The Bort Meadow access point is on a twisty stretch of Redwood Road, much beloved by bicyclists and motorcyclists. This relatively flat loop takes you a little more than three miles through a varied landscape; even after our dry winter and atypical spring, wildflowers are making a good showing.
After a short hike down a steep, badly paved road, you reach a cattle chute and gate leading to the Grass Valley Trail. You have an immediate choice between a broad, hard-packed dirt road above and a single track closer to Grass Valley Creek. This side of the valley offers open vistas of meadows full of creamy wild phlox, with the occasional stand of suncups or blue-eyed grass. Scrub jays scatter at hikers’ approach, and a single swallow streaks overhead.
To take a shorter loop of about two miles, keep your eyes open for the Redtail Trail crossing. A single-track heading down and back from the Grass Valley Trail will go through a cattle gate and cross the creek at this point. Otherwise, continue on another half mile. The trail will enter a large stand of eucalyptus and cross a lichen-covered stone bridge. A bench on the other side gives you a shady place to rest.
Continuing left after the stone bridge would take you up Jackson Grade to the Clyde Woolridge staging area; instead, make a sharp right onto the Brandon Trail. Here, you enter a dappled woodland where the banks are covered with forget-me-nots and you can see the creek rush by below. You will pass the Redtail Trail crossing on your right and the steep Horseshoe Trail on your left before finding yourself again at the cattle chute.
Getting there: Take Redwood Road east from Skyline Boulevard; a small brown sign will warn you that the Bort Meadow Staging Area is approaching on your right. Public transit is not a good option, as the closest stop is almost a mile away and buses run infrequently.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: There are no services nearby, so bring water and a snack if you are going to need them. The park is also near several equestrian centers and the only marksmanship range in the Oakland area.