Skyline Wilderness Park – Sugarloaf and Lake Marie

Skyline Wilderness Park – Sugarloaf and Lake Marie

A thin trail cuts through a green hillside, with white puffy clouds floating in a bright blue sky
A narrow trail cuts along the hillside in Skyline Wilderness Park, Napa Valley

Skyline Wilderness Park

There is more to do in Napa Valley than wine tasting! The Skyline Wilderness Park, located in the Coombsville region of the valley, has 26 miles of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The park is an 850 acre wilderness area with mountain top views of the San Pablo Bay and Napa Valley.

A small city is sandwiched between mountains in the background and the trees in the foreground
A view of the city of Napa from the Skyline Trail

Skyline Wilderness Park is located 3 miles east of center city, Napa. We stayed in the Silverado Resort, 6.4 miles north of the park. Our drive to the Skyline entrance was only 14 minutes. The park charges a $5 per vehicle entrance fee, which is well worth the price for parking and pre-hike bathroom facility use!

The Trail Loop

A large tree dwarfs a women standing under its massive branches
A stately eucalyptus tree on Lake Marie Road, Skyline Wilderness Park

From the parking area, we walked south along the Lake Marie Road, and passed a gorgeous, stately eucalyptus tree. The “road” became more trail-like as we walked south and east.

Silver grey bushy tree at the base of a narrow hiking trail
A fig tree marks the entrance to the Thatchers Rim Rock Trail

A fig tree marks the 1.5 mile point. We should have turned left immediately after the tree, but due to following an old map, we walked beyond to connect to a path that is no longer used. You can see on our map that we took the old path, thinking that the section was not well maintained. A fence at the end of our “trail” made us realize that the path was not just overgrown, but intentionally rerouted.

A flat narrow trail on green grass is marked by a trail sign
Thatchers Rim Rock Trail

Back on the true trail, we cross a bridge and joined the Thatchers Rim Rock Trail, a narrow and occasionally gnarly pathway.

A narrow dirt trail  travels upward and connects with the blue sky
The narrow Thatchers Rim Rock Trail cut along the side of the mountain, providing views of the valley and neighboring hillsides.
Green trees on rolling hills, a dirt trail curving to the left along the hillside

We walked uphill from mile 1.7 to 3.3, a nice incline with periodic switchbacks and absolutely beautiful views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

A thin dirt trail hugs the side of a mountain, a steep hillside visible to the right
The trail led to and along the ridge line in the distance

As we neared the Sugarloaf summit, we saw trees that were damaged by the October 2017 Napa fire. We had been in Napa in August of that year. For this reason and the fact that I am an American Red Cross board member, I closely followed the media updates about the fire disaster. As we walked through this section, I couldn’t help but wonder at nature and its ability to recover from devastation.

A large, black, leafless tree stands alone beside the trail
A large tree partially burned during the Napa wildfires of 2017
A dirt trail passing through a section of blacked trees, all leaning to the left of the photo
Green surrounded charred trees that were damaged from fire

When we checked into the park to pay our entrance fee, the attendant stated that some cows were missing somewhere in the park. Just before the crest of Sugarloaf Peak, we found the rogue cows, gathered on the end of a switchback. I am pretty sure that I heard them whisper, “Shhhh…don’t tell our location”.

A group of black cows block the trail
I spy with my little eye 7 runaway cows!
A group of black and white cows stand together under some trees
“Keep mooving, people!”

Sugarloaf Peak, 3.3 miles from the trailhead and 1,612′ above sea level, provided us with a great view of the bay, vineyards and the town of Napa.

A view from above shows trees below  and a hazy body of water in the distance
Despite the morning haze, we could easily see the San Pablo Bay south of Napa Valley
Two rows of mountain peaks
Ahhhh! I <3 mountains!
A hiker walks along the narrow trail that leads to rolling mountains

We descended via a series of switch backs for approximately .7 of a mile, crossed a small stream, and then followed the Skyline Trail.

A rocky stream bordered by mossy trees
Marie Creek

We walked less than a mile to reach Lake Marie, that was brown due to many recent rainstorms. At this 4.8 mile point, we stopped for a snack, sitting on a park bench near the rim of the lake. We opted to picnic Napa-style. We opened one of my favorite Mondavi Bordeaux blends and ate fresh salads from the Silverado Market.

A bottle of wine with 2 stemless glasses sit on a rock, a mountain lake visible in the background
When in Napa, drink wine during a hike break! Our tasting took place on the banks of Lake Marie.

It was hard to pull ourselves away from the view, the food and the wine, but we still had over 3 miles to complete. Fortunately, the remaining hike was a gentle decline over rolling hills.

Two horses and riders on a wide flat trail within a forest glade
Equestrians and hikers share the Skyline Trail

Throughout the day, mountain bikers and equestrians passed us on the trail. It’s absolutely wonderful to see people enjoying the park and trails in a variety of methods.

A hiker descending a trail toward a town, blue skies and mountains in the distance
A view of the parking ares and the vineyards beyond.

At mile 7.6 we reconnected with Lake Marie Road and wrapped up our hike at 8.1 miles. I classify this hike as moderate, even though the elevation change is more than 1,500′. The trail is narrow, but well maintained and not overly saturated with rocks or steep sections.

The details

Hike difficulty classifications (link) 
DifficultyModerate to difficult
Geographic locationNapa Valley, California
Trailhead parking optionsSkyline Wilderness Park
Trail amenitiesBathrooms with running water at the trailhead
Elevation - trailhead168'
Elevation - highest peak1,632'
Elevation gain1,991'
Total mileage8.1 miles
Water sourcesTap water in bathrooms; streams
HighlightsView of Napa Valley and the San Pablo Bay; Lake Marie

Directions to Skyline Wilderness Park

A dirt trail cuts through the hillside, haze covered mountains visible in the far distance
Tranquility

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