Tag Archives: ridge

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.

 

 

Springhill Sunrise Loop

7 Apr

Length: 4.5-5 miles
Time:  2 hours
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous (similar to Reservoir Rim Trail)
Elevation Gain:  748 feet
Dogs:  Allowed
EBMUD Permit:  Not Required
Calories: Around 1200
Highlights:  This hike in the southeast corner of Briones Regional Park, offers a good workout, sort of like the Rim Trail, with stunning views out towards Mt. Diablo and over Lafayette, and some beautiful forests of oak trees.  It’s especially good in the spring when the hills are green.
Directions:  From Highway 24, get off at Pleasant Hill Road and go north.  Take a left on Springhill Road and take it to the very end (a couple miles).  Just before the road ends you’ll see a fire road gate and cars parked on the right side.  The end of Springhill Road is best known for the Girl Scouts camp, called Twin Canyon, that’s been here since 1954.   Map…
Trailhead:   To begin the hike, pass through the gate.

Right after going through the gate, you’ll see a sign saying “Future Site of Buckeye Ranch Staging Area.”  Apparently this area is the site of a former dude ranch – maybe called “Buckeye Ranch?”  I’m not sure when they plan to build a staging area, but it seems OK as it is.  There just aren’t any Briones trail maps to grab.

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Start your hike by veering to the right on the Buckeye Ranch Trail versus going straight up the hill in front of you on the Springhill Trail, which is where you’ll come down.   The Buckeye Ranch Trail runs alongside a creek with a pleasant canopy of oak trees.  After about a half mile of hiking you’ll reach a gate.  Once through the gate, hang a sharp right and follow signs for the Sunrise Trail.  Now you’ll be walking back in the same direction on the opposite side of the creek.   This section is flat and surprisingly scenic – a magical oak forest!

A little about oak trees…  Seven species of oak trees comprise most of the oaks you’ll see in the East Bay.  These are amazing trees.   They have evolved to survive with almost no rain for six months of the year and a mature tree can produce thousands of acorns in a year.  But only about 1 out of every 10,000 acorns becomes a tree!  Most become food for wild animals.    Oak woodlands are one of the richest and most diverse habitats in California, providing a home to over 170 species of birds, 100 mammals, 60 amphibians and reptiles, and 4000 types of insects.   Learn more ….

After another half mile or so on the opposite side of the creek, you’ll begin to climb, and will emerge from the trees onto the open hillside.   You’ll steadily climb about 700 feet over the next mile or so.  You may encounter cows on the hill.  Just walk widely around them if they are on the trail.  Make sure to turn around and enjoy the view out towards Mt. Diablo.

At the top you’ll reach the Briones Crest Trail.  Take a left.  You’ll pass the Crescent Ridge Trail on your right and then pass the Seaborg Trail on your right.    There are many more oaks to enjoy!  After a little under a mile you’ll reach the Lafayette Ridge Trail.    You’ll take a left here, heading East, but there is an optional add-on if you have the time.

OPTIONAL:  Continue past the Lafayette Ridge turnoff on the Russell Peak Trail.  After about a quarter mile, at the top of a hill, there is a little single-track trail heading up the hill on the left side.  This will take you to the top of Russell Peak (1357 feet) where there is a nice large picnic table – a great spot to enjoy a snack and the view.  Then return to the Lafayette Ridge Trail.

As you head down the Lafayette Ridge Trail you’ll see the trail in the distance following the ridge up and down.  It looks sort of like the humps on the back of a camel!  The first section is quite steep.   Continue past the Buckeye Ranch Trail and follow the ridge until you reach the Springhill Trail.  Stop to enjoy views from the Oakland Hills to the sparkling Lafayette Reservoir to Rocky Ridge and Mt. Diablo.  An incredible vista!

Take a left on the Springhill Trail and follow it back down to the staging area.  There are a couple of steep sections so be careful.  It helps to wear hiking shoes with grippy soles.

