Overlooking Napa Valley, Mount St. Helena is about the most scenic climbing in the Bay Area. If you're willing to hike there's a ton of trad climbing in the area, but thus far, I've been too lazy to get anywhere but the three sport climbing areas. The rock is volcanic in origin, and ranges widely in forms, thus specific descriptions will be saved for each crag. Recently, Aron and I discovered that Forrest Shute has been hiding in the Los Angeles area. He mentioned that he had about half of all the first ascents on the Mountain, and that there's a lot more climbing past the Far Side than just that available in guidebooks. Hopefully, we'll be able to share a little more of his wisdom in the future.
From the majority of the Bay Area, it is quickest to take 80 East (though it goes mostly north) PAST highway 29, and take 12 west until it intersects 29 at a stop light. Here, go right and drive through wine country (buy wine too). In the town of Calistoga, 29 takes a right at a stop sign. Continue on 29 out of Calistoga where it begins to get windy. The road proceeds up the shoulder of Mount St. Helena. At the top, there will be a pedestrians crossing sign promptly followed by parking areas on both the right and left sides of the road, they're pretty easy to fly by, but that's where you park. There's a trail leading out of the left parking lot. Take this as it switches back up a hill until you're to a fire road. Go left on the fire road, the bubble is about half a mile up the road.
Mountain Project's determination of some of the classic, most popular, highest rated routes for Mount St. Helena:
Plan for an extremely hot hike that strenuous on warm days. Our crew concluded that these climbs would be a million times better if it were a cloudy cool day. The hike took so much out of us that many were unable to climb once we got to the far side.... For those who did, it was splendid! Amazing views and fun volcanic rock with lots of little holes.
We climbed up on the main rocks not to long ago in a quest for long sport routes. Was stoked to see a few two pitch routes, although the pitches we kinda short. We did Mikes Moderate and it was pretty fun. The approach was a MF and the rock was a bit chossy but all in all it was a good day. I do feel that if you are going to drive this far from the bay area you might as well go to the leap. I mean its a 1.5 hr drive and an hour approach for a handful of routes. Also beware some of the bolts up there we manky.
The approach to The Bear is significantly different and easier than the description in Bay Area Climbing. The guide says to go ~1/4 mile past the bubble, and then hike up a loose steep slope toward The Bear. If you continue past 2 "trails" up the road cut that fit the description in the guide book, you will come to a good real trail in another couple hundred yards. This trail starts well past the Bear and traverses the hill to approach The Bear from climbers right.
Wine Country Rocks is out of print. Not sure about the status about other books, but this site has the most accurate and current info, though lacks topos. There are rumors of a new Bay Area Climbing book from SuperTopo due out next year.
I used the Bay Area Topropes guide when climbing at the Far Side and didn't find it very helpful. There is one picture of the area that looks like it was taken from across the valley, making it difficult to locate specific routes. Also, many of the routes are not listed. If you are leading I would suggest the Bay Area Climbing book from Falcon.
I would only use the Falcon book for a fairly decent topo that it provides of The Bear. However, Falcon's topo is outdated. Routes seem to have changed, and there are more now. Until a better, up-to-date guide book comes out, I'd recommend sticking only to the information found here on mountainproject.com. There's sufficient to finding the routes on The Bear and much better topos.
Hey folks, Conditions have been great lately and lots of people are visiting the park. Please keep in mind that there are no bathrooms at Mt. St. Helena/ R.L.S. State Park. Please poop in town before driving up. The parking lot is becoming a disaster of toilet paper behind every bush. If you really have to go when up on the mountain, bring a WAG BAG, or at least dig a deep hole out in the woods away from climbing areas and do NOT burn the paper! If you are really feeling like a rock star bring a couple trash bags and help by pick up some trash in the parking lot before driving down the hill.
On the subject of guidebooks: I just picked up a new copy of "Bay Area Rock" and it has pretty good topos/route descriptions for the Far Side, Table Scraps, and Table Rock (the latter two aren't even mentioned in the Falcon guide).
Is there any chance at all of finding a copy of "Wine Country Rocks"? I'm curious if there's more info there that's not in guidebooks or on this site.