View of the highway and the lake from the loop trail. Trail sign showing the Homestead/ridge loop and Pleasants Ridge trails

Stebbins Cold Canyon is a UC Davis Nature Reserve located in Solano County near the outlet of Lake Berryessa, named for botanist and evolutionary biologist G. Ledyard Stebbins (1906-2000). See the map to the trailhead.

Cold Canyon was a popular place to hike and explore because it has some amazing views and was an all-around nice place to get back to nature.  It also It contained the closest hiking trails to Davis with any significant elevation.  Sadly, the Cold Canyon area was devastated by the Wragg Fire in the summer of 2015, (see below).  The trails have been closed for the remainder of 2015.

If you're coming from Davis—about a 30-minute drive—and you get as far as the Monticello Dam at the Lake, you've gone too far. There is a small dirt parking lot on the right side of the road shortly after you pass Canyon Creek Resort. The trailhead is across the street (where there are a few additional parking spaces). The road is curvy and cars sometimes drive fast, so cross carefully. The parking area also serves the Pleasants Ridge trailhead (see map).

Dogs are not allowed on the reserve itself, but there are adjoining trails on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land where dogs are allowed, on leash. See the Yolo hiker website linked below for details.

Frequent visitors to Cold Canyon may wish to consider donating to the nonprofit organization Tuleyome, which is seeking to buy land at the headwaters of the canyon that would permit the building of additional hiking trails.

See the website above for a listing of presentations and guided hikes in the reserve and along the loop trail. For more detailed information about this reserve, find the book by Correigh Greene and Mikaela Huntzinger, called The Natural History of Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve.

Warning: Poison Oak is rampant in the canyon. It's avoidable if you know what you're looking for, but it's everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

Legend

Mysterious Grate

If you follow the trail through the valley (there are trails that go into the hills) it eventually ends at the homestead. There are rumors of covered shafts that connect to a system of caves. Just before reaching the homestead, one will go through a clearing. On the left, the slope was landscaped decades ago. There are mysterious mounds with grates. These could be the shafts that lead to the caves.

Wragg Fire

The Cold Canyon area was severely burned by the Wragg Fire in July of 2015.   Many of the trails still exist, but there are large areas that have been badly burned, if not completely decimated.   Currently, most of the ridge trails are completely barren.  The area has been closed until repairs can be made to the trails, likely through the rest of 2015.

Pics from July 24, 2015:

Burn area on the western ridgeScorched earth at the trail headBurn area on the eastern ridge

Pics from two weeks after the fire:

The most intense burning occurred along the ridgeLooking NE from the southern end of the ridge. Some trees at the base of the canyon where burned, but will likely survive.  Many areas at the top of the ridge were completely decimated.Looking south from the north end of the ridge. The Annie's Rock Trail is still largely intact.

Media

The Stebbins Cold Canyon Trails were featured in the May, 2010 issue of Davis Life Magazine here.

Pictures

Scenery

Henderson's Shooting Star (Dodecatheon hendersonii)

Fungus

Birds paint the rocks along the ridgetops.

One building foundation remaining from the homestead

Lilac Bonnet Mushrooms (Mycena pura) - © 2011 Timothy Boomer

Cold Creek by the homestead - © 2011 Timothy Boomer

Trails

Eating lunch on the ridge

Walking the top of the ridge

The lower trail

Berryessa From the Ridge

On a crazy clear day you can see the Sierra Nevadas from the top

Castilleja spp. are common on the ridge trail - © 2011 Timothy Boomer

Trip Reports

More Information

More nearby: Hiking in Solano County, Map to trailheads in Solano County.

Comments:

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I have hiked up into the region numerous times, but do not know anything much about the specific area. Though i was an undergraduate in Geology and a caver and I know the general region pretty well as i did my senior thesis nearby. Most of that area is known as the knoxville formations, a sandstone/siltsone formation. It is extremely brittle and fractured, as you witness right by the dam. Most of caves of California are found in limestone formations, which i do not believe are found in that area. I would guess that chance of caves is almost nil. —BrianSolecki


2007-04-05 22:24:22   Amazingly gorgeous canyon hike (although a little tricky to find the beginning of the trail at first). I took the Homestead Trail- which, in total, is about 2 miles round-trip. Some parts of the hike were a little steeper than I had expected, but not overly difficult by any means. I definitely plan on coming out again for another hike. —StacieTownsend


2007-09-06 23:04:46   This place has ticks (duh)! Watch out because they fall from above... I found a big one in my friend's hair. —DanielWorthington

The tick certainly could have fallen from above, but they're also well known to walk up a body until they find a nice spot to rest after they've landed on someone that's brushed against a branch or something. —WesHardaker


2008-11-30 16:20:35   I found some little scorpions under an old railroad tie just off of the Homestead trail once, so hikers be advised! There are definitely abundant ticks, but I've heard that they don't carry Lyme disease...something to do with feeding on the Fence Swifts (those blue-bellied lizards) and the lizard blood killing the Lyme's in the ticks themselves? Can anybody confirm or deny that? Once, late in the spring, I saw a trout trapped in a pool way, way up the canyon. It was weeks after the creek had started to break up and ceased to flow. The trout was still jumping for flies. Amazing. Cold Canyon is one of the prettiest and most underrated/hidden nature spots in the area. Bring a camera. —K.C.STAUBACH


2009-08-21 01:24:20   Stebbins is awesome, but if you're planning on doing the Loop Trail make sure you're prepared. When they say strenuous they really mean it. I would also advise against doing it backwards. Start at the trailhead with the sign that says UC Davis on it. If you start at the other end you have to climb about a 900 foot elevation gain in the first hour, whereas if you go the other way the elevation gain is a lot more gradual. —jsogul


2010-04-11 14:32:50   We saw lots of wildflowers up there on 10april2010 !! Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve wildflower hiking. —BruceThomas


2010-05-23 20:17:08   The closest (and best IMO) hiking from Davis. I highly recommend the loop trail. I use it for a workout but it makes an awesome leisure hike too with lots to see! —ARWENNHOLD


2011-09-25 22:01:04   Hiking at Cold Canyon on a cool, drizzly fall day was a delightful change from being too hot all summer. It was a challenging day for photography, but I got a few good photos along the way. —BruceThomas


2011-10-11 14:40:44   Anyone else think that "Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve" would make a great name for a beer? —JimStewart


2012-11-24 16:48:58   Went here for a hike today and had a great time, but when we left we noticed that two of the cars in the lot had their windows smashed in. The cars were on opposite ends of the parking lot. There was glass on the ground. —RobertaMIllstein


2013-01-20 03:00:38   Probably the closest REAL hike to Davis. The trails offer some nice steep climbs, interesting flora and fauna, and gorgeous views of Lake Berryessa, the river canyons, and even the Sierras.

Warning - there are always vultures circling hopefully over the trails. Maybe they're just there for the updrafts created by the steep canyon walls, but I think they're eyeing the hikers. —Otter


2015-06-20 21:43:17   Hikers should bring PLENTY of water in the summer. I was flagged down today by a hiker with sever dehydration and a dog who was refusing to walk. It was 95 degrees out and they had brought one bottle of water between them. He had called 911, who sent out Animal Control, but it took them over an hour to arrive. THE DOG ENDED UP DYING.. Both the hiker and the dog were young and healthy, and the guy lost his dog by simply not bringing enough water. It was very sad for everyone. Bring water. —jefftolentino