Hike Date: April 14, 2012
Distance: ~ 7 miles
Trail(s): Maggie’s Peak Trail, Devil’s Well Trail
Where’s it at? Archer Taylor Preserve in West Napa, CA
Signed up for a field trip offered by the Napa Land Trust in order to gain access to the hike to Maggie’s Peak and Devil’s Well waterfall here in Archer Taylor Preserve in Napa, California. No disappointments here! There is online registration through their website linked below, with 3 days notice currently required. The field trip was free and guided by two trip leaders who were very cool. Once you’ve attended a field trip here you are apparently welcome to go back on your own as long as you notify the Napa Land Trust by telephone in advance. Personally I can’t wait to go back.
This hike really offers everything you dream of in a hike. There are steep hills both up and down. A great view of the bay area from atop Maggie’s Peak. A NUMBER of great waterfalls, most of which seem like they’d flow all year but obviously best in later Winter or earlier Spring after the rainfall. It has Fire road trails. Single Track Trails. Trails with numerous switchbacks and log stairways.Trails that aren’t really trails at all but more like following the path of a seasonal waterway down the sides of cliffs. There are wildflowers, ferns, redwood trees, pine trees, maple trees, pileated woodpeckers, ladybugs, wild pigs…just about everything. This is really a great hike to take advantage of here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The hike I took was a big loop. I’d approximate that it was 7 miles of hiking. I tried to track it using My Tracks Android app from Google but my phone’s batteries didn’t last through the whole trip. The chart of the hike below is only the first 4.1 miles and probably ended at the falls where we had lunch.
For the field trip hike we met in Napa and carpooled up to the locked gate at the end of Redwood Rd. in Napa, and parked in the trailhead parking lot. The road gets a little bit narrow and windy toward the end as you approach Archer Taylor Preserve. The parking lot is mostly dirt and gravel. As a bonus there’s a large trampoline nearby though I’m not sure if it’s open to anyone’s random use.
We made a quick pit stop at the two flush bathrooms near a large picnic area that had what appeared to be a pretty nice BBQ and possibly a smoker setup. Would make for a great picnic or BBQ I’m sure. From there we set out on our hike and the trail immediately begins a fairly steep ascent along a very narrow road lined with (and in some cases littered with) poison oak. There were small logs set into the hillside to give you traction which was a good thing on this day after a week of decent rain. It would’ve been very slippery otherwise. Don’t worry though, there are plenty of places to slip later on! I will admit I found it interesting that so much care is taken to give you nice footing on the way to Maggie’s Peak but you’re left on your own from there on out.
After climbing for a while…maybe 1800 feet at the summit, you can take in the breathtaking views of the San Francisco Bay Area. Mt. Diablo, Mt. Washington, Mt. Tamalpais are all clearly visible. I could see the Sierras nor the far south bay, and Mt. St. Helena and other peaks to the north are blocked by a couple nearby peaks that are slightly taller than Maggie’s Peak. i believe one of them was Mt. Veeder. Regardless, it’s a pretty good almost panoramic view from the top. When you’re done with the view you begin descending through a very narrow and fairly rocky trail back down toward Redwood Creek and the waterfalls.
After maybe 3/4 of a mile you leave the tree canopy and can start to really hear the rushing water as you enter an open rocky area and can see the canyon carved by the water. The trail gets a little easy to lose here but you have to cross the creek and head a little bit upward on the other side of the canyon before beginning a fairly steep and slippery (after rains at least) descent into the moss and fern covered canyon.
This part of the trail was probably the most dangerous. It was very very slick in most area and you’re essentially climbing down a cliff following where the water is draining down the hill in a small stream. The rocks are not smooth but most of them have moss which, when wet, was very slippery. Myself and a few others fell and slid a little in this area. At the bottom of this steep descent you reach an obvious single track trail and while instinct may tell you to turn left, you in fact want to turn right in order to reach the Devil’s Well Waterfall and pools, which are not too far away.
Following the creek you’ll probably first reach the lower Devil’s Well fall. This is a wide fall that cascades down a rocky cliff about 20 feet tall and maybe 12 feet wide. The pool at the bottom begs you to take a shallow dip. Crossing the creek for a heads-on picture was a little tricky with the creek being as full as it was, but a few of us did so anyway. This is also where we ate lunch.
As you walk back towards the trail junction you will immediately see a conspicuous trail leading upwards just right of the lower falls, and you’ll want to take a trip up this trail to see more falls. This trail takes you to a spot that requires a tiny bit of rock scrambling to climb over a small barrier and then down into the loud rumble of water that is Upper Devil Well’s waterfall. This waterfall is much taller than the lower falls and more of a free-falling waterfall that is also more narrow. The water has slowly eroded a bowl into the volcanic rocks making another enticing pool at it’s bottom. The water then takes another tumble downward to a middle Devil’s well fall that you can never really see head-on. On our trip there was also another set of falls to the west of Devil’s Well which may be seasonal, but was the tallest and furthest falling of all the falls on this hike. I can’t say I’ve ever been so close to so many different sets of falls as I got on this hike.
With your fill of falls you will walk back and this time continue straight on what would’ve been a right turn after the cliff descent you hiked on prior. This trail continues to be narrow and involves a few more creek crossings and rock scrambles before you’ll reach a great little meadow. Supposedly there are often a lot of ladybugs in this meadow but we didn’t see many on this trip. The trail then widens out into more of a dirt road. At this point you’re again in a redwood forest with ferns galore and traveling along the gorgeous creek. You’ll see one more decent waterfall when you reach a bridge, though this one is clearly man-made. At the bridge you’re almost back to the parking lot and you’ll want to cross the bridge and continue straight unless you want more hiking. A sign indicates there is another loop trail here at the bridge if you kept going straight instead of crossing.
Definitely encourage you to try this hike if you get the chance. It was probably one of my personal favorite bay area hikes.
Photos from Maggie’s Peak and Devil’s Well Hiking (click to enlarge)
Useful Links about Devil’s Well, Maggie’s Peak and Archer Taylor Preserve
- NapaLandTrust.org on Archer Taylor Preserve
- NapaLandTrust.org Field Trips
- NapaHiking.com on Devil’s Well Hike