Back for more of the Prairie Ridge Trail
By Austin Explorer on 4/4/2021
Distance: 6.02 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 48 minutes
Having cut the Prairie Ridge Trail a bit short during our visit to the park last week, Coppertone and I returned to see more of what the top of Newell and Lynch Canyon Open Space Park had to offer.
This time we did a clockwise route on the Loop Trail until it intersected with the Saddle Trail. A large number of cows seemed to find the area to their liking and we got plenty of stares as we passed them by. One of them in the distance, perhaps a bull, eventually let out some very loud noises, which seemed to call the others to move a bit more in his direction.
It wasn't too long before a three way intersection got us to our desired Prairie Ridge Trail. After taking the right turn it was some of the steeper climbing we would face in the day. A false peak gave some hope we had reached the top of the ridge, which eventually did appear some time later. At that point we were rewarded with views into both American Canyon and the Napa River Valley to the west and the Sacramento River Valley to the east. Both Mount Diablo in the East Bay and Mount Tam in Marin County were visible at the same time.
We continued south along Prairie Ridge, enjoying the views as we went. Visibility wasn't bad but there was a bit of haze today. We'd love to be on this ridge when visibility is excellent. At the southern end of Prairie Ridge we descended back into the heart of Newell via the Southeast Trail.
One the way back to the trailhead we elected to take a look at the Outlook Trail cutoff to get yet another view of American Canyon, the Napa River marshes and Mount Tam in the distant background.
Back on the Valley Trail and less than a mile away from the trailhead a hiker ahead of us stopped abruptly and was acting in a strange way. When we got closer he indicated there was a snake in the trail. He had tried to scare it off by throwing some grass at it. Upon closer inspection the snake in question was an obviously harmless and relatively small whipsnake of some kind, perhaps a striped racer. We pass by the snake given the cautious animal as much room as we could give it and the other hiker followed our lead. It never budged and only stuck its tongue out to gauge the situation.
Our outing today was almost exacly 6 miles in length and I think it represents perhaps the best route to see all of the park's highlights, even if a good chunk of the Prairie Ridge Trail segment crosses over into nearby Lynch Canyon. We're not entirely done with the park though. A few unmapped trail segments remain.