“Biking among vineyards, that sounds lovely,” a friend said after I mentioned that I had gone biking in California’s Napa Valley.
The Vine Trail is that but it’s also something else; the experience is a tale of two trails.
I rented a bike in Yountville from Napa Valley Bike Tours. Took all of five minutes and the trail is just a couple blocks from the store.
My bike was a Specialized Alibi. Being the owner of a Specialized Sirrus, I was instantly comfortable on the Alibi, for it was similar to my Sirrus with one important exception: airless tires.
Airless tires are filled with foam, not air, so are flat-free. Also: ouch. I felt every little bump. I moved the seat up to take the pressure off my rear end and more evenly arrange my weight between handlebars and saddle. Should’ve packed bike shorts.
Riding south from Yountville, the first five miles of the trail are beautiful. The Vine Trail is flat and straight, running down the middle of the valley along tracks used by the Napa Valley Wine Train. Sun, blue sky and vineyards stretch toward the mountains. Alongside the trail are exhibits, if you want to stop and read. I didn’t know that eucalyptus trees had been imported from Australia. And that they explode during wildfires.
The trail grows suburban as you reach the outskirts of Napa. You roll by a subdivision, a Hilton Garden Inn, and then the trail ends at a bus depot.
Napa Valley Bike Tours supplied a handlebar bag with a trail map attached to it. You have to ride on the sidewalk for a little bit and then cross a road to find the trail again.
Then begins the urban portion of the trail. In fact, the way the Vine Trail goes past warehouses and through backyards reminded me of the Orlando Urban Trail. Interesting, but not what I expected Napa to look like.
The trail discontinues again, leaving you at another intersection. After consulting the map, I made my way across the busy road and down to Oxbow Market. This sprawling marketplace along the Napa River is a paradise for foodies, featuring vendors including Ritual Coffee, Three Twins Ice Cream, The Model Bakery and more.
After fortifying myself with a BLT from Gott’s Roadside, and a look around Napa’s downtown, I made my way back to the trail.
It was ten miles back to Yountville, for a twenty mile round trip. I had fun – the trail is flat, the scenery interesting and Oxbow Market makes a delicious destination.
But, if you have a fantasy about biking to wineries, the Vine Trail is not it. While there are wineries along the route, they’re not easily accessible from the trail. If you want to bike for wine, I’d suggest a guided tour.
If you’re in Napa or Yountville and want to get a little exercise, the Vine Trail is perfect for that. It’s a tale of two trails, one urban and the other a dream of sun-soaked vineyards.