Tag Archives: views

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

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

Russell Peak Loop

8 Nov

Length: 3.4 miles
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Difficulty: Medium
Dogs: Yes!
Calories: 280 (from MapMyFitness)
Highlights:  After a rather steep walk up a private road, you are rewarded with a great hike in the hills above Happy Valley, with outstanding views, and one of the best picnic spots around for lunch or dinner.  It takes about an hour to get to Russell Peak and about 30 minutes to get back down (shorter route).  I like to stop at Whole Foods, Diablo Foods, or Chow and pick up a picnic lunch and cold beverage and bring it along in a daypack.
Directions:  Take Happy Valley Road northwest from downtown Lafayette, until you get to Happy Valley Elementary School.  Take a right on Panorama Drive and park before the “END” sign that says “No parking beyond this point.”
Trailhead:  Head up Panorama Drive past the “END” sign.

Looking up Panorama Drive

This hike starts out with a rather steep walk up Panorama Drive, but don’t be deterred, it will be worth it.  You will reach a final house on the left and a gate across the road.  Continue hiking until you reach an unmarked fire road that heads off to the left.  This is part of the Mariposa Trail, but there is no sign.

Mariposa means butterfly in Spanish and this trail is named after the “clouds” of butterflys that used to be found along this loop a few decades ago.    Apparently they’ve moved on.

Take a left on Mariposa Trail (unmarked)

The Mariposa Trail winds west, along the side of the hill with great views out over Lafayette for about a mile or so.  When you reach a three-way junction you’ve arrived at the Russell Peak Trail.  Take a right and you’ll start climbing towards Russell Peak.

On your left you may notice the Leuschner Observatory, built in 1886 on the U.C. Berkeley Campus and moved to Lafayette in 1965.  It is located on the Russell Preserve or Russell Research Station, a 283 acre research facility of the University of California’s Center of Forestry.  Since 1961 is has provided a location for wild land and forestry research.   The University of California land is immediately to the west of the Russell Peak Trail.

Right after a really steep section you may notice a little trail on the right that goes out to a charming bench with a great view (see photo).  The bench is a memorial to a woman named Janet who apparently loved the view from this spot.  Continue until you reach another three-way junction.

This bench makes for a good pit stop on the way up…

Take a left and continue a couple tenths of a mile until you reach Russell Peak.  There is no sign for the little side trail to Russell Peak.  After climbing a pretty good hill, look for a little trail on the right that heads up to the top (see photo).   There is now one of those orange gas line markers right where the side trail goes to the peak.  If you’re on track, you’ll find a brand new, large picnic bench after about 40 yards or so.  If you reach the Lafayette Ridge trail then you’ve gone too far.

Russell Peak is at 1357 feet and is one heck of a spot!  You can see a complete Panorama from Mt. Diablo all the way across to Round Top at Sibley and more.  Time to relax for 20 or 30 minutes and take it in.

The side trail to Russell Peak

A brand new picnic table at the top!

The view!

A cold beverage is a nice touch!

On your way back down, you’ll return to the same three-way junction, but instead of taking a right and going back the way you came, just continue straight down Mariposa Trail.  This is a shorter way back.  You’ll reach a paved road where you take a right and will pass the fire road that you took before.

The route is in the shape of a triangle.  If you spend 30 minutes at the peak, the hike will take around two hours or so.  This hike is best in spring or fall, or summer days when it’s not too hot.     Enjoy and share your feedback by posting a comment.

Russell-Peak-Map-Marked