Tag Archives: Orinda

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.

 

 

Mulholland Ridge Loop

26 Mar

Length: 3.4 miles or 4+ miles with extension to Donald Reservoir
Time: 60-90 minutes
Difficulty: Easy, a little climb at the beginning
Dogs: Yes!! Great for dogs.
Calories: 500+
Elevation Gain: 563 feet
Best Season: Fall through Spring.  A good option when other trails are muddy.
EMBUD Permit Required:  No
Highlights:  Outstanding views of Moraga Valley and Mt. Diablo and an excellent area for dogs. Dogs may be off-leash at the top (inside the gates and only on the paved area) as long as you have control.
Directions:  From the Rheem Shopping Center, go South on Moraga Road and take a right on Donald Drive.  From there you have two options: a) If Hacienda De Las Flores is open you can park and start from there, or b) continue until you see the next left turn (which is still Donald Dr.), take a left, and continue until the end and park.
Trailhead:  From the Hacienda De Las Flores parking lot, follow trail signs for the Cindy Waxman Trail (see map below), leading up the hill behind the main building. Exit gate at the top of the trail, turn left on Donald Drive and continue until reaching the gate.  Or if you drive to the gate on Donald Dr. you’ll be there.

 

Mulholland Ridge Loop – detailed map

 

Cindy Waxman Trail from Hacienda de las Flores Park

Mulholland Ridge is a 250-acre open space on the boundary of Orinda and Moraga that’s typically accessed near the Rheem Valley and the Rheem Shopping Center.  The ridge has an old road bed (Donald Drive) that is closed and grown a bit wild.

This open space is fairly well known in Moraga, but somewhat undiscovered by those in Lafayette and Orinda. It is especially popular for walking dogs, but has incredible panoramic views for all to enjoy.  Perfect on a sunny, clear day that’s not too windy and/or when other trails are too wet or muddy.

Once you go through the gate, you’ll be on the portion of Donald Drive that’s been closed to cars for a long time (anyone know?) and you can see how dirt and plants have reclaimed the sides. The trail is flanked by large, old Monterey pine trees on both sides, which must have been planted when the road was first put in.

Entrance gate on Donald Drive

You will also notice coast live oaks and lots of coyote bush.  If you look up, you may see birds soaring above the open space – maybe white-tailed kites, red-tailed hawks, or American kestrals.

Climbing Mulholland Ridge Trail (with pine trees)

After you’ve climbed a little the trail will flatten out and you can begin to enjoy the amazing views in all directions, including of Mt. Diablo (see picture).

View of Mt. Diablo from junction with Goodfellow Trail

This hike is typically done as an out and back, but I like to turn it into a loop by incorporating the Goodfellow Trail and the adjacent neighborhood (see the map). When you see the first fire road branch off to the right, that is the Goodfellow Trail.  If you start this way, stay left. You can do the loop in either direction.

Hiking on the Goodfellow Trail

Directly across from the Goodfellow Trail, the fire road continues through a cow grazing area out onto a ridge and to the Donald Reservor.  This is a recommended extension as long as you’re comfortable with cows.  If not, then skip it.

On Donald Drive at the very top, you’ll be walking adjacent to the Orinda Oaks Open Space (downhill to the South) and may notice the Ridge Trail going down the hill.  There are some benches and tables to stop and enjoy the view, a snack, or even a picnic.

Donald Drive at the top

 

Link to Moraga Trails Map.

 

 

Old San Pablo Trail

2 Feb

Length: 3.5 miles or longer if you’d like
Time: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Dogs: No
Calories: 500-600
Elevation Gain: 240 feet, fairly flat
Best Season: Any time of year, as long as not muddy
EMBUD Permit Required:  Yes
Highlights:  A surprisingly nice walk parallel to San Pablo Creek with nice views of the San Pablo Reservoir
Directions: Take Camino Pablo northwest from Orinda until you reach Bear Creek Road.  Take a right on Bear Creek and then you’ll see a parking area immediately to the left.  This is the Orinda Connector Staging Area.
Trailhead:  The EMBUD trailhead and sign-in is just past the beginning of the trail.
Map: EBMUD Trail Map

The Old San Pablo Trail runs adjacent to Old San Pablo Dam Road which used to be the main road through the San Pablo Valley before the modern San Pablo Dam Road was built.

Beginning of the hike

To start the hike, sign in at the EBMUD kiosk and then zig-zag down the rocky trail into the wooded riparian habitat of San Pablo Creek.

After about 2/10ths of a mile you’ll reach an intersection with the Oursan Trail.  I like to go out on the bridge and check out the creek before continuing.  The San Pablo Creek flows for 18.7 miles and drains one of the largest watersheds in the East Bay with 34 named tributaries.  The creek was dammed in 1919 forming the San Pablo Reservoir.  If you continue on Oursan Trail you’ll reach a meadow with large pine trees and a few scattered picnic tables, which would be a nice spot for a picnic lunch with kids.

But for the hike described here, we will continue on Old San Pablo Trail.

After a half mile you’ll reach EBMUD Watershed Headquarters.  This is a convenient spot to pick up a trail permit if you don’t already have one.

EBMUD Watershed Office

Before long, you’ll begin enjoying wonderful views of San Pablo Reservoir.  The Reservoir was built in 1919 by the East Bay Water Co., a predecessor of EBMUD.  The reservoir refused to fill up during the first ten years until they started piping water from the Pardee Reservoir in the Sierras.  Today it provides water for 20% of EBMUD’s customers.   You may notice ducks and geese who winter here and herons and egrets who raise their young along the shores.

View of San Pablo Reservoir

The trail winds through a combination of oak, Monterey pine, and California bay trees.

At 1.7 miles (and roughly 45 minutes) you’ll reach Old San Pablo Dam Road.  This is where I normally turn around.

If you cross the road, you’ll reach the intersection with Inspiration Trail.  If you’re looking for a more rigorous hike, you can take that trail to the left (which is mainly fire roads) for about 2 miles and you’ll climb up to Inspiration Point (1040 feet of elevation) or you can go right and continue on Old San Pablo Trail for almost four more miles, passing the marina, all the way to the dam and Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area.

Map showing first 1.7 miles on the Old San Pablo Trail starting from the Orinda Connector Staging Area.