Pleasants Ridge – Putah Creek Wildlife Area

Pleasants Ridge is one of those trails I’ve passed by and ignored on many occasions.  We are frequent visitors to the Stebbins Cold Canyon Loop, but we rarely branch out to any of the other trails in the area. The Pleasants Ridge hike starts at the same trailhead – just off of Highway 128 in the Putah Creek Wildlife Area. Roundtrip distance is about 2 or 3 miles, depending on how far you want to go. We followed the trail to the end of the ridge. The last half mile or so is very overgrown and does not see a lot of visitors.

Driving Directions: Park at the same location as you would for the Stebbins Cold Canyon trail. From the town of Winters, take Hwy 128 West towards Lake Berryessa. Shortly after passing Canyon Creek Resort (private campground/RV park), pull into the dirt parking lot on the right side, after the bridge and before the hairpin turn. It can get very crowded on weekends, but (worst case) there are always some parking spots available further down towards the RV resort.

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Simplified Hiking Directions: The trail begins at the gate directly across from the parking area. Follow the sign pointing to Pleasants Ridge. When you reach a junction (alongside a creek drainage), turn left and head straight up the hill. From there, the path is obvious and follows the ridge to all visible high points (and beyond). Hike as far as possible, then turn around and return the way you came.

Distance: 3 mi | Elevation: +1800 ft / -1800 ft | Download gpx

Trail Description:  We didn’t plan this hike.  Initially we thought we’d drive out to Berryessa Peak, but that didn’t exactly work out.  That is one loooooong, curvy (car-sickness-inducing) drive.  We will make it out there sometime in the future but not this time.  Instead, we opted for a shorter, more mellow hike in the Putah Creek Wildlife Area.  “Let’s just walk up to the Monitecello Dam overlook” Rob said.  “It will be easy” he said.  We started up the trail.  It was not easy.

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This is probably the steepest hike anywhere near Davis.  I had to use my hands to keep from sliding backwards in a few spots.  I did coincidentally discover my boots have no tread left on them. They’ve been worn completely smooth.  This did not help the situation, though hiking uphill was much easier than hiking down would turn out to be later in the day.

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As we climbed higher, we did get a great view of Monticello Dam.  The trail doesn’t switchback, it just goes straight up the grassy hill.  There are oak trees, but there isn’t much shade.  Like most trails around here: it’s very pretty in the winter but probably kind of brutal in the summer heat.

Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa behind us.
Monticello Dam and Lake Berryessa behind us.

Upon reaching the first ridge, we sat and took in the views. A cool breeze picked up and before long we continued on. We weren’t sure how far this trail would lead, but we figured we might as well follow it to the end.

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From the first ridge, the trail ascends to a nice little peak at 1656-ft. Steep drops on either side of the trail make for great views.

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A small cairn marked the summit of Peak 1656. We could see that the next high point along Pleasants Ridge appeared to be a little taller. The trail kept going, so we continued onwards. There were some really interesting rock formations in the distance. I named one of them “Knife Rock” and joked to Rob that we should try and bushwhack over to it. It looked far away.

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We quickly reached the true high point of Pleasants Ridge at 1685-ft (according to the USGS Topo maps).  We could see over to the Cold Canyon loop and we could just barely make out people hiking up and down the trail.  It looked crowded over there.

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From the high point, our trail became much more overgrown.  Some time ago somebody came through with loppers and cleared a small path – otherwise the route would have been impassable.  It looked like the path might actually go all the way to “Knife Rock” at the end of the ridge.

"Knife Rock" in the distance.
“Knife Rock” in the distance.
Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum)
Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum) – spotted along the trail.

We hiked over small rock outcroppings and through chaparral forests (taller than me!).  We did finally reach “Knife Rock” – the crazy looking outcropping I had spotted from afar.   Rob wanted to climb it, but I convinced him that the long drop down the canyon below would be pretty painful.  Maybe next time.

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Reached the other side of “Knife Rock”

Just past “Knife Rock” there are a couple of rocky points overlooking the canyon.  We could hear faint voices coming from far below.  This is pretty much the end of Pleasants Ridge.  We briefly debated whether or not we should bushwhack down to the creek, then follow it to the main trail.  We decided against it and returned the way we came.

The end of Pleasants Ridge.
The end of Pleasants Ridge.

The hike back along the ridge was fun.  When we reached the steep section that descends to the highway, I slowed significantly.  Rob went ahead and I made my way down, slipping and flailing my arms the entire way.

In summary…
Total Miles Hiked:  3 (sounds easy but it wasn’t!)
Total Trash Picked Up:  Rob found a dollar!
Total Trash Left Behind: I lost my favorite knitted beanie!  It was likely stolen out of my pack’s mesh side pocket by a chaparral branch when I wasn’t looking.
Total Beers Consumed: 2 (at Berryessa Brewing Company on the way home).

11 thoughts on “Pleasants Ridge – Putah Creek Wildlife Area”

  1. Yup, that’s the one. Pretty funny. I kinda randomly ran across this post this week and ended up trying out this trail today. I frequent stebbins a lot, but had never tried this route before either. Fun, but that was a steep climb. Anyway, I was near the end and looked down and there was the hat. Its still clean too. Send me an email and I’ll get it back to you.

  2. Christa, did you see any trace of the accident and rescue that happened about a few days ago? Some guy and his kid were trying to do a rappel, and fell and the kid was smart enough to call for help. Maybe that El Cap stuff inspired him to try this, and as 25% of all climbing accidents come from rappels, they don’t learn.

    1. Hi pete, we did not see any traces of the rescue, which I think happened about a week before we were there. It actually seems like a good place to practice rope skills since the trail is on the top of the cliff, but sometimes shit happens. Fortunately everybody got out okay this time.

    1. Yes. Thank you! I tried sending you an email this morning, but it must not have gone through. I will send another one when I get back from Tahoe (later today.)

  3. Unfortunately this entire hiking area has been reduced to ashes by the Wragg Fire. The whole canyon is closed now, nearly all of the vegetation is gone. I am heartbroken.

    1. Yes- we’ve been keeping a close eye on the Wragg Fire. Major bummer! I hope that it will be restorative for the ecosystem though. Sometimes fires can be beneficial. I also hope that the canyon and trails don’t stay closed for too long!

Any thoughts?