Tag Archives: redwoods

French Trail Loop

6 Jul

Length: 6.4 miles (can shorten to 4 mile loop)
Time: About 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Medium.
Dogs: Yes – on a leash
Around 1000
Elevation Gain: 1,534 feet
HighlightsRedwood Regional Park is my favorite park in the East Bay, containing the largest remaining natural stand of coast redwood found in the East Bay.  This shady loop offers a nice sampler of some of the best sections and trails in the park.  The first half of the hike follows the Stream Trail with majestic redwoods along Redwood Creek.  The second half traverses the scenic “uplands” of the park along the popular French Trail.  This hike can be done in either direction.
DirectionsFrom Moraga take Canyon Road south until reaching Pinehurst.  Take a left on Pinehurst and wind over the hill until reaching Redwood Road.  Take a right.  The park entrance will soon appear on your right.    Park in the first parking lot on the left after you see the “Fishway” area and sign.  $5 parking fee on weekends.
From the Oakland side take Highway 13 to the Carson Street/Redwood Road exit.  Go East on Redwood Road for 3.2 miles until reaching the park entrance, passing Skyline Blvd on the way.  Turn left into the park.  Park in the first parking lot on the left after you see the “Fishway” area and sign.  $5 parking fee on weekends.
Trailhead:  The hike starts at the Fishway area.
Special Notes:  There is quite a bit of poison oak along the French Trail so be careful or consider wearing long lightweight pants.

This hike isn’t technically in the Lamorinda area, but I figured I should write a post about it since I recommended it for an article in the Contra Costa Times titled “Bay Area’s best hiking trails” published on Sunday, July 6th, 2014.
View article…


Before starting your hike take a minute to check out the interpretive signs about Rainbow Trout.  The world-famous rainbow trout were first identified as a distinct species from fish taken from San Leandro Creek drainage, of which Redwood Creek is a tributary.  The trout that spawn in Redwood Creek today are descendants of that pure strain of native trout.

(Fishway interpretive area shown above)

Make sure to grab a map.  Redwood Park is a maze of trails and it is very easy to take a wrong turn.  So at each intersection double check the trail posts to ensure you’re going the right way.  Link to park map…

To start the hike, cross the bridge and take a right on the Bridle Trail.  Bridle Trail runs adjacent to Redwood Creek and bypasses the main parking lot and busy picnic areas.  After about a half mile you may notice that the second group of redwood trees on the right appears to be in a circle (see picture).  This is called a “fairy ring.”    Redwoods sprout from the stumps or roots of existing trees.  When the original tree dies, the surrounding shoots may develop into mature trees in a circle around the ancient parent.  Try to imagine the old growth tree that would have been in the middle of the circle!

(Bridle Trail on left and a “Fairy Ring” of redwoods on the right)

You’ll reach a connector to the main Stream Trail, but you’ll want to stay left on the Bridle Trail.  The trail will climb just a little and you’ll see the Stream Trail down to your right as you hike just above it.  At one point there is an unmarked trail heading left, but you’ll want to go right and continue paralleling the Stream Trail.    At about 1.5 miles The Bridle Trail will merge into Stream Trail (at the intersection with the Chown Trail).

Option for a 4 mile loop: After reaching the Stream Trail, go about a quarter mile and instead of going straight take a left on the Fern Trail, climb to the French Trail, and take a left.   This will cut a little over 2 miles from the loop.


Stream Trail

For the full 6.4 mile loop continue on Stream Trail – the “spine” of the park.  The largest redwoods along the creek are second and third growth descendants from a virgin, old-growth forest, just like Muir Woods, that was completely logged between 1840-1860, then logged again after the 1906 earthquake.  So, the tallest trees are only about 100 years old.  But that is long enough for many of them to have grown over 100 feet tall!   Left undisturbed these amazing trees can live over 1000 years and grow to be over 300 feet tall.

At a little over 2.5 miles you’ll reach the intersection with Tres Sendas Trail (translates from Spanish to three paths).  This is one of the most scenic spots in the park.  Take a left on Tres Sendas Trail and then take a break at the bench on the right, a perfect place to rest, have a snack, and take in the view.

Bench near intersection of Stream and Tres Sendas Trails

Bench near intersection of Stream and Tres Sendas Trails

After just a tenth of a mile on the Tres Sendas Trail take a left on Starflower Trail.  Get ready for one of the main climbing sections of the hike, but it’s only about a third of a mile.  When you reach the French Trail, take a left.

The French Trail winds along the western “uplands” of the park back in the direction you came.  You’ll continue to see many redwoods, but also many California Bay Laurel trees and a few oak trees in the sunniest spots.  When the French Trail intersects with the Chown Trail, make sure to follow the sign pointing left to stay on the French Trail.

Hiking along the French Trail

Hiking along the French Trail

Along the French Trail and throughout the park, you’ll see ferns everywhere.  This is an amazing family of plants.  Ferns first appear in the fossil record 360 million years ago and now there are 12,000 different species of ferns.  Ferns reproduce via spores and have neither seeds nor flowers.  They tend to grow in areas where it is challenging for flowering plants to survive.  You will see two types of ferns in the park:  the western sword fern and the wood fern.  See the picture of each type.

(Western Sword Fern on left, Wood Fern on right)

After about 2.7 miles on the French Trail, you’ll reach Orchard Trail.  Take a left, descending back down to the Bridle Trail.  Take a right at Bridle Trail and return to the Fishway area.

