This route honors the weekend of the “Supermoon,” although Redwood Regional Park’s Moon Gate lacks any distinguishing feature to explain its name. The two-mile loop nicely illustrates a distinction between “walks” and “hikes.”
Bear left out of the small parking area on sun-dappled West Ridge Trail. This is practically a stroll along a rolling, packed-dirt boulevard, as hard and broad as a sidewalk. Runners, walkers and bicyclists can share the space with civility. At this point in the year, the forget-me-nots are still in bloom, and are joined by cow parsnip, buckbrush, blackberry and manroot. At regular intervals, the trees part to offer spectacular views of the Moraga hills and benches appear to encourage lingering.
You will pass the Tres Sendas Trail on your right, but keep going. About a half-mile farther is the French Trail, and this is where you will switch into hiking gear. The trailpost notes no bicycles are allowed, and you’d best believe it. The narrow single-track drops about 300 feet in about third of a mile of roots, rocks, ruts and tall log steps. Healthy looking stands of poison oak on either side encourage you to stick strictly to the beaten path. Toward the bottom, as you rejoin the Tres Sendas Trail and enter a forest of second-growth redwoods, you may hear Redwood Creek and spot some Douglas iris.
French Trail will break away to the left shortly after you come to Tres Sendas. Stop for a moment near the mossy rock spillway that provides a ford across one of the unnamed seasonal tributaries of Redwood Creek. If you feel like a longer hike, you could follow French another mile to Redwood Peak Trail, then take West Ridge Trail back to Moon Gate, for a four- to five-mile loop.
To keep your outing at about an hour, bear right on Tres Sendas to make a long, scenic climb through a landscape of stately trees and broad sword ferns. Before you know it, you’ll be back on West Ridge Trail.
Getting there: Moon Gate is on Skyline Boulevard near Castle Drive. Redwood Regional Park is very heavily used on sunny weekends and in the summer, but by going early, you can usually beat the crowds.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: About a half mile south is the Chabot Space and Science Center. Most of its exhibits are aimed at school-age children, but on clear Friday and Saturday evenings, from dusk until 10:30 p.m., the observatory deck is open and you can use one of the historic or research-quality telescopes to view the rings of Saturn, the cloud bands of Jupiter, or distant star clusters. (My favorite telescope is Rachel, 98 years old.)
More information: You will want a trail map from East Bay Regional Parks.