CHALLENGING DAY HIKE
13.2 miles 1,800' elevation gain
This hike traverses the lower elevation portion of the new Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument., and makes two fords of Cache Creek. For more than half the year, Cache Creek is not fordable by the casual hiker. Carefully read the discussion on fording Cache Creek, below.
Flowers peak in March and April.
The creek flow is consistently too high to wade across during the hot May-September months due to releases from the dams for agricultural irrigation. The flow during the recommended hiking season November-April varies wildly, from floods to easy fording. Fortunately there is semi-current water release information for the upstream dams, and near-live flow information downstream. During storms creek flows can rise within hours, so do not attempt this hike during storms. In early 2017 it was about 100 CFS Jan 3rd and 25,000 CFS 6 days later.
Trail has clay mud when wet; let dry for 5 or more days after rain before doing this hike.
The trails are not continuous on either side of Wilson Valley, so smartphone with the Avenza app is recommended if not proficient with topographic maps.
The area is hot May-October. The long walks along brushy ridges interspersed with grassy oak woodlands can be lovely in pleasant weather. Flowers can be excellent in April of years with evenly spaced rains.
Flow Gauges & Ford
There are 3 relevant flow gauges:
The releases from the dams are at Yolo County FCWCD. During the dry season most of the water at the fords is from the dam releases. Under 100 CFS from the dams is usually considered OK for wading across during the dry season, but usually it is more like 500CFS much of the summer.
During the wet season much of the water at the fords comes from un-dammed tributaries. The gauge on CACHE CREEK AT RUMSEY BRIDGE (RUM) gives an indication of conditions at the fords. If there have been recent rains the peak flow may reach Wilson Valley a day prior to arriving at Rumsey Bridge. Here is a graph showing projected flow 5 days into the future.
For our trips, we do this hike in the wet season when it hasn't rained for several days and the flow at Rumsey Bridge is less than 250 CFS. We'll get photos of the ford, and will return the way we came if the ford appears too high.
Use your own judgment. Be safe. Don't hesitate to return the way you came if conditions are dangerous.