Napa Valley day trips: Linda Falls Preserve offers scenic waterfall hike
A summertime hike with a waterfall as its payoff makes for an exhilarating day trip when temperatures rise. And there happens to be at least one in Napa County.
Linda Falls Preserve, in Angwin, is a hidden gem within the Conn Creek Watershed. Its 177 acres are part of the historic La Jota Land Grant and were likely first logged in the mid-1800s, according to Land Trust of Napa Valley, a land conservation nonprofit.
The property was used as a weekend retreat by former owners before it was donated to the trust in the 2000s.
The preserve, ranging from elevations of 810 to 1,580 feet, boasts a waterfall where the Conn Creek rushes over volcanic boulders.
Its entrance is somewhat discreet, located off Howell Mountain Road near Pacific Union College. Street parking is recommended. Parkgoers can head south on Howell before taking a slight left down a paved fire road. This will lead to the preserve’s entrance, which has two trailheads: Linda Falls and Saw Mill.
Hikers heading to the right will take a somewhat rugged, steep path and should proceed with caution. The trail is dry and dusty on a hot afternoon but may be slick with mud after a rainy day.
Those visiting the preserve should be prepared with good hiking shoes and lots of water. Restrooms and water are not available.
The Linda Falls Trail is a partially narrow, downhill path that involves climbing over boulders, as well as dodging poison oak. It may not be recommended for small children or those who’d rather avoid large and unsteady rocks.
Hikers can expect to see bountiful flora and fauna this time of year — listen for singing birds and buzzing cicadas. Wildlife in the area includes black bears, gray foxes, bobcats, squirrels and mule deer.
Various birds also have been documented there, such as the Cassin’s vireo and Wilson’s warbler, as well as a range of reptile and amphibian species, including the Pacific giant salamander.
Douglas firs, manzanitas, California bays, madrones, canyon live oaks, black oaks and white alders dot the preserve in a canopy along parts of the Linda Falls Trail.
Those planning to hike the Saw Mill Trail should be prepared for an out-and-back hike that involves crossing a creek. Water shoes are recommended. Hikers should be somewhat familiar with creek and rock hopping and may need to cross felled trees.
The trail reportedly gets its name because of an old saw mill fabled to be somewhere on the land, according to Kimberly Howard, development manager with the land trust.
Howard urges hikers to come prepared when visiting the preserve; some parts of the trails are shaded, but sunblock and water are must-haves. But keep the dogs at home, as they’re not allowed on the trails.
While people are out along the trail, Howard also advises they follow the traditional “leave no trace” policy.
“We have had an influx of visitors but also an influx of people leaving garbage,” Howard said. “Visitors need to be respectful of the protected land and pack out what they bring in.”
It’s also critical to keep Conn Creek healthy and clean, she said, as it provides water to the city of St. Helena.
The land trust offers guided hikes, which are great opportunities to learn about protected ecosystems. The preserve is closed when red flag advisories are issued or when extreme fire behavior is apparent.
Learn more about the land trust by visiting napalandtrust.org.
Emma Molloy is an intern for The Press Democrat. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.