Newell Open Space Preserve

4stars (4.00)3
3stars (3.00)
3point5stars (3.67)
American Canyon
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The short Overlook Trail leads to this vantage point over American Canyon. Mount Tam is in the center of the picture in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Down to Newell
Coppertone descends along the Southeastern Trail that connects the Loop Trail with the Prairie Ridge Trail. American Canyon is in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Lynch Canyon
Looking into Lynch Canyon Open Space Preserve from the Prairie Ridge Trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Prairie Ridge Trail
The Prairie Ridge Trail snakes forward and then to the left, just to the left of the sparse, wind swept, tree line. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Top of Prairie Ridge Trail
After some climbing from the valley below we topped out onto Prairie Ridge and looked back from where we'd come. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Saddle Trail
A good number of cows seemed to enjoy lounging around the Saddle Trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
The shape of the trees that exist on the edge of the ridge give testimony to the frequent and strong winds that occur here. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Tree cover
Most of the Prairie Ridge Trail is open to the skies. Here the trail darts through a small copse of trees, providing some relief from the Sun's rays. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Prairie Ridge Trail
The Prairie Ridge Trail is also part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, marked by the short orange posts. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Loop Trail
The Loop Trail forms a V a couple hundred feet below. Mount Tam can be spotted in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
American Canyon
A great view of the City of American Canyon and the Napa River marshes from the Prairie Ridge Trail. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Looking NE
Many views from the Prairie Ridge are spectacular. Here's the view NE into Cordelia and beyond. (Photo by Austin Explorer)

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Log Entries
Back for more of the Prairie Ridge Trail
By Austin Explorer on 4/4/2021
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
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.

To the backbone of Newell
By Austin Explorer on 3/28/2021
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 6.63 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 48 minutes

Coppertone and I returned for our second visit to Newell.  On our first hike here we did the Loop Trail around the majority of the park.  This time around we had an eye on the ridge that serves as the boundary between Newell and Lynch Canyon Open Space Park.

Our path diverged from our previous route at the junction of the Loop Trail with what the Newell map calls "South E".  From that point it was a consistent steep climb to the top of the ridge.  The crest of the ridge roughly equates to the boundary between Lynch and Newell.  So hiking along the Prairie Ridge Trail means you're hiking Lynch and other times in Newell.  It's enough of a toss up that I'd put the trail technically in both parks.

Both parks would definately want to claim it as their own.  The views from Prairie Ridge are spectacular.  To the west a clear shot into Napa Valley with American Canyon and the Napa marshes in view.  To the east a clear shot into the Sacramento Valley with Cordelia and Fairfield in view.  I would not be surprised of glimpses of the Sierra are possible with clearer conditions.  From some spots along the trail one can easily pick out Mount Diablo in Easy Bay and Mount Tam in Marin County.

Like much of Newell, there is little tree cover along the ridge.  Trees have a tough time here.  Those that have managed to survive have done so with visible signs of their struggle.  They are stretched and contorted by frequent and stong winds out of the east.  One can see a similar pattern in some trees on the Pacific Coast.

We only ended up doing about half of the Prairie Ridge Trail before descending back down to the Loop Trail and doubled our way back to the trailhead.  Our positive opinion of the park during our first visit was only strengthened during the second.  We need to make a return visit for more mapping in the near future.

Wonderful hike with plenty of seclusion
By Austin Explorer on 2/28/2021
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 5.48 Miles Duration: 2 hours, 51 minutes

Coppertone and I had hiked at Lynch Canyon, which is adjacent to Newell, previously.  It was good, but the traffic noise from the interstate was a bit of an annoyance.  We were pleasantly surprised by the relatively tranquil and quiet trails here at Newell.  This outing greatly exceeded our expectations.

In the time of COVID, a hike with wide trails to assist in spacing out whenever passing is a plus and the largely open grassland with jeep trails at Newell fit the bill.  As it turns out there were very few people on the trail and the vast majority were properly masked.

We did a hike consisting of the Creekside, Valley and Loop Trails.  This balloon path covers perhaps up to 90% of the trails in the park, the rest being connector routes with Lynch Canyon over the county border.

The quietest section of trail for us was the North Loop portion of the Loop Trail.  In the narrow canyon we could hear only the sound of wind.  I wish we had stopped and spent some more time there just to soak it all in.

We had heard about the fire that ravaged the area some time ago and evidence of that fire remains.  Lots of charred brush and trees but these signs are becoming more and more surpassed by the new and generative growth of trees and particularly grasses that have taken their place.

Plenty of birds flitting about foraging for food.  A couple of hawks soared overhead, focused on find their own meal.  The park is known to harbor Mountain Lions and we imagined all of the spots in the park they might prefer for their midday perch.  The shady rock outcropping along the southeastern portion of the Loop Trail seemed the most ideal.  That's where I'd hang out if I were a Mountain Lion.

We also had fun with the Orienteering Course along the trail.  We knew a little bit about Orienteering but this was the first truly begineering course that could be done by anyone.  A fantastic idea implemented by Aditya Sriram as his Eagle Scout project.  The only downside is that the aforementioned fire appears to have taken out one marker and damaged another.  Hopefully they can be repaired and replaced.

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