Hike Date: March 26, 2012
Distance: 4.2 Miles
Trail(s): History Trail
Where’s it at? St. Helena, CA off Hwy 29
Recently took a shorter hike on the History Trail at the Bale Grist Mill State Park. This is one of the parks on the closure list in 2012, though I believe it is being taken over by another entity. I am volunteering here on Earth Day this year and wanted to check it out in terms of hiking also. I’d hiked Coyote Peak in Bothe-Napa a few months ago and it’s definitely a cool area to hike in.
Bale Grist SP itself is currently running minimum staffing, with it’s parking area only open on weekends. Check their site (linked below) to check current status. No worries, the History Trail that I hiked on actually takes you through two State Parks, and I parked at Bothe-Napa SP to take the trail from their parking lot.
The History Trail, while short, was pretty cool. It is single track and has a wild feel to it. At the start (Bothe-Napa end) there is immediately a very old “White Church Cemetery” with a number of grave markers and an old white picket fence. There seemed to only be about 3 or 4 families represented here. There’s something a little cool about visiting really old cemeteries and reading the headstones.
From there you begin an ascent through moss-covered trees in a foresty atmosphere with a good deal of rocks as well. Being Spring, there were a number of wildflowers blooming on my visit, which added to the scenic aspects. Reaching the top of a ridge you begin descending through more of a grassy knoll type of terrain, soon reaching a presumably seasonal creek crossing (no worries on getting wet!), and a short bit later you reach the Bale Grist Mill itself. You can take an optional side trail with some signage about “Mill Pond”, though there was no pond that I could find here, it was nice to have a little bit of a loop to the hike though.
The Bale Grist Mill itself was pretty cool. Very old mill that no longer turns it’s wheel but the giant wheel is still there in all it’s glory as well as part of the wooden flute that used to power it. On my visit there was nobody else around and the place was locked up. I believe there are weekend tours that probably take you inside and give you more of a background on how the mill operated and the history behind it. Hope to catch some of that info when I volunteer there in April.
All in all this was a great hike through 2 state parks with a great deal of history and scenery to be had. You can extend the trip with other trails, spend time in the visitor’s center, or take in other activities in either of the two parks.
Photos from Hiking Bothe Napa to Bale Grist Mill (click to enlarge)
Useful Links about Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
- Bale Grist Mill SHP Official Site
- Bothe-Napa Valley State Park Site
- Bale Grist Mill wikipedia.org
- NapaValleyStateParks on Bale Grist Mill
Directions to Bothe Napa SP History Trail Trailhead
View Bale Grist Mill in a larger map