Tag Archives: ridge

Tilden Park Quarry-Seaview Loop

5 Apr

Length: 3.8 miles
Time: 90 minutes
Difficulty: Medium
Dogs: Yes!
Calories: 600
Elevation Gain: 812 feet
Best Season: Winter and spring when the hills are green.  Pick a clear, sunny day when it’s 55-70 degrees.  Not much shade. Trail is a little rocky and won’t get too muddy.
EMBUD Permit Required:  No
Highlights:  The views from the Seaview Trail are some of the best in the Bay Area!
Directions:  Take San Pablo Dam Road northwest from Orinda.  Take a left on Wildcat Canyon Road.  Continue roughly three miles, past Inspiration Point, until you reach the Quarry Picnic Site (on the left).
Trailhead:  Look for the signs for the Quarry Trail.

With the stay-at-home orders in Contra Costa County I’ve had quite a bit more time to hike and write up hikes.  This is an ideal hike in the spring and has wide trails which allow social distancing.  But because of the wide trails you may also encounter a few mountain bikers.

Tilden Regional Park has been called the jewel of the Easy Bay Regional Park system and is one of the three oldest parks in the system.  The 2,079 acre park was purchased all the way back in 1936. In earlier days the land was occupied by Ohlone Indians, who were driven off the land as ranchers moved in.  Eucalyptus plantations within the park were planted around 1910 by the Eucalyptus, Mahogany, & Land Company.

To begin the hike, cross through the picnic area, and look for signs for Quarry Trail.  Stay to the right and you’ll begin a gradual climb through an open meadow.

Beginning of the Quarry Trail

After about 4/10th of a mile you’ll reach a four-way intersection with the Lower Big Springs Trail.  Stay right.  You could also take Lower Big Springs Trail in the same direction, but I haven’t gone that way yet.

As you cross the meadow you’ll notice blooming California poppies and lupine in the spring and plenty of coyote brush.  There are actually a huge list of wildflowers that can be found at Tilden. For a complete Tilden Wildflower Guide (21 pages) click here.

The trail also has patches of woodland, mostly Monterey pines.

One of the little patches of woodland on the Quarry Trail

After about 1.2 miles of hiking you’ll reach the Big Springs parking area on South Park Road.  Look for the Lower Big Springs Trail heading up the hill in the same direction.  In the winter months (Nov-March), you won’t see any cars on South Park Drive because it’s closed to protect the migration process for Newts. Otherwise they are in great danger of getting run over.

You’ll climb about 2/3rds of a mile up Lower Big Springs Trail, until the trail curves sharply to the left and connects to the Seaview Trail.  Just stay left and you’ll make sure to end up heading North.

For a little over a mile you’ll be on the amazing Seaview Trail, which is also the 380 mile Bay Area Ridge Trail and the East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail. Enjoy some of the best views in the Bay Area looking out towards San Francisco and the Golden Gate to the West, and San Pablo & Briones Reservoirs to the East, with Mt. Diablo in the background.

First view spot and bench on the Seaview Trail, with San Francisco in the distance.

As you traverse along the Seaview Trail you’ll come across a few view spots with benches and even a picnic table and small labyrinth. What a spot for a picnic lunch or watching the sunset!  The highpoint on the trail is about 1630 feet.

View area with labyrinth and picnic table, with Mt. Tamalpais in the distance.

The Seaview Trail runs atop the San Pablo Ridge, a small mountain range that runs from Pinole to Orinda.

Seaview Trail – heading north

After a bit you’ll start descending.  You’ll pass an intersection with the Lower Big Springs Trail (left side).  Continue straight and then at the next intersection make sure to stay left to take a connector trail back down to the Quarry Picnic Site.

Map of the Quarry-Seaview Loop

 

Tilden Park map..

 

 

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: 2.5 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: There is some poison oak on this trail, but it’s been mostly trimmed back.

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 – look for post with “W10”

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 post with “W10” on it and a trail that veers off to the right.  Veer right there.

It takes about 15 minutes to reach this junction and it is the beginning of the best part!  This trail will wind along the ridge for 1.7 miles, taking 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

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 gully with 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).

Also worth noting is the diversity of oak trees. There are four species you can see along the way: Coast Live Oak, Valley Oak, California Black Oak, and Blue Oak. The Black and Blue Oaks are much less common and you’ll be able to spot them on the top of the ridge.  Pictures of the leaves at the bottom of this post.

And in the Spring, you may notice large, mostly black butterflies.  These are likely pipevine swallowtails. Picture below.

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly – drawn to the nectar in the sage flowers.

After about 40 minutes of hiking you’ll reach a trail intersection (“W8”) and 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 may notice that the intersection sign says Clyde Wood Trail. This is the name given by the Rossmoor Hiking Club, who maintains the trail.  Here is a link to the Rossmoor hiking map..

Continue in the same direction – one more mile to go. After going through a gate and reaching a meadow, you’ll see another post on the left with “W7” on it.  Directly across is a gate. On the other side is an unofficial trail that goes down into Hunsaker Canyon, ending near an abandoned barn.  This land is owned by East Bay Regional Parks and is currently “land banked” and not open to the public.

Continuing past “W7” post..

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 Las Trampas Fire/Ridge Trail, which 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

 

Oak Tree Leaves

 

Black Oak leaf

Blue Oak leaf