Exploring Wine Country: Napa County’s Lake Berryessa

Sat, Mar 17, 2018 at 12:40PM

Exploring Wine Country: Napa County’s Lake Berryessa

Every year, millions of travelers flock to the famous vineyards and rolling hills of Napa Valley—and a select few end up staying for something even more thrilling.

You expect to see natural beauty in Napa Valley—it comes in the form of lush horizons and picture-painted skies, part of the region’s famous climate that cultivates such great vino.

But the Valley’s reputation for lux wine names is just part of its appeal; the other is a veritable aquatic escape in the form of Lake Berryessa.

Read on as we explore the allure of this one-of-a-kind lake… and the wonder that sits just below the surface.

Exploring the expanse

At more than 20,000 square acres, Lake Berryessa is among the largest of California’s freshwater lakes—but that’s not the only way it stands out. Characterized by a Mediterranean climate (the likes of which can be found on less than 2 percent of Earth’s surface), boating here feels like something completely unique: an international vacation without ever needing to pull out your passport.

The expanse of Lake Berryessa itself—named for the area’s first European settlers—offers a variety of landscapes as diverse as the wine that’s made here. The main channel is wide and perfect for exploring from your Monterey, whether you’re guiding the way from your cockpit or enjoying the experience from a pair of water skis. Venture to the north end of the lake to explore the lush, winding shores of Green Canyon (a great place to go camping, too!), or cruise around islands at the center of the lake: there’s the aptly-named “Big Island” and “Small Island,” where you’ll find lush shores worth cruising around or fishing for catches like crappie, catfish, rainbow trout and more.

The fun continues

Of course, when you’re keen to dry off and explore something new, the fun continues on land. You’re used to exploring Napa Valley’s Wine Country by foot—strolling from wine-tastings to vineyard tours and more. But the lush terrain that surrounds Lake Berryessa is just as worth exploring—whether you stay the night under the stars, lounge around one of the swimming areas or grab a picnic. Of course, with a lake of this size and winding shape, there’s also plenty of hiking ground to explore. Venture to the southeast corner of the lake to see one of its most peculiar features from dry land…

Secret beneath the surface?

Lake Berryessa is home to a spillway called the Glory Hole. From above, it looks like downright sci-fi—a perfect circular hole in the lake, into which you can sometimes spot water flowing like a never-ending whirlpool.

While it’s a sight worth seeing, the reality of the Glory Hole is a little less fantastical. As a spillway, its job is pretty self-explanatory: during periods of heavy rain and lake overflow, water will spill into the hole to keep the lake at a manageable level.

Knowing that doesn’t make the visual spectacle any less puzzling, of course!

Wine-tasting and a lot more await you in Napa Valley. From Lake Berryessa, you’re set to see the best the region has to offer—pair with your Monterey and some great company for the perfect getaway.

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