Category Archives: Upper Hills

No. 54: Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Quarry Road and Quarry Trail

Quarry Trail, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve. (Mary Mazzocco)

The Quarry Trail is open to sun and sky.

Until recently, what Oaklanders would call the “back side” of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve was officially off-limits. But about a year ago, the East Bay Regional Park District opened a trailhead just off Fish Ranch Road that makes a whole new segment of the park accessible to the public.

The route to the trailhead is just through the Caldecott Tunnel. By car, take the first exit, which turns sharply back towards Oakland. Continue straight up Old Tunnel Road a few hundred yards and you will see park district signs directing you to Quarry Road. (If you continue a little farther on Old Tunnel Road, you will reach one of the entrances to the Skyline Trail.)



Some of you may consider what follows to be more of a hike than a walk. Quarry Road, which is broad and paved, rises 200 feet in a little under a mile: not an impossible grade, but certainly one you will feel in your thighs. The hills around you are covered in yellow-flowered broom and the occasional modest-sized oak, and your route is open to the sun and sky.

A half-mile from the parking lot, or just about the point you may be tempted to turn around, the road makes a sharp S-bend, and a guidepost on the right points you through a cattle gate to the unpaved fire road called the Quarry Trail. This path, which is significantly more level, gives you a clear view of the Round Top Creek valley, a good place to look for raptors, although this morning it was the private domain of a lone hummingbird, who disdained to give way to the passing hiker as he sunned himself on a bare twig.

If you want a longer excursion, stay on Quarry Trail until it joins the Volcanic Trail, a sharp left turn about a half-mile from the cattle gate. This loops back to the summit of Quarry Road. Or continue a little farther to the Round Top Loop Trail — although most walkers will prefer to approach that from the Oakland side.

More information: About Sibley Volcanic Regional Park, and about the volcano. In fact, Andrew Alden’s OaklandGeology blog has several posts about Sibley, but he doesn’t use categories or tags, so the easiest way to find them is through Google.

Cool stuff nearby: When you return to Oakland by turning left on Fish Ranch Road to cross Highway 24, be sure to appreciate the Art Deco ornamentation over the original tunnel entrance. Other than a portable toilet in the parking lot, there are no nearby services.


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Ladybug, ladybug!

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Minor update: Poison Oak


…has turned a brilliant shade of red, and you can really see how massive some of those stands are. This is the Grass Valley trail in Anthony Chabot Regional Park.

No. 46: Anthony Chabot Regional Park, Goldenrod Trail, Chabot Equestrian Center to City Stables

Goldenrod Trail, Anthony Chabot Regional Park

This section of the Goldenrod Trail offers views across Anthony Chabot Regional Park.

Penstemon, Goldenrod Trail


The Goldenrod Trail clings to the eastern edge of Anthony Chabot Regional Park, running from the City Stables in the north all the way to the dam at Lake Chabot in the south. The two-mile stretch between the City Stables and the Chabot Equestrian Center is gently rolling, with intermittent views through the oaks and Monterey pines of Grass Valley and the ridges around the Upper San Leandro Reservoir.

Starting at the Equestrian Center on a crisp fall morning, the sound of your footsteps may startle a flock of goldfinches into the pines. A horse’s hooves can be heard ringing against the pavement in the paddocks below; very far in the distance is the scattered booming of guns on the shooting range, like the crackle of faraway surf.

Cow parsnip, Goldenrod Trail

Cow parsnip.

The trail is broad and firmly packed, and despite last week’s rain,  offers good footing. Tall stalks of cow parsnip have dried into ghostly picket fence, and in places, the trail is shiny with dropped acorns. The bright red of a lonely penstemon flower stands out against the pale green lichen on the twigs behind, and the sagebrush, though fragrant, has gone gray and sere.

Although you are never very far from Skyline Boulevard, the trail is quiet and not too crowded. Two horsewomen pass, a handful of hikers, one man with a dog and a couple of runners. Only a few of the grades feel steep at all, and you are rewarded with views for accomplishing them.

Getting there: The Chabot Equestrian Center is at 14600 Skyline Boulevard, just north of Keller Avenue. There is a small day-use parking lot outside the gate.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: The closest refreshments are at Skyline Pizza and the toddler-oriented Play Cafe on Keller Avenue (which has an entry fee).

More information: A trail map is available at the East Bay Parks website.

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No. 43: Redwood Regional Park, Dunn Trail

Dunn Trail, Redwood Regional Park

The Dunn Trail runs through the lower part of Redwood Regional Park.

At the bottom of Redwood Regional Park is the Serpentine Prairie, an open, hilly area  where the ground is chalky white because of the outcropping of the official state rock underneath. A trailhead on Skyline Boulevard just above Joaquin Miller Road overlooks this prairie, and, beyond a hillside of late-twentieth-century rooflines, the San Francisco Bay.

From this point, you can choose to go up or down on the Dunn Trail. To your left, past a sign marking the intersection with the lower and less-traveled section of the Sequoia-Bayview Trail, the Dunn Trail curves gently uphill and through a mixed forest of pine and lichen-covered oak.

