Tag Archives: easy

Bear Creek Trail

15 Oct

Length: 4.3 miles (for entire trail)
Time:  Any amount of time up to 2 hours (depending on where you turn around)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.
Elevation Gain: Modest
Dogs:  Not Allowed
EBMUD Permit:  Required
Calories: 800-900 (for 90 min hike)
Highlights:  The Bear Creek Trail traverses the south side of Briones Reservoir.  It is an outstanding trail that’s forested, has beautiful water views, and minimal climbing to contend with.  You can start on the Briones Dam side or the Briones Creek side and hike as far as you’d like and turn around.
Directions to Briones Overlook Trailhead (from Orinda):  From Orinda take Camino Pablo north towards San Pablo Dam Road.  Take a right on Bear Creek Road and go a couple miles to the Briones Overlook Staging Area (on the left).  The trailhead is on the northwest corner of the parking lot.
Directions to Bear Creek Trailhead (from Lafayette):  From Lafayette take Happy Valley Road up over the hill to Bear Creek Road.  Take a right and then a quick left into the Bear Creek Staging Area.   This staging area is on the opposite side of the road from the entrance to Briones Regional Park.   The trailhead is on the creek side of the parking lot.
Special Notes:  There’s a lot of poison oak here, although the trail is well-used and generally clear.

This is really one of the best trails in the Lamorinda area.  You can start on either end and turn around whenever you feel like it.  I typically hike about 45 minutes before turning back.  There is a high point with two benches that also makes a good turnaround spot.  The other option is to use two cars and leave a car at the end you’re hiking towards.  Then you can complete the entire trail.

The trail runs between Bear Creek Road and the Briones Reservoir, along the southern slopes of the Reservoir.  The south side is much more wooded (mostly Bay Laurel) than the north side that has scattered oak trees.  Along the way there are many great views of the Briones Reservoir.

Hiking from the Bear Creek Staging Area:

Crossing Bear Creek

Crossing Bear Creek

Enter the gate on the left, cross the creek, and then you’ll arrive at an old unused paved road.  Take a right and follow the straight road/path towards the reservoir.   The open area is an old tree farm.   A dirt fire road follows the shoreline and then begins to climb and changes into a singletrack trail.

Bear-Creek-2Bear-Creek-3

After about 1.7 miles you’ll reach a service road.  Look for posts with directional arrows that show how to stay on the Bear Creek Trail.  Soon you’ll crest at a high point with two benches.  This is a great spot for a picnic/snack before turning around.

Bear-Creek4Bear-Creek-5

If you continue you’ll begin to go gradually down towards the Briones Overlook staging area – near the dam.

Two benches at high point of trail - reached after about 60 minutes of hiking

Two benches at high point of trail – reached after about 60 minutes of hiking

Hiking from the Briones Overlook Staging Area:

Briones-Dam-1Briones-Dam-2

Enter the gate on the northwest side.  You’ll begin to gradually climb and wind along the slopes of the reservoir with views out towards the dam.   Briones Dam is an earthen dam that was completed in 1964.  It is the largest of EBMUD’s five East Bay terminal reservoirs with a total capacity of 60,510 acre·ft (74,640,000 m3).

View of Briones Dam from trail

View of Briones Dam from trail

After about 30-40 minutes you’ll reach a high point with two benches that make for a good spot to have a snack and possibly turn around.   After this point you will gradually begin to descend towards Bear Creek at the far end of the reservoir.

Briones-Dam-4Briones-Dam-5

The map below shows a hike that went about 45 minutes from the staging area before turning around.

Map of Bear Creek Trail - red line shows hiking for 45 minutes from Briones Dam side of trail.

Map of Bear Creek Trail – red line shows hiking for 45 minutes from Briones Dam side of trail.

Huckleberry Loop from Canyon

26 Feb

Length: 3.26 miles
Time:  80 minutes
Difficulty: Easy – Medium.  Fine for kids if they can handle the length.
Elevation Gain: 590 feet
Dogs:  Not allowed
EBMUD Permit:  Not required.
Calories: 500
Highlights:  Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve is one of the jewels of the East Bay Park system and this hike provides quick access via Pinehurst Road versus going all the way to the main entrance on Skyline Blvd.   This hike makes a nice loop through a unique array of native plants found only in a few areas along California’s coast and rare to the East Bay.  A great hike to impress an out-of-town guest.
Directions:  Drive to Moraga and then go south on Canyon Road, which ends at Pinehurst Road.  Go right on Pinehurst Road.   You will pass through the tiny town of Canyon.   It’s fun to remember that a train used to run through this canyon.  After a little over two miles you will reach a hairpin turn with a fire road gate.  Park there.
Trailhead:   You will see a gate with “Fire Trail 41-17” on it.
Special Notes:  A self-guided nature path brochure highlighting plants that may be seen along the path is available at the entrance off of Skyline Blvd and is also available online.  I’d recommend printing at home since you’ll be entering through the backside of the park.   Text side…   Map side…

Huckleberry Entrance SignThe 240-acre Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve is a unique park in the East Bay Park system.  It’s not just a protected open space—it’s an ecological marvel.  The native plant community here is found nowhere else in the East Bay.  The plants originated in the distant past along the southern coast of California when the climate was more moist and tempered by cool coastal fog.  The same plants can be found on the islands off the Santa Barbara coast!

