This lovely, if challenging, route may be the loneliest trail in Oakland. Even though it was a gorgeous day and the York Trail offered a shady climb next to a year-round creek, I saw not another soul.
The trail starts in a gated area below Leona Lodge. Crossing the creek on a rustic wooden bridge and flight of stairs, you pass into a beautiful, shaded canyon of redwood and laurel. Blackberry vines are everywhere.
Although the grade is not as steep as Claremont Canyon, the trail is more difficult, shrinking from a one-and-a-half-track to a narrow footpath after you cross the fourth wooden bridge.
The fifth creek crossing is a weathered two-by-four at the low-water mark — more secure than I expected, but not likely to be passable after a heavy rain. After this point, the question of where to turn around depends on how agile and how stubborn you are.
I scrambled up some boulders, edged past some steep drop-offs, ducked under a fallen trunk, and wound my way through a pretty grove of young laurels. But I had to call it quits at the spot where a many-trunked redwood had fallen across the trail. I had been so intent watching my steps, I lost track of time, but I think the round-trip can be done in under an hour.
Is it worth it? I have to agree with Ann Juell and Janaka Ruiz of the Davenport Neighborhood newsletter: Yes. I only wish the trail were a little better maintained, so that it was a clear route up to Merritt College. But unlike some other walkers, I saw no litter and hardly any graffiti — most of the spray paint is actually marking the trail.
Getting there: Leona Heights Park is next to Leona Lodge, 4444 Mountain Boulevard. There is no regular bus service and the lodge parking lot has a 15-minute limit, but there are a very few parking places along Mountain between the lodge and Berneves Court.
Cool stuff in the neighborhood: The Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral and Lincoln Square Shopping Center, which has a pretty good Chinese restaurant, Hunan Yuan, a Red Boy Pizza, and a coffee shop. Lincoln Square Liquors has old-style Coke from Mexico, made with cane sugar and in glass bottles.
More information: Is hard to find. If you search “York Trail” online, most of your results will link to the Leona Canyon Open Space instead of the city park. Oakland’s park website doesn’t even list this area, but only has information about Leona Lodge.