Hiking Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park (Napa Valley)
One of the last trails I went to before moving south was in Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, near Deer Park, CA. The Bale Grist Mill History Trail is located Booth-Napa Valley Park, but you can access it before as well.
About Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park:
It’s a 2.3-mile hike that can be used for both hiking, running, or walking. It is fairly rugged terrain and gains about 480 feet of elevation.
On the Bale Grist Mill History Trail, you can see some of Napa Valley’s pioneer history. There is a cemetery on the Booth-Napa Valley side. The trail itself connects two parks. I recommend parking at the Bale Grist side since parking is $5, whereas parking at Booth-Napa Valley State Park is $8.
You can also see an old grist mill.
History of Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park:
Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park is home to the water-powered grist mill. It was built in 1846 and named after Dr. Edward Turner Bale. He received the property in a land grant from the Mexican government and lived near the site until he passed away in 1849. The Bale Grist Mill was active and in use until the early 1900s.
The Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park was once the center of social activity for Napa Valley settlers. They gathered to have their corn and wheat ground into meal or flour. The dampness of the area and the slow turning of grindstones gave the meal a special quality for making yellow bread, cornbread, and spoon bread.
According to the Bale Grist Mill Historical Park website, the gristmill and granary were built with local materials, including Douglas firs and coast redwoods. Some of the timber was cut to length with the bark, whereas others were roughed out. It used both wooden pegs and nails/screws.
The foundation of the structure is made from native stone. The first wheel of the Bale Grist Mille did not provide enough power during dry summers, so it was later replaced by a larger one that is very similar to the one today.
Farmers brought grain to the mill, where it was placed into the boot of an elevator to be mechanically transported upstairs, where various types of equipment cleaned it.
As old-timers put it, “When the meal comes to you that way, like the heated underside of a settin’ hen, it bakes bread that makes city bread taste like cardboard.”
It has remained protected as a state historic landmark since Napa Valley has restored it. The Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park also concludes the site of the first church in the Napa Valley and the Pioneer Cemetery. So much history!
My experience at Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park:
I planned to hike the 2.3-mile trail and see what I saw. I hoped it would take me about an hour, and it did. The hike itself is fairly rugged, and there are some steeper portions. You can see parts of the trail that were affected by the Glass Fire in 2020.
I thought I might be able to go into the Grist Mill, but they have been actively working to restore it. In all, the hike was perfect for what I wanted. Roughly an hour worth of hiking and a lot of information learning about the local area. It’s a great family spot, although the terrain might be challenging for some.
You can see more hikes here.
Questions for you:
What is the last historic hike you did?
Have you seen a grist mill before?