by Sharon Miller
Wine tasting for woofers? While I wouldn’t recommend THAT, there is no reason you can’t take your beloved dog along with you when you go to the Wine Country, and the scenic hot springs town of Calistoga is a very dog-friendly destination.
Your first stop should be the Calistoga Visitor Center in the middle of town, where pets are always welcome, and where you can find out about pet-friendly wineries, lodging, restaurants, hiking trails, and other activities. It’s a good idea to always call ahead to make sure the pet policy at recommended establishments has not changed.
There are two dozen lodgings in Calistoga that welcome pets, including bed & breakfasts, cottages, hotels, motels, luxury resorts, and vacation rentals. Notable among the dog-friendly accommodations is the Hillcrest Country Inn, with breathtaking views, 36 acres available for roaming, a tasty breakfast, and dog-loving innkeepers The quaint cottages at Washington Street Lodging are a less expensive option and are located within walking distance of downtown Calistoga. Another favorite is the Bear Flag Inn located on three and a half acres. There is a small vineyard on the property, as well as gardens, hammocks, and a pool and Jacuzzi for guests to enjoy.
Those who like to rough it a little more with their dogs are welcome to tent or RV camp at the Calistoga RV and Campground on North Oak Street or at the Napa Valley Fairgrounds, which is also just a short distance from downtown. Just check ahead of time to make sure a special function hasn’t been scheduled there.
A number of local wineries have gardens or patios where you can taste the lovely vintages with your dog at your side. Dutch Henry Winery, for example, will set you up at a picnic table for a tasting. Call ahead to alert the resident Airedales of pending four-legged company. B Cellars with its gardens and picnic areas, and Castello di Amorosa, with its medieval Tuscan-style castle, are also great places to go wine tasting with your dog. Frenchy wines located down the road in nearby St. Helena goes over the top in welcoming dogs.
This being the Napa Valley, your restaurant choices are almost overwhelming. Here are a few that would welcome you and your dog: gourmet Solbar in the Solage Hotel, casual Puerto Vallarta if you crave good Mexican food, and Flat Iron Grill for excellent service and a variety of grilled items. Next, cool off with a little dessert. Scoops and Swirls on Lincoln Avenue offers large portions of ice cream and outdoor seating for you and your dog.
Next you have to walk off the dessert, right? You can soak up gorgeous panoramic views of the California wine country with your dog on the Oat Hill Mine Trail, accessible from the Silverado Trail at Route 29. This ten-mile trail winds its way through tall shady oaks, but much of the trail is in the full sun so it is not recommended for a hot day. This is an up and back trail, not a loop. Be sure to allow enough energy for you and your dog to make the return trip. You can walk halfway and turn around, or take two cars one parked at either end of the trail and make it a one-way hike. Pets are allowed off-leash if under voice control. Bring plenty of water in warm weather. Your dog will appreciate it!
For a relaxing time on soft grass and in a bit of shade, spend some time at Pioneer Park on Cedar Street. Most evenings in the summer, you will be treated to a concert in the park. Check with the visitor’s center for the current schedule.
Two incredible natural wonders to visit with your dog are the Old Faithful Geyser and the Petrified Forest. Old Faithful Geyser is one of three geysers in the world that perform at regular intervals. Every thirty minutes or so, Old Faithful erupts with a plume of water and steam spraying as high as 100 feet in the air. The grounds provide plenty of space to wander around with your dog and visit the other furry friends that reside there, including the famous fainting goats.
You and your dog are also invited to stroll the half-mile round-trip meadow trail at the intriguing Petrified Forest, one of the largest such fossil forests in the world. Over twenty whole petrified trees, including roots, branches, and leaves, are visible here.
If you have time, consider booking one of Calistoga’s famous mud baths or massages. The Visitor Center should be able to help you locate one of the area’s recommended pet sitters because we all know NEVER to leave our dog behind in the car.
Here’s a toast to you (and your dog’s) health and happiness!
Reminder: When traveling with your canine, be sure to pack all your dog’s amenities: food, water, bowls, medications, treats, bed, and favorite treats.
Sharon Miller is a retired adult school administrator residing with her husband, dog, and cat in Pacific Grove and Palm Desert. She loves to travel around the country and the world by boat, plane, car, RV, or camel! She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.