Tag Archives: Valley Vista Staging Area

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.

 

King’s Canyon Loop

25 May

Length: 6.6 miles
Time:  2.5 hours
Difficulty: Long hike with one steep section
Elevation Gain: 643 feet
Dogs:  Allowed
EBMUD Permit:  Required
Calories: 1200
Highlights:  If you love the Lafayette Reservoir Rim Trail then you’ll love this hike.  It’s a similar degree of difficulty, but a little longer and with fewer people.  This trail leaves from the Valley Vista Staging Area, just south of Moraga, and skirts along the northern edge of Upper San Leandro Reservoir, which feels a world away from the rat race in Moraga (kidding).
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 left.
Special Notes:  Make sure to bring plenty of water!

This is the only trail next to the sprawling San Leandro Reservoir, which was completed back in 1926 by the East Bay Water Co.   It receives water from the San Leandro Creek, which runs adjacent to Pinehurst Road and the small town of Canyon, traveling a total of 21.7 miles along the eastern side of the Oakland and San Leandro Hills.    The creek is famous for having been the site of the first rainbow trout hatchery in the world.   There are signs about the rainbow trout along Redwood Creek in Redwood Regional Park.

Beginning of the Kings Canyon Loop

Beginning of the Kings Canyon Loop

The Kings Canyon Loop starts at the Valley Vista Staging Area.  After you go through the gate and sign in (EBMUD permit required), head down to the left towards the reservoir on the Rocky Ridge Trail.  After about a quarter mile, take the trail that veers to the left down a little hill.  This will take you through a pleasant forest of monterey pines (picture below).   It is native to three very limited areas located in Santa Cruz, Monterey Peninsula, and San Luis Obispo Counties.  When you reach a fire road, take a right, crossing the bridge over Moraga Creek, and then passing a working ranch area with horses (picture below).  After you go through a gate, you will reach a junction.  The Rocky Ridge trail goes up the hill to the left.  Continue straight or to the right along the reservoir.   This is the beginning of the Kings Canyon Trail.

Knobcone pine forestKings-Canyon-Ranch

The trail winds, up and down, through a forest of California bay trees and oak trees along the northern side of the Reservoir (see picture).    There are many views of the Reservoir along the way, but you’ll reach the best view after about an hour of hiking.  There is a clearing with a bench and a perfect view of the Reservoir looking south (see picture).  It’s worth a stop for a few minutes!  This is a perfect place to have a little snack or picnic lunch.  With no signs of civilization in any direction it seems a world away.

Kings-Canyon-Trail

The Kings Canyon Trail

Kings-Canyon-Bench

My favorite hiking partner admiring the view of Upper San Leandro Reservoir!

When you continue, the trail will begin to turn away from the Reservoir along an inlet.  The inlet gets marshy towards the end and is a great place to spot birds.   After a little ways you will reach a gate near Rancho Laguna Park.  This is officially the end of the Kings Canyon Trail and for the rest of the loop you will be on the Rocky Ridge Trail.   From here it’s 2.6 miles back to the parking lot.

Take the single-track trail to the left.  When you reach a tiny creek bed, the trail appears to go right and left.  Make sure to go left up the hill.   Next, you will reach a fire road that goes straight up/down the hill.  Take a left up the hill.  This is the steepest part of the hike!  Take the second right turn.   The wrong turns will say “Fire Road Closed to Public.”  On the next stretch you will see views of Moraga in the distance and then a great view towards the Valley Vista Staging Area once you emerge from the trees.   After a steep down section, you’ll reach a junction where you take a left down the hill.  Take a right at the bottom, going back to the staging area the way you came.

View of Moraga

View of Moraga on the way back

If you don’t have time for the whole loop, you can easily hike as far as you want on the Kings Canyon Trail and then turn around.    For instance you can turn around at 45 minutes for a 1.5 hour hike.

Hike goes counter-clockwise

Hike goes counter-clockwise