January 5, 2016 by Joe Kukura

Lake County has a new national monument, and it was not built by people; it was here long before any of us.

In the California Coast Range mountains, a pristine wilderness area just 100 miles from San Francisco or Sacramento, the scenic and incomparable Berryessa Snow Mountain is now part of a region known as the Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument. That new distinction comes courtesy of a recent federal proclamation designating the 100-mile stretch of land in northern California wine country as a recognized and protected national treasure for lovers of the outdoors.

Berryessa Snow Mountain is now arguably California’s largest national monument (there are conflicting size estimates) and remains a world-class outdoor destination for hiking, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing and hunting.

Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument

A stunning view in the new Berryessa Snow Mountain National Park. Photo: Andrew Faulks.

President Obama recently declared the approximately 330,780-acre Berryessa Snow Mountain region a national monument due to its unique geology, rich biological diversity and amazing cultural history. National monuments are not necessarily architectural structures; they are simply designated areas where resources are deemed limited and federally protected. The Giant Sequoia trees and Devil’s Tower in Wyoming are also considered national monuments. Now the Berryessa Snow Mountain region is one too.

But Berryessa Snow Mountain is so much more than, well, just a mountain. Its vast wilderness contains pristine forest land, the gorgeous Cache Creek and Cache Creek Wildlife Area, and, of course, Lake Berryessa itself. (Technically, Lake Berryessa is not part of the designated monument area, but all of its surrounding shores are.)

The region is a wildlife lover or bird-watcher’s dream come true. Bald eagles, black bears, tule elk, falcons and songbirds all fly or roam freely in large numbers. Despite the mountain’s peak elevation of more than 7,000 feet, it is one of the most biologically diverse areas in California. Nearly half of California’s dragonfly species can be found at Berryessa Snow Mountain, plus countless varieties of butterflies. And the springtime wildflower blooms of lilacs, poppies, lupines and more are truly a sight beyond comparison.

Hunting and fishing are allowed; in fact, they are encouraged! Endangered species, however, cannot be hunted, but hunters will still find plenty of deer, elk, wild turkeys, wild pigs and even black bears to hunt. Dozens of creeks, streams and smaller lakes within Berryessa Snow Mountain offer bass, trout and countless other warm-water fish.

Berryessa Peak is also one of the most recognized sights in California, even if many Californians don’t know it. The peak can sometimes be seen from as far away as the California Central Valley, Sacramento and even the outer suburbs of Oakland. From the top of Berryessa Peak, you can see hundreds of miles of California, including Mount Konocti, Mount St. Helena and Mount Tamalpais. Hikers and backpackers can anticipate snowpacks that often stick around until the summer.

If you’ve never been, come see why the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management fought long and hard to give the Berryessa Snow Mountain region the protection it so richly deserves. The hiking, fishing, boating and hunting in the new Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument are the very best of what California has to offer outdoor enthusiasts.

Make plans for a day, weekend or extended outdoor encounter in Lake County’s new national monument, and you too will declare this giant and unspoiled outdoor paradise to be a national treasure.