Fifty years ago, the Sacramento Northern Railroad climbed the Oakland Hills through Shepherd Canyon, carrying passengers and freight to Lafayette and beyond, as far as Chico. Today, part of the railroad grade is a pedestrian and bike path that runs from the Montclair Village shopping area to the top of Shepherd Canyon Park.
The lower end of the trail is behind McCalou’s department store on Medau Place; there’s another entrance behind the public parking garage on La Salle Avenue. The trail is shaded by oak and eucalyptus trees and bordered by toyon and another pushy invader, scotch broom. Although steep by railroad standards, the grade is gentle enough that you may not realize you’ve been walking uphill till you turn around and head back down.
Very quickly, you enter the canyon. If it weren’t for the occasional glimpse of shingled wall or sound of a car passing below on Shepherd Canyon Road, you could believe yourself to be somewhere quite remote. But you’re never really far from civilization, and the path is popular enough with dog walkers and stroller pushers that backyard birds are all you’re likely to see.
If you’re keeping an eye on a parking meter, you’ll want to turn around at Bishops Court. By walking briskly, you’ll get back to Montclair Village before your hour runs out.
Getting there: Take Park Boulevard east to Mountain Boulevard. Go left on Mountain and right on either La Salle or Medau.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Really, too much for an exhaustive list. But on La Salle alone, you have two independent bookstores — A Great Good Place for Books and The Book Shop, which is actually part of the Montclair Pharmacy. You can buy gourmet chocolates at Le BonBon or get your bike tuned up at Wheels of Justice. Explore a little.
More information: Friends of Montclair Railroad Trail.