Skyline to Tilden

15 May

Length: 4.3 miles. It’s an out and back so you can decide when to turn around.
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Dogs: Yes!
Calories: 600-700
Elevation Gain: 700 feet (starts at 1000 feet and climbs to 1600 feet).
Best Season: Any season.  Good summer hike.
EMBUD Permit Required:  No
Highlights:  The first mile is very lush with a wide range of plants and then great views towards Mount Diablo as you climb towards Tilden Park.  Downside is road noise.
Directions:  Take Highway 24 towards Oakland. Exit at Fish Ranch Road (last exit before tunnel).  Take a left at Fish Ranch Road, cross over the highway, and then take a right on Old Tunnel Road.  After about a third of a mile you’ll reach the Old Tunnel Road Staging Area for Sibley Park.  This is where you park.
Trailhead:  Old Tunnel Road will take a sharp turn, and after the turn you’ll see a trail on the right side of the road heading North.  You’ll also see signs pointing to “Skyline to Tilden” which is what you want.

NOTE: Old Tunnel Road has been closed during the stay-at-home orders, so you need to park and walk up Old Tunnel Road to reach the trail, about a third of a mile.

Most people who go to the Old Tunnel Road Staging Area are using it to access Sibley Volcanic Preserve, but for this hike we’re going to head north instead towards Tilden Park. Look for the signs for “Skyline Trail to Tilden Park”.

The Skyline Trail is a 31-mile continuous path that traverses through six of the East Bay’s most historic and picturesque parks and preserves.  It is one of 1200 designated National Recreation Trails in the U.S.  And it is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, a planned 550-mile trail along ridgelines ringing the Bay Area.

The first mile of the trail is surprisingly lush.  This is because the Oakland hills capture extra rain and fog and the east side of the hills have less sun and evaporation than the west side.  You’ll be able to hear Highway 24, but try to imagine you’re hearing a waterfall in the distance.

Lush zone during the first mile of trail

During the first half mile or so you’ll notice many Big Leaf Maple trees, which is quite unusual, because they are normally constrained to riparian zones along creeks.  Along with the maples, this unique zone harbors a multitude of herbaceous flowering plants such as wild strawberry, cinquefoil, forget-me-not, cow parsnip, and others.

Cow parsnip next to the trail

After a mile of hiking you’ll reach Fish Ranch Road. After crossing the road and resuming on the other side, you’ll find that you’re now in a dry grassy scrubland.  It’s worth noticing a single Juniper Tree on the right side soon after crossing.

Beginning of grassy scrubland

A short way further you’ll reach a junction and should stay to the right.  And then soon after that you’ll arrive at the bench shown below with a fantastic view out towards Mt. Diablo.

What a view!

The trail continues up the hillside, next to Grizzly Peak Blvd., with a few switchbacks.  On our hike we noticed a couple people working in a gulley between the trail and water tank with scattered coyote brush. We stopped to talk with them and found out they were part of the CA Native Plant Society and volunteering every week to remove invasive thistle and grasses, to allow native plants to return.  They meet every Sunday morning.

The trail continues on the east side of the hill, separated from the road, and this is my favorite section of the hike.  It’s quiet and very scenic with fantastic views looking out over the Siesta Valley.

View out towards Siesta Valley

After a little over 2 miles you’ll reach an EBMUD gate and see the road up to the left. This is close to Scott’s Peak Trailhead (opposite side of road) and where I usually turn around and return the same way I came.

Grizzly Peak Blvd. and EBUD gate where I normally turn around

You’ll see a fire road heading straight down the hill, which ends at Cal Shakes – a great place to see Shakespeare and other plays during the summer.

If you continue further you’ll soon reach the junction with the De La Veaga Trail, which is an EBMUD trail that winds down to Orinda (permit required).  And if you continue straight you’ll reach the Tilden Steam Train and Seaview Trailhead.

Another option is to cross the street and hike down to the Claremont Canyon Lookout.

 

 

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