The other day I was having lunch with my friend Katie and talking about local adventures, when she referenced Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve. She assumed I knew the hike, and I was too embarrassed to come clean about the fact that I’d never been to the area despite living in Davis for quite a few years while in my 20s. After this conversation, I knew it was time to get over there and check out the nature reserve managed by UC Davis, which is the closest natural setting where you can gain elevation (and hence views) around the otherwise flatlands of California’s central valley.
So, this past weekend I embarked on the 30 minute drive to the trailhead with my hiking partner Matt (who backpacked with me in Big Sur earlier this month). As we made our way along county roads, through the town of Winters (population about 6000), and along the Putah creek, the terrain became ever so slightly hillier and the effects of the water source on vegetation were evident. When we arrived at Cold Canyon we found a nearly full parking area, so many people were enjoying the reserve.
We decided on the Blue Ridge trail, a 5 mile loop that is described as challenging. I can imagine in the hot summer sun it would be brutal, but in late October the weather was beautiful and the difficulty level seemed very reasonable.
The whole time we were hiking I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty I was experiencing: the abundance and variety of trees, the rock outcroppings, and the views of Lake Berryessa. California as a whole is so incredibly beautiful with its iconic Yosemite waterfalls, huge redwood trees, intimidating mountain ranges, and parched deserts. But, I don’t live near those things. The value in this area of California is more subtle and gentle, and it’s a good wakeup call to remember that such things exist within reach.