Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is spectacular and dynamic landscape of evergreen forests and rocky canyons. Part of the Mayacamas Mountain Range, the park’s lofty mountains can be seen for miles and are dusted in snow in the winter, and in the spring colorful wildflowers deck the grassy slopes. From the panoramic peaks one can see the neighboring mountains – some perennially snowcapped and thousands of miles away – and at dusk you can watch the town of Calistoga light up below you like a circuit board. Robert Louis Stevenson State Park is officially located in Calistoga and is accessible from the St. Helena Highway (CA-29), which separates the park into east and west borderlands. On the west lies Mount Saint Helena (elevation 4,341 ft.), the peak of which is a five-mile trek from the parking lot and begins on a switchback trail which connects to a fire road. Here are some pictures taken from the Mount Saint Helena side of the park:
On the east side of the park are trails that lead to Table Rock, a two-mile hike from the old parking lot. The trail winds through shady pine forests and purple manzanita groves that bloom pink flowers which look like tiny lanterns or jellyfish. Dry scrubland hills spill-out into a strange and arid dreamscape of drifting spores, red stone labyrinths and alien cairns – a lurid shadow zone where twisted roots squirm beneath your feet and lichenous stones turn in your wake. There are desiccated riverbeds comprised of white clay, emerald streams of cool water, and gnarled volcanic rock formations that curl and fold like brain coral. The pale basalt surface of Table Rock is reminiscent of a lunar wasteland - craterous and serpentine. The sheer three-hundred foot cliff is home to mountain banshees and wyvern swallows which nestle in the face of the cliff and dart through the blue and perfect sky. Here are some pictures of the trail to Table Rock and beyond:
The Palisades Trail trailhead can be found at Table Rock, and leads to the Historic Oat Hill Mine Road four miles away. Treacherous at points, the trail hugs the side of mountain slopes and cuts through antediluvian rock forests and arcadian meadows bursting with flora and teeming with fauna such as crocodile ants and singing trumpet lizards that hide amongst prehistoric fungi and dinosaur fern. More elusive creatures include hunchback troglodytes and interstellar apocalypse hawks that dwell within the magellanic clouds above. The Palisades Trail weaves through a stunning array of environments, worlds apart from one’s material lifestyle, and yet compared to the isolation that one can experience elsewhere on Earth, it is prosaic, yet still totally worth a trip. If you ever need to clear your head, sharpen your mind, or serenely contemplate this melancholy and beautiful world, head to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park for a day (although most any location outdoors and remote should suffice).