You can do this loop in either direction, but climbing up Sunrise is more of a steady and manageable incline than going up the Springhill Trail.  Bring plenty of water and protection from the sun!

Counterclockwise loop

Counterclockwise loop

 

 

Hunsaker Ridge Hike

25 Jan

Length: 4.7 miles (but you can turn around at any point)
Time: 2 hours
Difficulty: Challenging
Dogs: Yes
Calories: 800-1000
Highlights: The best hike leading out of the Burton Valley area.  After about 15 minutes of traversing over a hill, past a house, and up a fire road, you are rewarded with an outstanding, but challenging hike that winds along the ridge between Rossmoor and Hunsaker Canyon with fantastic views on both sides.  You’ll feel a world away even though you can see Rossmoor part of the time.  There is a great picnic table at the end for a snack or lunch before turning around.
Directions: Drive to Burton Valley.  Take Rohrer Drive off of St. Mary’s road and follow it past Burton Valley School, past Rancho Colorados Swim Club and up to Henson’s Equestrian Center (2750 Rohrer).  Park across the street from the Equestrian Center.
Trailhead: You will see a small sign that says Rohrer Trail.  This is the official name but I think the name should have “ridge” in it.
Special Notes: This is a narrow trail with some poison oak (not a lot) and it is recommended to wear long pants or be careful.

The trailhead - across from Henson's Equestrian Center

The trailhead – across from Henson’s Equestrian Center

This trail will get your heart pumping right away with a few switchbacks up a steep hill between two homes.  Enjoy the great views of Mt. Diablo!  Drop down the other side and continue until you end up on a driveway in front of a home.  Just continue past the home and you’ll see the beginning of a fire road on the opposite side.   There is some cool outdoor artwork to admire.

Rohrer3

The trail along the ridge veers off to the right before the second gate

Going up the fire road is another noticeable climb and you’ll be thinking “I hope this is worth it!.”  It will be.  You’ll pass by a gate on your way up.  Keep going up and over the hill.  On your way down on the other side you’ll see a second gate across the fire road and maybe 15 yards before it will be a little trail that veers off to the right.  It takes about 15 minutes to reach this junction and it is the beginning of the best part!  This narrow trail will wind along the ridge for about 45 minutes.

The trail is fun but a bit challenging.  It goes up and down, through lots of varied plant zones, over rocks, through gates, etc.  It has a little bit of everything and it’s all very scenic.  As you traverse the ridge you’ll see views of Roosmoor on one side and views of Hunsaker Canyon and Las Trampas Peak on the other side.

Rohrer6Rohrer7

You may notice tire tracks on the trail.  There is apparently at least one mountain biker who has the skills to come down this “single track” trail.  Very impressive!

Buddha statue

Buddha statue

There are some special things to look for along the way.  At one point on the hike you’ll go through a tiny little gullywith rock walls on both sides.   About 20 yards before you reach that there is a little trail off to the right with a Buddha statue – smiling in the sun (see picture).

There are three gates to go through along the way.  Soon after going through the first gate you’ll notice a little trail that heads down the hill to the right.  This goes down into Hunsaker Canyon, ending up near the barn.

After about 40 minutes of hiking you’ll reach a nice bench with a views out over Rossmoor with Mt. Diablo in the distance (see picture).  This is a nice spot to take a quick break or a good turnaround point if you don’t want to go all the way to the end.  You’ll see a little “TG 14” sign that must be a trail down into Rossmoor.  You’ll want to continue along the ridge.

After about an hour, and roughly 2.3 miles of hiking, the trail will split into two as it gradually climbs to the top of the final hill.  Going right will take you to a fire road that will lead you up to Las Trampas Peak if you take a right (1 – 1.5 miles?).  Staying left will lead to a nice picnic table for a well-deserved rest and is the turnaround spot (see picture).

Picnic table at the end of the trail

Picnic table at the end of the trail

Topographical map

Topographical map