Tag Archives: views

Bear Creek Trail

15 Oct

Length: 4.3 miles (for entire trail)
Time:  Any amount of time up to 2 hours (depending on where you turn around)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.
Elevation Gain: Modest
Dogs:  Not Allowed
EBMUD Permit:  Required
Calories: 800-900 (for 90 min hike)
Highlights:  The Bear Creek Trail traverses the south side of Briones Reservoir.  It is an outstanding trail that’s forested, has beautiful water views, and minimal climbing to contend with.  You can start on the Briones Dam side or the Briones Creek side and hike as far as you’d like and turn around.
Directions to Briones Overlook Trailhead (from Orinda):  From Orinda take Camino Pablo north towards San Pablo Dam Road.  Take a right on Bear Creek Road and go a couple miles to the Briones Overlook Staging Area (on the left).  The trailhead is on the northwest corner of the parking lot.
Directions to Bear Creek Trailhead (from Lafayette):  From Lafayette take Happy Valley Road up over the hill to Bear Creek Road.  Take a right and then a quick left into the Bear Creek Staging Area.   This staging area is on the opposite side of the road from the entrance to Briones Regional Park.   The trailhead is on the creek side of the parking lot.
Special Notes:  There’s a lot of poison oak here, although the trail is well-used and generally clear.

This is really one of the best trails in the Lamorinda area.  You can start on either end and turn around whenever you feel like it.  I typically hike about 45 minutes before turning back.  There is a high point with two benches that also makes a good turnaround spot.  The other option is to use two cars and leave a car at the end you’re hiking towards.  Then you can complete the entire trail.

The trail runs between Bear Creek Road and the Briones Reservoir, along the southern slopes of the Reservoir.  The south side is much more wooded (mostly Bay Laurel) than the north side that has scattered oak trees.  Along the way there are many great views of the Briones Reservoir.

Hiking from the Bear Creek Staging Area:

Crossing Bear Creek

Crossing Bear Creek

Enter the gate on the left, cross the creek, and then you’ll arrive at an old unused paved road.  Take a right and follow the straight road/path towards the reservoir.   The open area is an old tree farm.   A dirt fire road follows the shoreline and then begins to climb and changes into a singletrack trail.

Bear-Creek-2Bear-Creek-3

After about 1.7 miles you’ll reach a service road.  Look for posts with directional arrows that show how to stay on the Bear Creek Trail.  Soon you’ll crest at a high point with two benches.  This is a great spot for a picnic/snack before turning around.

Bear-Creek4Bear-Creek-5

If you continue you’ll begin to go gradually down towards the Briones Overlook staging area – near the dam.

Two benches at high point of trail - reached after about 60 minutes of hiking

Two benches at high point of trail – reached after about 60 minutes of hiking

Hiking from the Briones Overlook Staging Area:

Briones-Dam-1Briones-Dam-2

Enter the gate on the northwest side.  You’ll begin to gradually climb and wind along the slopes of the reservoir with views out towards the dam.   Briones Dam is an earthen dam that was completed in 1964.  It is the largest of EBMUD’s five East Bay terminal reservoirs with a total capacity of 60,510 acre·ft (74,640,000 m3).

View of Briones Dam from trail

View of Briones Dam from trail

After about 30-40 minutes you’ll reach a high point with two benches that make for a good spot to have a snack and possibly turn around.   After this point you will gradually begin to descend towards Bear Creek at the far end of the reservoir.

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The map below shows a hike that went about 45 minutes from the staging area before turning around.

Map of Bear Creek Trail - red line shows hiking for 45 minutes from Briones Dam side of trail.

Map of Bear Creek Trail – red line shows hiking for 45 minutes from Briones Dam side of trail.

King 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 King Canyon Loop

The King 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 King 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.

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The King Canyon Trail

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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 King 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 King 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

Huckleberry Loop from Canyon

26 Feb

Length: 3.26 miles
Time:  80 minutes
Difficulty: Easy – Medium.  Fine for kids if they can handle the length.
Elevation Gain: 590 feet
Dogs:  Not allowed
EBMUD Permit:  Not required.
Calories: 500
Highlights:  Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve is one of the jewels of the East Bay Park system and this hike provides quick access via Pinehurst Road versus going all the way to the main entrance on Skyline Blvd.   This hike makes a nice loop through a unique array of native plants found only in a few areas along California’s coast and rare to the East Bay.  A great hike to impress an out-of-town guest.
Directions:  Drive to Moraga and then go south on Canyon Road, which ends at Pinehurst Road.  Go right on Pinehurst Road.   You will pass through the tiny town of Canyon.   It’s fun to remember that a train used to run through this canyon.  After a little over two miles you will reach a hairpin turn with a fire road gate.  Park there.
Trailhead:   You will see a gate with “Fire Trail 41-17” on it.
Special Notes:  A self-guided nature path brochure highlighting plants that may be seen along the path is available at the entrance off of Skyline Blvd and is also available online.  I’d recommend printing at home since you’ll be entering through the backside of the park.   Text side…   Map side…

Huckleberry Entrance SignThe 240-acre Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve is a unique park in the East Bay Park system.  It’s not just a protected open space—it’s an ecological marvel.  The native plant community here is found nowhere else in the East Bay.  The plants originated in the distant past along the southern coast of California when the climate was more moist and tempered by cool coastal fog.  The same plants can be found on the islands off the Santa Barbara coast!

The soil in parts of the preserve is rocky and lacks nutrition for all but the hardiest chaparral species, such as Manzanita.  One of the plants to look out for is the rare and endangered Alameda Manzanita.

Huckleberry entrance gate from Pinehurst Road in Canyon

Huckleberry entrance gate from Pinehurst Road in Canyon

Park on the side of the road and begin your hike by walking past the gate and adjacent to the San Leandro Creek.  After about a quarter mile, and a short climb, you will reach a junction.  Going right leads to Sibley Volcanic Preserve and going left takes you to Huckleberry.  In either direction you will be using the Bay Area Ridge Trail or Skyline National Trail.  The Skyline National Trail runs for 32 miles through the East Bay Hills and is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which makes a 550+ mile continuous trail along the ridgelines overlooking San Francisco Bay.

After veering left, hike another tenth of a mile and you will reach the “lower trail” of the Huckleberry Loop.  The lower trail winds through a mature bay forest.  Take a left.

About a half mile of hiking will bring you to a junction with a “shortcut trail” that heads up the hill through the woods.  Continue straight.  When you reach the second junction, take a right.  This is the far end of the Huckleberry Loop.   You are now on the upper trail.  The upper trail is more diverse and has most of the native plant markers.  So, if you printed out the self-guided nature path, then keep a look out for markers.

You will pass the shortcut trail again, and then reach two paths that go off to the right.  They both go out to nice sunny viewpoints and are worth the short side trips.  Two views of Mt. Diablo below…

Huckleberry View of DiabloHuckleberry-Lookout2

After about a mile on the upper trail, you will reach a junction near the entrance to the park.  Take a right and descend back down to the lower trail via a few switchbacks.  You will reach the junction where you started.

Huckleberry trail map - notice dotted line from Pinehurst Road and the loop it reaches

Huckleberry trail map – notice dotted line from Pinehurst Road and the loop it reaches

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.

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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.

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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

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: 300+
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 a post that says Mariposa Trail (see picture) and take the fire road to the left.  You can also go straight to do the loop in the opposite direction.  See map at bottom.

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 at this sign for the Mariposa Trail

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 large picnic bench (see picture) 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. Look for a gas line marker.

Picnic table at the top! But the brush has been cleared and it’s much more wide open now.

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