Jesse Lane's Web Site
Hiking

Table Rock Trail

Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
(near Mount St. Helena, Calistoga, California, USA)
September 12th, 2010

The Table Rock Trail is a beautiful wilderness trail 2.2 miles long (4.4 miles roundtrip) that leads to magnificent Table Rock overlooking Napa valley and the mountain ranges beyond to the west. The Table Rock Trail also leads to the beginning of the Palisades trail, probably the most magnificent wilderness trail in all of Napa County. The Table Rock Trail is recommended for experienced hikers only. Four hours allows for the roundtrip to Table Rock, including a short lunch break, and frequent shade breaks on the return journey back up out of the canyon. You must carry an ample supply of water! Note: Continuing on to the Palisades Trail is only for the most experienced hikers as it is over 11 miles from staging area to staging area.
The staging area for the Table Rock Trail is on Mount St. Helena at the pass inside Robert Louis Stevenson State Park.
About 1/4 mile up the trail is an overlook facing east.
To your left is the peak of Mount St. Helena.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
From the same overlook as above,
this is the view to the northeast toward Lake County
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
Continuing up the ridge, after taking the path to the right at the .5 mile marker,
the next overlook will be on your right looking west.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
Still further up the ridge yields this similar westerly view. Look closer!
Do you see the evidence that you are now higher in elevation and further south than the previous photo?
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
This the higest elevation on the Table Rock Trail. There is a marker designating this point as Table Rock Overlook. Look closely, dead-center, in the v-shape formed by the hill on the left and the green bushes in the right foreground. You can just barely make out a rock formation at the base of that hill over the tips of the foliage. That's Table Rock on the other side of a canyon. It will be important to keep this as your bearing when the trail forks without guidance!
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
This photo is a zoom-in of the center of the previous photo. Here you can clearly see Table Rock and how it got its name. As you descend into the canyon, keep this bearing etched in your brain. The trail will come up from the canyon on the left side of Table Rock. Do you still have a good supply of water at this point? You will need it on the return trip up out of the steep, hot canyon!
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

Here is the first rock outcroping on the descent into the canyon.
Gobi checks out the view...
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

...and here is the view he was gazing at.
Magnificent!
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

About halfway down into the canyon bowl, one comes across this "ancient" highway!
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

It leads to this maze!
There is one way in and one way out.
You can leave a trinket in the center if you like.
Amazing!
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

After leaving the maze, the "ancient" highway continues and you entera wooded area. This photo is looking back from where we just came before entering the wooded area. This is one section of the trail where you can't get lost.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
Past the maze and wooded area, the rock formations start getting more numerous and more interesting.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
Does this look familiar? It's the same rock formation as in the last picture after we passed it! We always turn around to study the return view from time to time. This outcropping makes a perfect return guidepost from a distance if we get off course for some reason.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
After passing that unique outcrop, the trail forked with no stone markers to give a clue (previous potential forks had lines of rocks for a guide). An old power cable sticks up out of the ground. To the right the trail went downhill and got wider. But the left fork "felt" better seeming to be more in the direction my internal compass bearing to Table Rock. The trail was not as distinct as before but I instinctively followed it. It started to follow a black water pipe downhill and soon came to another fork. No guide here either. However the left fork was clearly going to cross the (now dry) creek and I knew Table Rock had to be on the other side of this canyon, so across the creek Gobi and I went and followed the path up and out of the canyon.
Here is a photo looking back after crossing the creek and climbing up out of the canyon. Do you see the outcrop guidepost we made note of before, now on the other side of the ravine? At this point the "trail" is an easy scramble up the rocks.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

This sign was only about 100 yards from where the previous photo was taken. Only very experienced hikers with a plan should continue on to the Palisades Trail. A few feet away is another sign that points the way to the Table Rock plateau, .2 miles to the other edge. There is no real trail there, just a moonscape meander.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

This rock outcroping is in the middle of the Table Rock moonscape. In fact, you can see this monument in the earlier photo taken at the Table Rock Overlook.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

Jesse's dog, Gobi, on Table Rock plateau,
2.2 miles in on the Table Rock Trail.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

This is the view toward the Palisades (not visible here because they are beyond the promontory) from Table Rock.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

One last look at the view before heading back.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

What are the Palisades?

These three photos show the Palisades as viewed from Route 29 outside of Calistoga, California USA. They are volcanic basaltic cliffs. Open each of these photographs and line them in a row across your screen to get full effect of their grandeur. The Palisades Trail runs along the base of the cliffs.

 

This first photo is the southernmost portion.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]

This photo is the middle portion.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]
This photo is the northern portion, and is called Table Rock.
[click on thumbnail to enlarge]