Mt. St. Helena

Mount St. Helena is about 20 minutes north of the town of St. Helena, California. It's a hike relatively near where I live that has the most elevation change I know of. It makes a great training hike. It's 2000ft vertically from the trailhead to the summit, and 5 miles horizontally. I've done it in as little as 2.5 hours, or 3.5 hours training with a heavy pack.

The trail can be really quiet on a weekday in winter, and pretty busy on a summer weekend, unless you start out at sunrise. I often see some people starting out without water in summer, and it's frequently very hot and dry. In winter, I often see people starting out without warm clothing, and it can be very windy and cold at the summit. One time, I climbed into 2 feet of snow near the top. This is rare and you'll be able to see snow on the highest peaks around during your drive if that's the case.

The hike starts for about 20-30 minutes on a single track trail. The remainder is on a wide dirt road, used for access to the numerous microwave towers on the peaks.

On a nice weekend, it helps to get to the trailhead early, as the parking lots do fill up.

The parking lots at the trailhead.

The start of the trail winds through the forest

After a steep and rocky section the trail emerges onto the fire road

The sun shines around a first corner

Even at the start there's a nice view

A hiker contemplating a quiet scene

Making progress

Up and up...

Another mile...

It's really sad that on the lower peak, there used to be a very large gazebo with a beautiful view of the valley. This was the case on my first few hikes there in the mid-1990's. It was covered and had benches to sit on and picnic. Sometime thereafter, the gazebo was torn down, many more microwave towers were built, and the entire area was fenced off with barbed wire. It's great to have good cell phone reception, but a tragedy that both of Mt. St. Helena's peaks had to be covered with towers.

Trail to the lower peak

Going on to the true summit

View to the right

Getting close...

Another ugly tower

Final steep push

My cell phone must be getting a great signal now

I wonder what it would feel like to be inside a microwave...

The old fire tower

Panorama at the summit

The new tower

Summit marker

Headed back

A popular climbing wall

The sun comes out briefly during the descent

Late afternoon view

Don't miss the little trail sign showing the turnoff from the fire road

Dogs in the park

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