Peak adventure

Take a half day with this trek to Stebbins Cold Canyon Loop

A hike through Stebbins Cold Canyon Loop offers scenic views of Lake Berryessa.

A hike through Stebbins Cold Canyon Loop offers scenic views of Lake Berryessa.

Photo by jurgen regel CC BY-SA 3.0

A daytrip’s allure is that it’s a getaway you can easily slip into an otherwise busy schedule. But a whole day is half a weekend, and that’s not nothing. In that spirit, here’s one you can knock out in 12 hours or so if you spring out of bed and head west before the temperature creeps toward triple digits.

The Stebbins Cold Canyon Loop encompasses a five-mile hiking trail just west of Winters that perches you 1,500 feet high, atop the hills around Lake Berryessa and the Monticello Dam. The trail is a 40-minute country drive from Sacramento with plenty of creekside swimming holes along the way.

Upon arrival, the hard work comes almost immediately, taking you from trailhead to ridgeline in just more than a mile and a half. After that it’s smooth sailing, with picturesque views of Lake Berreyssa as you cut across the ridge before starting down the comparatively mellow descent.

The loop was shut down for nearly a year after the 2015 Wragg Fire ravaged the 638-acre reserve, which is owned and operated by UC Davis. Flames scorched the chaparral, cottonwoods and iconic blue oaks, leaving the mountain inhospitable to the nearly 65,000 hikers who visit each year.

The following spring, however, it reopened with some minor adjustments, including restoration of the trail, clearing of brush and improved parking. UC Davis scientists are also conducting post-fire ecology research projects studying the foliage that’s rebounded since.

After the hike, there are options before you return to the city. Less than a mile from the trailhead, check out the Monticello Dam, which stands as tall as the length of a football field and towers over Putah Creek down below. From the dam you can also see the famous glory hole spillway. It won’t be gulping water during the summer, but it’s a unique sight nonetheless.

On the way home, hit Berryessa Brewing Company to try the Doubletap brew, or Berryessa Gap Vineyards to sip the Tempranillo. Both are located at 27260 Highway 128 in Winters, and there’s usually a food truck in the lot. If you want to add another stop, Winters’ famous Verduzco taco truck is parked near the intersection of Grant and Railroad avenues. Go for the carnitas tacos; you deserve them after that hike.