After their marriage in San Fransisco on 19 May 1880, Fanny and Robert Louis Stevenson set off on an adventurous honeymoon to the Napa Valley. Stopping briefly for a night in Vallejo, the Stevenson’s then boarded a train to carry them (and their dog Chuchu) to Calistoga at the northern end of the Valley.
They spent the remainder of May in Calistoga, at one of the Hot Springs Hotel cottages. Then, once joined by Fanny’s son Lloyd Osbourne, the family made their way up the grade of Mount. St. Helena to the Toll House, from which they found their way to the abandoned Silverado Mine bunkhouse where they would squat until the end of July.
Today, visitors to the Valley can follow in Stevenson’s footsteps by visiting the many surviving sites which featured in Stevenson’s account of his time here (a travelogue titled “The Silverado Squatters”).
To see the following route in Google Maps, please click here: https://goo.gl/maps/TTlon
Stop 1: Robert Louis Stevenson Museum, St. Helena
Begin your adventure by brushing up on your Robert Louis Stevenson facts at the museum. Be sure to check out the scale model of what the Silverado Bunkhouse looked like at the time the Stevenson’s stayed there. And don’t forget to ask questions!
Location: 1490 Library Lane, St. Helena, CA 94574
By horse and trap the Stevensons road down valley to St. Helena to taste wine. They stopped here but had little to say about it – perhaps because the lovely Rhine House wasn’t built yet. Be sure to see this 1884 Victorian charmer!
Location: 2000 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574
Built in 1846, this water-powered grist mill was once the center of social activity as Napa Valley settlers gathered to have their corn and wheat ground into meal or flour. On weekends be sure to attend their live demonstrations and take some fresh flour home for baking!
Be sure to check their website to see if they are operating when you plan to visit!
Location: 3315 St Helena Hwy, St Helena, CA 94574
The original 1862 founders, Mr. & Mrs. Jacob Schram, delighted the Stevenson’s when they visited – with RLS being taken into the caves to taste “every variety and shade of Schramsberger…”
You must schedule a tour with the winery in order to visit. But it is absolutely wonderful!
“Calistoga was a pleasant place to dwell in; beautifully green, for it was then that favoured moment in the Californian year, when the rains are over and the dusty summer has not yet set in…”
-from Stevenson’s “The Silverado Squatters” (1883)
The Stevensons disembarked here in 1880. Today it is one of California’s oldest existing railroad depots and now holds a variety of small shops, including a wine store and a cafe. Also alongside the depot are six restored Pullman railroad cars which have also been converted into shops.
Location: 1458 Lincoln Ave, Calistoga, CA 94515
Highlighting the history of the Upper Valley, this museum is a real treat and even has a small section on RLS! Particularly wonderful is the adjoining cottage which is one of only two that have survived since Sam Brannan opened his Hot Springs Hotel in 1862. Could RLS & Fanny have stayed in this one? We don’t know for sure, but it’s nice to imagine.
Location: 1311 Washington St, Calistoga, CA 94515
Up the hills to the west of Calistoga, be sure to walk the trails at the Petrified Forest. True, RLS found Petrified Charlie (the founder) more interesting than the geological specimens on view, but the guided meadow walks on the weekends are a real treat for those interested in the geological history of the area! About a 30 minute drive from the RLSM.
Location: 4100 Petrified Forest Road, Calistoga, CA 94515
One of only three geysers to perform regularly in the world, part of its beauty rests in it being at the foot of Mount St. Helena. Every 30 minutes you can see the water burst forth from the ground – and if its time to wet your whistle, just east of here is the historic Chateau Montelena Winery (home of the Chardonnay that won the 1976 Taste of Paris).
Location: 1299 Tubbs Ln, Calistoga, CA 94515
Less of a stop and more of a scenic ride up Mount St. Helena, this was the beginning of the Toll Road (as RLS notes, then called “the grade”) towards Lake County. It’s a great road to hike or bike down too, if you’re so inclined, as it gets far less traffic than HWY 29. Or stop by one of the wineries dotted along the road.
“This pleasant Napa Valley is, at its north end, blockaded by our mountain. There, at Calistoga, the railroad ceases, and the traveler who intends faring farther, to the Geysers or to the springs in Lake County, must cross the spurs of the mountain by stage. Thus, Mount Saint Helena is not only a summit, but a frontier….”
-from Stevenson’s “The Silverado Squatters” (1883)
After you reach HWY 29 you will soon enter the RLS State Park, which is not staffed, so simply pull into the parking lot on the right side of the road. Follow the signs to the RLS Monument which is a 0.8 mile hike up a switchback trail. This monument, erected in 1911, stands where the bunkhouse used to be. Be sure to keep walking past the monument to find the mouth to the Silverado Mine (on your left) before turning back!
Don’t forget to bring your copy of Silverado Squatters!
Location: 3801 St Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515