The soil in parts of the preserve is rocky and lacks nutrition for all but the hardiest chaparral species, such as Manzanita.  One of the plants to look out for is the rare and endangered Alameda Manzanita.

Huckleberry entrance gate from Pinehurst Road in Canyon

Huckleberry entrance gate from Pinehurst Road in Canyon

Park on the side of the road and begin your hike by walking past the gate and adjacent to the San Leandro Creek.  After about a quarter mile, and a short climb, you will reach a junction.  Going right leads to Sibley Volcanic Preserve and going left takes you to Huckleberry.  In either direction you will be using the Bay Area Ridge Trail or Skyline National Trail.  The Skyline National Trail runs for 32 miles through the East Bay Hills and is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which makes a 550+ mile continuous trail along the ridgelines overlooking San Francisco Bay.

After veering left, hike another tenth of a mile and you will reach the “lower trail” of the Huckleberry Loop.  The lower trail winds through a mature bay forest.  Take a left.

About a half mile of hiking will bring you to a junction with a “shortcut trail” that heads up the hill through the woods.  Continue straight.  When you reach the second junction, take a right.  This is the far end of the Huckleberry Loop.   You are now on the upper trail.  The upper trail is more diverse and has most of the native plant markers.  So, if you printed out the self-guided nature path, then keep a look out for markers.

You will pass the shortcut trail again, and then reach two paths that go off to the right.  They both go out to nice sunny viewpoints and are worth the short side trips.  Two views of Mt. Diablo below…

Huckleberry View of DiabloHuckleberry-Lookout2

After about a mile on the upper trail, you will reach a junction near the entrance to the park.  Take a right and descend back down to the lower trail via a few switchbacks.  You will reach the junction where you started.

Huckleberry trail map - notice dotted line from Pinehurst Road and the loop it reaches

Huckleberry trail map – notice dotted line from Pinehurst Road and the loop it reaches

Hunsaker Canyon Barn Walk

16 Dec

Length: 2.75 miles roundtrip from the beginning of Hunsaker Canyon Road.
Time: 45-60 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Dogs: Yes!
Calories: Around 350
Highlights:  A very scenic stroll through Hunsaker Canyon with the first half being on a paved private road and the second half being a dirt road that used to lead to a ranch.  The land has been purchased and “land banked” by the East Bay Regional Park District but is not officially open to the public.  Enter at your own risk.
Directions:  Take Silverado Road south through Burton Valley.  Take a left on Bradbury and park where you see the green “Hunsaker Canyon Private Road” sign (see picture).
Trailhead:  Begin your hike by proceeding on Hunsaker Canyon Road by foot.
Special Notes:  Since this area has not been prepared for public use and various types of wildlife have been spotted – it is only appropriate for experienced hikers.

Hunsacker Canyon Road Sign

Park before this sign

Hunsaker Canyon Road is a private rural road that leads out of the south-eastern corner of Burton Valley.  It is most known as the route to Wildwood Acres Resort (for weddings and large parties) and the location of the 2005 murder of Pamela Vitale by troubled teen Scott Dyleski.  It should be known as the entry way to a great hiking area!  NOTE:  Since it is a private road it is only for residents and their guests and you aren’t supposed to park along it.  And make sure not to litter or use any cigarettes along this road.  It is an extreme fire danger area with no easy access to water.

Hike about 3/4ths of a mile down the road until you see a fire road gate on the left (see picture below).  This is the entry way to land owned by the East Bay Regional Park District.  Back in 2005, they purchased 1000 acres of land between Roosmoor, Burton Valley, and the Las Trampas Wilderness Area.  The area is protected and “land banked” but not officially open to the public.  It will expand the Las Trampas Wilderness Area to 5100 acres and protect the entire ridge line.

Entry gate to barn hike

Entry gate to barn hike

Climb over the gate to enter the open space.  A very scenic dirt road meanders through meadows and some trees, adjacent to Grizzly Creek for about 0.7 miles.  The road ends at a barn that’s no longer actively being used next to a huge IMG_1049beautiful oak tree.   It’s a very picturesque spot!  It would be perfect for a picnic, but there is no picnic table.  There are various old supplies and fencing laying around so keep an eye on kids.  Enjoy the peaceful setting, with no signs or sounds of suburbia, and then head back.

You may run into grazing cows in the vicinity of the barn and like most East Bay parks and wilderness areas there may be mountain lions and other wildlife in the area (coyotes, boars, snakes, etc.).  But I personally haven’t seen anything except birds and cows.

This is a nice hike with a family group with varying ages and abilities because it’s manageable for just about anyone.

Barn and oak tree at the end of the dirt road.

Barn and oak tree at the end of the dirt road.

Las Trampas Peak:

Right before the barn, there is a fire road that veers off to the right.  If you are really comfortable in the wilderness, you can take this fire road to Las Trampas Peak which is on the edge of the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness and 1827 feet high.  Stay left at the first junction.  Follow the fire road which has some pretty steep sections.  When you reach the ridge (Las Trampas Ridge Trail), take a right and you’ll arrive at Las Trampas Peak in another 10 minutes or so.    You will likely run into cows and maybe see other wildlife.  Best to do this hike with at least one other person.  It takes about an hour to reach the peak from the gate.