94.5 F

Davis, California

Monday, June 10, 2024

Best hiking spot: Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve

The Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve is Davis’ favorite place to hit the trail


By SAVANNAH BURGER — features@theaggie.org 


Just 35 minutes west of Davis, the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve is regarded by a plurality of 40% of the Best of Davis survey respondents as the best hiking spot in the area. The reserve is located in a north-facing canyon of the outer northern coast range and overlooks views of Sacramento, the Central Valley and Lake Berryessa. 

The reserve itself is owned and managed by the University of California Natural Reserve System, being an official UC Davis Nature Reserve. In addition to this, it’s a part of the Putah Creek State Wildlife Area, which includes 673 acres of habitats and land where Cold Creek and Putah Creek converge, not far from the Monticello Dam. 

Named after G. Ledyard Stebbins, the late plant geneticist, botanist and professor of UC Davis and Berkley, the reserve exists as a beautiful example of Stebbins’ legacy. Stebbins was the leading figure in plant evolution, and through his research with genetics proved that plants experience evolution just as other organisms such as animals do. A professor at Davis for 23 years, Stebbins was a beloved faculty member, naturalist and conservationist and published over 252 works.

There are various hikes in the reserve that are suitable for both beginner and advanced hikers. There’s the Blue Ridge-Homestead Loop, which is five miles total, Annie’s Trail Loop, which is 2.75 miles total and 20 Nature Trails which are each one mile long one way. Keep in mind that each of these trails, as well as the whole reserve, do not allow dogs or mountain bikes. 

The reserve has a lot to offer nature-wise: it has countless different habitats and terrains, ranging from foothill streams, riparian woodlands, lower montane chaparral, chamise chaparral, grasslands to blue oak woodlands. There are eight amphibian, 18 reptile, 43 mammal, 108 bird and 290 plant species present and thriving in this area. Not to mention that during the spring, the blooming California wildflowers are a must-see.

When out on the reserve, look out for the abundant wildlife that resides there. Right now, during early spring, it is one of the best times of the year to spot rare birds during their migration. The Cold Canyon basin itself boasts 50% of all of California’s regularly occurring bird species, impressive for such a small area. If you want to get the best of the birds, arrive at the reserve at the break of light to hear the birds’ harmonious dawn chorus. Be sure to check it out before the season is over, less you have to wait until fall for the next migration.

When hiking, you can also spot larger mammals, such as the Virginia opossum, striped skunk, raccoon, coyote, bobcat, black-tailed deer and the mountain lion. Be aware of that last one — mountain lions are known to be active throughout the reserve, so it’s a sound idea to hike in groups of two or more and keep children close.

Don’t sleep on this beautiful hiking area. Over 65,000 people pay a visit to the reserve annually. It’s a popular sight for field trips for K through 12 students and for field courses students can take here at UC Davis. 

Doubling as both a hiker’s paradise and a place for insightful research, the Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve can be enjoyed by residents of Davis and beyond. What are you waiting for? Put on those hiking boots and get going!


Written by: Savannah Burger — features@theaggie.org 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here