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Say Yes to Stebbins Cold Canyon

Since moving to Davis from Salt Lake City, I have been able to replace many of my old favorites with new ones: Cloud Forest Cafe is my new favorite coffee shop, Davis Swim and Fitness is where I do my morning swim, and Murder Burger is actually better than the dive burger joint at home. However, the one thing I haven’t been able to find in Davis is elevation.

That is, until I discovered the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve Trail. A few weeks ago my boyfriend Kevin and I decided to seek out a hike with some elevation to it, so we drove out past Winters on County Road 128 to tackle the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve Trail.

Kevin and I on our way back down

The hike lies within the UC Davis Nature Reserve and is partly on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. It is named after evolutionary biologist and botanist G. Ledyard Stebbins, who is regarded as one of the leading evolutionary biologists of the 20th century and who taught at UC Davis from 1950-1973 (Yoon C. K. January 21 2000. Ledyard Stebbins, 94, Dies; Applied Evolution to Plants. New York Times, Section B, Page 9). The trailhead is located along County Road 128, just past the Cold Canyon Resort, and the 4-mile trail loops up to Blue Ridge, with amazing views of Lake Berryessa. The hike climbs 1,500 feet overall.

Our plan was to hike the shorter part of the loop, a half mile section to the Spillway Overlook, so that we could get a good view of the area. I’ll admit that I was also driven by the fact that I had lost all of my high-elevation fitness since moving to Davis, and was nervous about the strenuous reputation of the trail. We drove the 35 minutes on County Road 128, past Winters, and found the dirt parking lot on the right side of the road, and crossed the street to the trailhead. It was clearly marked and had literature posted about the trail as well as the local the flora and fauna. We began hiking, impressed already with the steep climb of the trail.

The trail was shaded by large trees of all different kinds, Cold Creek rushed down below us, and birds chirped from the trees. We stopped to watch six hawks circling something on the hill across the canyon from us. We climbed, and climbed, and climbed. And then climbed some more. I was out of breath and my calves were burning, but we pushed on, looking for that Spillway Outlook, but it never came. After about an hour of climbing,  out of breath and red in the face, I told Kevin that I thought we had missed the overlook.

Spillway Overlook (javengo.blogspot.com)

We agreed to head back down instead of finish the rest of the loop, and although I felt like a wuss, I’m glad that we at least tried the trail. So maybe I’m not a Utah-grade hiker anymore, but I really enjoyed hiking Stebbins Cold Canyon, and I’ll be back again this summer to conquer the loop.

For more information on the trail, visit these sites:

  • Tuleyome is an environmental non-profit organization that seeks to actively protect the Northern Inner Coast Range and the Western Sacramento Valley. To learn more about them and to support their efforts, click here.
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