After embarking on a bit of a spontaneous Sunday drive into the mountains above Napa, I decided that the weather was going to hold out long enough to do a hike. After a bit of debate, I settled on heading over to Moore Creek Park, located northeast of the town of Rutherford in the mountains above the Napa Valley. It’s nothing if not out of the way, but certainly worth the drive. Although there are several trails at Moore Creek Park, the one I settled on is the Moore Creek Trail, an out and back hike that runs for 3.3 miles along Moore Creek. A portion of the trail is even part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. The trail eventually dead ends at a small swimming hole (or so the map proclaims…when I arrived the pool appeared to be no more than knee deep at its deepest points). As I’ve stated before, I love finding hidden gems. This park is truly a hidden gem!
After arriving at the parking area, I started my hike by passing through the first gate on a trail that parallels the creek. For the first mile, the trail appears to be more akin to a fire road, as it doubles as an access road for a private residence located within the park. After that, you pass through a gate and the trail narrows for the remaining 2.3 miles to the pools. After 1.3 miles, you’ll encounter a trail junction with the Valentine Vista Trail that veers off to the right. I took the left fork to continue to the pools. The sound of the rushing creek is present throughout the entire hike, though the trail doesn’t always exactly follow the creek bed. Sometimes the trail is along the creek while others it climbs up the ridge a bit, before rejoining the creek again. It makes for a bit of up and down as you’re hiking, but the trail is never challenging. I only gained just over 500 feet in elevation over the course of the entire hike. There are also several stream crossings to negotiate, though at all of them a wooden post has been laid across the creek to facilitate crossing. It does require a bit of balance though. The canyon had a wide variety of vegetation. I spotted a variety of oaks, Douglas firs, and madrone trees. With it being spring, everything was nice and green. As you hike farther into the canyon, the scenery gets more lush and green. Ferns become a more common sight. When you’ve almost reached the pools, you’ll see a signed junction for a short spur trail to an overlook of the entire canyon you just hiked up. It’s a pretty spectacular spot. Return to the trail and continue down until you’ve reached a sign that says “POOL.” Here you’ll see the swimming hole and the trail dead ends. The swimming hole, though a very pretty location, was a bit underwhelming. It was probably about knee deep for me in the deepest spots, but much shallower throughout most of it. Still, it would be inviting on a hot summer day. Today I decided to stay on dry land and admire the scene. Ferns lined the canyon wall and the water rushed past, making for a quiet and peaceful place to rest and eat a snack. After a short break I headed back up the trail I came on and hiked the same 3.3 miles back to the parking area. On the way back it started drizzling, but since the weather was more cool than cold the drizzle was nice and refreshing. This park is truly a hidden gem! If you need a great place to hike with a shady forest and rushing creek not too far from home, or if you just want a break from wine tasting, head out here.
Distance: 6.5 miles
Elevation gain: 500 feet cumulative, though the hike never felt too difficult
Time: 2-3 hours
Fees: Parking and entrance are free, though I did notice a voluntary donation box near the entrance
Moore Creek Park is located near Lake Hennessey about 30 minutes north of Napa. From Napa, take Highway 29 to the town of Rutherford, then take a right onto Highway 128. Follow 128 for about 6.5 miles, passing Lake Hennessey on your left. Turn left onto Chiles Pope Valley Road, and the park entrance will be on your left about 1.5 miles up. Turn left onto the access road and the parking area is just past the private residence on your left.