An interesting piece of history:  when Alameda County was split off from Contra Costa County in 1853, the border was put right through the center of these redwood lands, because both counties realized the value of the forest and didn’t want to give it up.



Link to park map…

There are an unlimited number of loops that you can create in Redwood Park.  Just grab a map and plan a route from whatever staging area you start from.



Redwood Trail

29 Jan

Length: 3.1 miles
Time: 1 hour and 15 minutes
Total Climbing: 751 feet
Difficulty: Medium
EBMUD Permit Required:  Yes
Dogs: No
Calories: 350?
Highlights: This is the fastest access to redwood trees from the Lamorinda area and crosses two undisturbed streams.  After hiking from the Valley Vista staging area (south of Moraga) back into the Canyon, you hike up through a nice redwood forest until reaching East Ridge trail in Redwood Park where you turn around.
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.  Take the trail to the right.

Redwood Trail entry gate - sign in and take a right.

Redwood Trail entry gate – sign in and take a right.

Take a right on the foot path at this junction

Take a right on the foot path at this junction

Follow the dirt road to the right up a steep hill.  You will see a foot trail branch off to the right.  That is the way you want to go.   The fairly level trail winds along the side of the hill back into the canyon before dropping down into the redwood  trees.  You’ll cross Indian Creek, which is worth stopping for a minute to admire, before reaching a gate.

Cross the street to the gate on the south side of Pinehurst Road.  Now you’ll cross San Leandro Creek before winding steadily up through redwoods and ferns.  Stop for a second and realize that you’re hiking in a redwood forest within 20 minutes of your home!  We are incredibly lucky to live so near these majestic trees that can grow over 300 feet tall and live over 2000 years!  In fact, coastal redwoods are the tallest living species on Earth and the oldest recorded tree lived to more than 2200 years!


This area was once a forest of ancient redwoods, but was completely logged between 1840-1860.  You may notice that the new redwood trees (only 150 years old) often grow in rough circles around where an ancient tree would have been.   That is because redwoods sprout from their stumps or roots.  When the original tree dies, the surrounding shoots may develop into mature trees in a circle around the parent. These groups are known as “fairy rings.”   Coast Redwoods like a lot of water and survive in the dry summers by capturing fog and mists that drift in from the ocean.

You should reach the top (East Ridge Trail) within 40 minutes or so.  You can extend your hike by going left or right a little ways on East Ridge trail or just turn around and head back.

The gate at the top of the hill with East Ridge Trail on the other side

The gate at the top of the hill with East Ridge Trail on the other side

Trail map from MayMyHike

Trail map from MayMyHike

Redwood Park Loop

13 Jan

Length: 5.77 miles
Time: About 2 hours
Difficulty: Medium.  One steep section for about 1/4 mile.
Dogs: Yes!
Calories: 400-500
Highlights: Redwood Regional Park is my favorite park in the East Bay and this loop offers the sun and outstanding views from the East Ridge Trail combined with the shady majesty of the redwood trees along Redwood Creek Trail.  A great combination!
Directions:  Redwood Park has a main entrance off of Redwood Road and also from Skyline Drive, but the closest access from Lamorinda is the “Pinehurst Gate.”  Drive to Moraga and then take Canyon Road south from the intersection of Moraga Road and Moraga Way.  When you reach Pinehurst Rd. take a left.  Follow the windy road to the top of the hill and look for a parking spot.  You will see the “Pinehurst Gate” sign.
Trailhead:  The trailhead has a sign, gate, kiosk, and maps of Redwood Park, if you don’t have one.
Map: Redwood Park map…

Pinehurst Gate

Pinehurst Gate

A little background…  Redwood Regional Park was once a virgin, old-growth redwood forest like Muir Woods, but was completely logged between 1840-1860.   So all of the redwood trees that you see now are “second growth” that have grown since 1860.   That is long enough that many of them have grown over 100 feet tall!  Left undisturbed these amazing trees can live over 1000 years and grow to be over 300 feet tall.

To start you hike head through the gate and up the first hill that you see in the photo.  You will be on East Ridge Trail that runs along the eastern ridge of the park.   It is a fire road that winds along the ridge, with lots of sun, and tremendous views.  You will hike about 2.5 miles or close to an hour until you reach Prince Trail.  Take a left.

Bench on East Ridge Trail

Bench on East Ridge Trail

Prince Trail descends down into the valley of the park.  When you reach the Stream Trail take a left.  The Stream Trail is the “spine” of the park.  It passes through groves of coast redwoods and goes alongside the Redwood Creek.

Stream Trail

Stream Trail

Redwood Creek has a special place in history.  The word-famous rainbow trout were first identified as a distinct species from fish caught in San Leandro Creek, of which Redwood Creek is a tributary.   The trout that spawn in Redwood Creek migrate from a downstream reservoir.  You will notice signs along the trail that give more information.

After a little over a half mile on Stream Trail, you will reach the “Trails End”, which is the end of the paved trail, and as far as bikes can go, from the other direction. After a while you will reach a picnic area and a sign for the Canyon Trail (see picture).  Canyon Trail will take you back up to East Ridge Trail.  Canyon Trail is steep but not that long.  Just take it at whatever pace you’re comfortable.

Sign for Canyon Trail

Sign for Canyon Trail

Once you reach the top, take a right and return to your car.

Aerial View of the Redwood Park Loop