The first part of the trail offers views of the bay spectacular enough that you may feel guilty you didn’t work harder to see them. But the farther you go from the trailhead, the more the trees begin to shade the trail, which is broad, firm and in some places, rocky. Bicyclists share it comfortably with dog walkers and hikers. (Off-leash dogs are allowed on the Dunn Trail.)

About a half mile along, you come to the intersection with the Graham Trail, which would take you to Roberts Regional Recreation Area. Staying to the right will keep you on the Dunn Trail and lead you down a moderate hill into a stand of young redwoods. Heading around a switchback around a steep, ferny valley, you catch a glimpse of the Golden Spike Trail below. Should you keep hiking another mile along the Dunn and Montiero trails, you would join the Golden Spike and could return to the trailhead that way — about a three mile loop, but with some steep climbs. Fall afternoons being short, an out-and-back route seems more sensible today.

Getting there: Buses run along Joaquin Miller, and there is some parking on Joaquin Miller and Skyline Boulevard.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: Two equestrian centers are nearby on Redwood Road.

More information: From the East Bay Regional Parks website.

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No. 35: Joaquin Miller Park, Big Trees Trail and Sequoia-Bayview Trail

Big Trees Trail, Joaquin Miller Park

The Big Trees Trail in Joaquin Miller Park is a quiet alternative to the crowded Sequoia Bayview Trail.

By noon, the Sequoia Bayview trailhead was parked full from one blind curve to the next. So I continued along Skyline another half-mile to the poorly-marked Big Trees/Orchard trailhead. (Look for two green trash bins and a message board.) The first hundred yards or so of the trail heading north are badly maintained asphalt, but the unpaved Big Trees Trail swerves to the left.

At first, it is broad and well-marked, but it quickly shrinks to a single track and descends to the Sequoia-Bayview Trail in a series of gentle switchbacks. Even in its diminished state, it is possible for a pair of mountain bikers to pass me comfortably.

The more-popular trail is, as usual, full of runners, dog-walkers and a father herding a flock of toddlers. The air is crisp and has a hint of fall — and of grilling hot dogs. The ferns and berries along the trail are shrouded in dust kicked up over the course of a dry summer.

About a mile along, at the Sequoia trailhead, the Big Trees Trail heads left and up a moderate hill. This stretch, although the least-traveled by walkers, is only about 15 feet away from  Skyline Boulevard, and the swish of passing cars may be reassuring or annoying, depending on the mood of the observer. When you pass through the abandoned group picnic site, you’re close to home. The full loop is about two miles long.

Getting there: The Big Trees/Orchard trailhead is on Skyline Boulevard, between the entrance to Roberts Regional Recreation Area and the Sequoia Horse Arena.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: The Chabot Space and Science Center.

More information: The Friends of Sausal Creek trail map.

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No. 34: Redwood Regional Park, Canyon Meadow Staging Area, Stream Trail

Stream Trail, Redwood Regional Park, Canyon Meadows Staging Area.

This flat, paved section of the Stream Trail is very accessible and makes for an easy stroll.

The Canyon Meadow Staging Area is open and full of picnic sites, and this end of  the Stream Trail is similarly accessible — broad, paved and nearly level, it winds through the meadow and along Redwood Creek.

Past the picnic areas and play structure, the trail goes into a redwood forest. Split rail fences protect the stream banks, which are undergoing native plant restoration. Many people are walking dogs, and every so often, you pass a group camp site. “Old Church” offers some benches in a grove by a bend in the creek. A little further, and you can rest at a picnic table in a small meadow.

The paved section of the trail ends about a mile from the parking lot, at “Trail’s End.” If you want a little variety, you can turn uphill on the Chown Trail and come back by the bridle path, just uphill from the paved trail. Bikes are not permitted past the end of the pavement, but the trail itself continues for another 2 miles, to the Skyline Gate of the park. All but the last half mile are fairly level.

(Even though classes started Monday, I didn’t forget my walk last weekend. But I did forget to post about it. I have adjusted the date of this post to reflect the date of the walk.)

Getting there: The Canyon Meadow Staging Area is on Redwood Road east of Skyline Boulevard.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: There are three stables in the area: Piedmont, Skyline Ranch and the Redwood Equestrian Arena.

More information: A trail map can be found at the East Bay Regional Parks site. A list of other wheelchair-accessible trails in the Bay Area can be found at

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No. 32: Redwood Regional Park, Skyline Gate, East Ridge and Phillips Loop Trails

East Ridge Trail in Redwood Regional Park

The morning fog burns off of the East Ridge Trail in Redwood Regional Park.

Despite the name of the park, you will see mostly young eucalyptus and Monterey pines along this short, easy loop. Starting at the Skyline Gate, head out along the East Ridge Trail, a broad, open path used by runners, bikers and even some parents with jogging strollers.

As you enter the first stand of trees, take the Phillips Loop Trail down to the right. Your path descends gently into the shade. Although it’s only August, the poison oak is already turning red where East Bay Regional Parks workers cut and burned the brush this spring to reduce fire danger.

