historic Oat Hill Mine Trail was built in 1873 to create a route from Calistoga to the cinnabar mines, the ore of which produced quicksilver (mercury). The 17-mile-long (round-trip) trail follows the original route to Aetna Springs Road in Pope valley. It can be rocky and challenging but is an exceptional experience for avid hiders, mountain bicyclists, and horseback riders and the southwest-facing views from the palisades are magnificent. A little farther south, the Coyote Peak Trail at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park (four miles round-trip) offers east-facing views across the valley floor. And the Napa Solano Ridge Trail loop (ten miles round-trip) from Napa’s Skyline Park offers spectacular views of North Bay marshes and mountains.
If sitting comfortably and looking out over beautiful vistas is more your style, put the Auberge du Soleil Bistro & Bar at the top of your list. The expansive, wrap-around deck was built to take full advantage of southwest views from Rutherford across the valley floor. In warm weather, there’s no finer place to enjoy a cocktail and some small plates or bar bites at sunset. Or sit on the riverfront patio at Angèle in Napa, which overlooks the Napa River with the romantic vibe of a classic French brasserie. There’s also more of an urban view from the intimate rooftop terrace at the hot new restaurant, The Thomas, in downtown Napa.
There’s not enough room to list all the wineries with notable views, but here are a few of the most popular. Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga has long been renowned for its dramatic hilltop location, with incredible southern views down the entire valley from both its terrace and its unique aerial tram. Silverado Vineyards in Napa has a gracious stone deck that looks onto picturesque smaller valleys to the northwest. For a completely different prospect, Chappellet Winery on Pritchard Hill offers a stupendous outlook onto Lake Hennessey that’s particularly breathtaking at sunset. And Cuvaison’s four-year-old tasting room in Carneros features a sleek, contemporary space surrounded by undulating vine-covered hillsides.
Whichever view you choose, it’s certain to be one of your most indelible memories of your visit to the Napa Valley.