Looking for a fun way to exercise? Head to Stebbins Cold Canyon Trail at Lake Berryessa. This isn’t a place to bring the toddlers in the backpacks or strollers. This is a real hike — think burning buns and toned calves.
There are two gates leading to different trails that connect as part of the 4-mile loop. You can pick your poison. It was made quite clear not long into our hike that we had picked the wrong side. It was a strenuous uphill hike for at least 1 ½ hours.
My almost 6-year-old niece was the leader most of the time with our son Logan right behind, and Jon and I trailing with my niece yelling, “Come on slowpokes! Why am I the leader when I’m not even six and I’m a girl?” She repeated this over and over and would stand at the top of the trail with a hand on a hip, giving us a look of exasperation.
We had a few snacks to sustain us up the trail, but the sandwiches, pickles and Oreos were barely enough inspiration to get me to the top. Perhaps if Cabo San Lucas and a few margaritas were waiting at the ridge, I would have been a little more motivated.
We did make it to the top, and the view was well worth it, but the children precariously perching on the edge made it impossible to enjoy the view for long. We enjoyed our quick picnic, then headed back down, never completing the four-mile loop. We learned later that the first gate was the moderate hike, and the easier way to complete the loop.
The hike was gorgeous. Everything was green (hurry before the hills turn brown again), the trail was wide and well-trodden with wooden steps buried into the path at the really steep areas. The kids counted over 100 stairs on the way down and were counting out loud and a couple we passed heard this number, laughed and said, “We didn’t need to know that!” as they were still in that “perhaps the ridge is right around the next corner” stage that we had also experienced.
Hawks were flying overhead, then at a point, flying below since we were so high. There is a little off-shoot path near the top that takes you to a large rock formation. The views here were spectacular, but dangerous for sure. The kids made it just fine, but we were clutching their little wrists for dear life. We saw many people climbing to this area to enjoy the views and the wind in their face. The kids and I felt like we were the hawks floating mountainside.
The drive through Winters to Berryessa is gorgeous. After your hike, or before if you overshoot it like we did, be sure to visit the dam. The kids love seeing both sides and ours loved talking about all of the horrors that could happen should the damn break. We stopped at a little fruit stand on the way home and bought dried apricots and watched the chickens wander through the gardens, and listened to our niece reminisce about how she couldn’t believe that we were such slowpokes.
Driving directions from Yolo County: from Winters take Highway 128 to Lake Berryessa. You’ll pass an RV resort on the shores of Putah Creek. Just after the bridge and the county line to Solano Co., take a right into a large dirt pullout area and park. The entrance with the UC Davis logo is just up and across the road. http://www.berryessatrails.org/guide/trailguide/coldcan.htm