A little over a half-mile later, you come to the Eucalyptus Trail.  Turn left uphill and rejoin the East Ridge Trail for a 1.5-mile loop, or keep going until the Phillips Loop meets East Ridge for a hike of just over 2 miles. Or  turn right on the Eucalyptus Trail and make a much steeper 2-mile loop back to Skyline using the Stream Trail.

Getting there: The Skyline Gate of Redwood Regional Park is on Skyline Boulevard at Pine Hills Drive.

Cool stuff nearby: There are no nearby services, although there are pit toilets and a pay phone (!) in the parking lot.

More information: A trail map is available at the Redwood Regional Park website.

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No. 30: Roberts Regional Recreation Area, Redwood Bowl and Graham Trail

Graham Trail, Roberts Regional Recreation Area

The Graham Trail runs behind the playgrounds and picnic sites of Roberts Regional Recreation Area.

The start of this walk is the same as the one to Redwood Peak: From the Redwood Bowl staging area, walk up the paved fire road and follow signs left toward the bowl, a large picnic meadow.

At the large, carved Redwood Bowl sign, take the West Ridge Trail to the right and skirt the end of the meadow and the Anna Costa picnic area. The Graham Trail will go down and to the right after you pass the picnic area.

Almost all the wildflowers are gone, but the trail smells wonderfully of crushed bay leaves and redwood duff. Other than a high-pitched insect whine, it’s very quiet.

Two spurs, one about a quarter-mile from the trailhead and another about a half-mile, lead up to the Roberts swimming pool and to the Manzanita picnic area. If you continue another half-mile, you join the Dunn Trail in Redwood Regional Park.

Unless you return through the developed part of Roberts, this is an out-and-back trip rather than a loop. A sign near the trailhead warns that this is a rocky trail, although hikers and equestrians should have no trouble with the broad, firm path. Bikers — like the one who went past me doing 20 mph — should be aware that not all the curves are cambered properly, and some of the trail drop-offs are steep.

Getting there: The Redwood Bowl Staging Area is on Skyline Boulevard.

Cool stuff in the area: The Chabot Space and Science Center is right next door, and Roberts’ picnic areas and pool are accessible to those with disabilities.

More information: A trail map is available on the East Bay Regional Parks site.

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No. 26: Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, Stonewall-Panoramic Trail

Stonewall-Panoramic Trail, Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve

The Stonewall-Panoramic Trail is a strenuous climb, but offers spectacular views.

Claremont Canyon was acquired by the East Bay Regional Park District in the 1970s, as part of the watershed preservation movement. The Stonewall-Panoramic trail takes you from the back of the historic Claremont Hotel, a white wedding-cake fantasy built in 1915, up a steep fire road to Panoramic Ridge. The walk is short at just over a mile, but very strenuous, with a gain in elevation of about 700 feet.

The best trailhead is on Stonewall Road, a few blocks from the Ashby/Domingo commercial area. It’s worth walking through the neighborhood around the trailhead for the interesting architecture and landscaping. One Craftsman-style house has a koi pond in front.

Once through the gate, you begin your ascent through an alley of mature eucalyptus trees. For the first half-mile, the grade ranges from “gee, that’s steep” to “you’ve got to be kidding me.” A grove at the corner of the second switchback gives you a chance to catch your breath and admire the view of U.C. Berkeley’s Campanile and Albany Hill to the north. (I passed on trying the rather terrifying rope swing over the void.)

The trail flattens out briefly as you emerge from the eucalyptus into a more-natural landscape of ceanothus, toyon, and open meadow. A sign that warns of a steep, loose trail ahead may provoke a moment of disbelief: What could possibly be more challenging than the grade you just climbed?

The answer is the next 100 yards, which elevate “you’ve got to be kidding me” into “gonna need a belay here.” If you persevere, your reward is a rest on the Ralph Samuel Bench, which has its own mayor on Foursquare and a truly panoramic view.

Past the bench is a private, gated stretch of Panoramic Way. Turn right on Panoramic for a few dozen feet, and the Stonewall-Panoramic Trail continues another half-mile along the ridge to the east before connecting with the East-West Trail on UC Berkeley-owned land.

Like most East Bay Regional Parks, Claremont Canyon allows well-behaved off-leash dogs. The Stonewall-Panoramic Trail is closed to bicyclists, and although I would normally expect a trail this broad and firm to be a temptation, I didn’t see even a fat-tire treadmark.

Getting there: Stonewall Road intersects Claremont Avenue a few blocks east of Ashby Avenue. There is bus service on Claremont near Domingo.

Cool stuff in the neighborhood: The Zagat-rated Rick & Ann’s restaurant, The Bread Garden bakery, Peet’s Coffee, and olive oil and wine stores, all on Domingo Avenue.

More information: About Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve from the East Bay Regional Parks website; about the basalt in the area from the Oakland Geology blog; and about the Claremont Canyon Conservancy‘s efforts to reduce wildfire danger in and preserve the canyon.

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