Tag Archives: pine trees

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.

 

 

Rimer Creek Loop

24 Mar

Length: 2.5 miles
Time:  45-60 minutes
Difficulty: easy to medium hike with one short steep section
Elevation Gain: 369 feet
Dogs:  Not allowed (but they are allowed on a leash on King Canyon Trail)
EBMUD Permit:  Required (but not during coronavirus outbreak).  Get a permit.
Calories: 400
Highlights:  Most people use the Valle Vista Staging Area to access the popular King Canyon Loop Trail. The Rimer Creek Loop is a much shorter alternative if you’re looking for something quicker and easier.  And it is a nice birding loop, if you want to spend more time with your binoculars and less time hiking.
Directions:  Drive to Moraga. Take Canyon Road until you see the Valle Vista Staging Area on your left.  Park.
Trailhead:   You will see a gate and a sign-in kiosk where you enter your EBMUD permit info (not required during the coronavirus outbreak). Take the trail to the left.
Special Notes:  Bring your binoculars if you have them!

After signing in, go downhill towards the reservoir.  After a couple hundred yards or so, veer left on the path that heads into the pine forest. The trail meanders through a very pleasant mix of pines, oaks, a few young redwoods, and other flowering trees.

Hike starts through a pine forest

When you reach a fire road, take a right, crossing the bridge over Moraga Creek, and then look for the Rimer Creek Trail and gate immediately to your left on the other side of the bridge.

Beginning of Rimer Creek Trail

The trail runs adjacent to Rimer Creek, which starts in the hills behind the Sanders Ranch neighborhood. After hiking through the woods next to the creek, you’ll emerge into a horse pasture, where the trail runs directly behind some homes, before turning uphill.

On the way up you’ll notice many teasels.  Teasels are easily identified with their prickly stem and leaves, and the inflorescence of purple, dark pink, lavender or white flowers  that form a head on the end of the stem(s). Teasels are often grown in gardens and nature reserves to attract birds, but are considered an invasive species.

Thistle

Teasels

Once you reach the top, go through the gate opening where it says “Cattle Grazing Keep Gate Closed.” On the other side is the Rocky Ridge Trail. Stop and enjoy great panoramic views of Las Trampas Peak and Rocky Ridge to the East and an arm of the Upper San Leandro Reservoir to the West.  The reservoir was completed back in 1926 by the East Bay Water Co.  The basin/watershed for the reservoir is almost 20,000 acres and 89% of it is open space! How lucky are we?

Great views in all directions!

Head downhill on the Rocky Ridge Trail. When you reach the bottom take a right on the King Canyon Trail, back towards the staging area.  After going through a gate, look out for a bench off to the left of the trail (see picture below).  This is a fantastic spot to relax in the sun for a few minutes and is also a hotspot for viewing birds.  If you think of it, bring your binoculars.  On my most recent visit, I quickly spotted Canadian geese, many American coots, some ducks, a great blue heron, and many more bird species that I didn’t take the time to identify!  A good birding book for beginners (like me) is “A Californian’s Guide to the Birds Among Us.”  For more information on birding check out the Mt. Diablo Audubon Society, which hosts about 45 field trips per year.

Bench with great views of birds

Two Canadian Geese

Continue down the road. You will pass a horse stable and either see horses there or grazing on the hill nearby.

Horses grazing

When you reach the bridge, take a quick look for birds in the water.  On my past three visits I’ve seen a pair of hooded mergansers.  They may not look unique from a distance but with binoculars you can see that the males have boldly colored oval shaped heads and brown, compact bodies (as shown).

Moraga Creek with two hooded mergansers

Then head back through the pine forest to the staging area.