3.7 mile loop drops into redwood canyon, then climbs back to the trailhead. Look for wintering colonies of ladybugs along Stream Trail. Hosts a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This is an easy 3.7 mile loop hike. Trailhead elevation is around 1255 feet. The featured hike climbs easily to about 1385 feet, drops to about 780 feet, then regains the lost elevation on the way back to the trailhead -- total elevation change is about 700 feet. The ascending/descending trails are moderate-steep, but short.
Hiking time: 2 hours.
• From CA 24 in Alameda County, exit CA 13 south (exit 5). After about 3 miles, exit at Lincoln/Joaquin Miller (exit 2). At the foot of the exit ramp, make a left, then take the next left, and then go straight onto Joaquin Miller. Drive uphill about 1 mile, then turn left onto Skyline (there's a brown parks sign before the turn, and a traffic light). Drive about 3 miles (past the Chabot Space Center), then turn right into the parking lot.
• From CA 24 in Contra Costa County, exit Fish Ranch Road (if you're driving eastbound on 24, this is exit 7a, the first exit after the tunnel -- stay in the right lane). Drive uphill on Fish Ranch Road about 1 mile, then turn left onto Grizzly Peak Blvd. Drive 2.4 miles, then turn left onto Skyline Boulevard. Drive 2 miles on Skyline Boulevard, then turn left into the parking lot.
Large parking lot. No admission or parking fees here -- at the main park entrance, the day use fee is $5, with a $2 fee for dogs. Pit toilets at northeastern edge of lot. Maps available at information signboard. Drinking water and pay phone in parking lot. There are designated handicapped parking spots, and one pit toilet is wheelchair accessible. Trail access is not blocked, and wheelchair users should be able to navigate a short distance on either East Ridge or West Ridge Trail. AC Transit bus #60 gets you within walking distance of this trailhead; bus #53 stops at the Chabot Science Center, and is also an option.
Most trails are multi-use. Some are open to hikers and equestrians only, and a few are hiking only. Dogs are permitted. Park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., unless otherwise posted.
Exposure: Full to partial sun at the beginning and end segments, nice cool shade in between.
Trail traffic: Moderate-heavy.
Trail surfaces: Dirt fire roads and trails.
Nice all year, although the canyons are often muddy in winter.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, restaurants, and stores back in neighborhoods off CA 13. Redwood has one group camp, but no individual campsites.
The Official Story:
EBRPD's Redwood page
This hike is described and mapped in60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber. Order this book from Amazon.com
• Map from EBRPD
• A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of the East Bay Hills, Central Section, by the Olmsted & Bros. Map Co. (order this map from Amazon.com).
• Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Redwood Park hike.
• East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub, has a good map, park descriptions, and a featured hike (order this book from Amazon.com).
• The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order this book from Amazon.com), has a decent map and descriptions of the Ridge Trail segment though the park.
• East Bay Out, by Malcolm Margolin, has great park descriptions and a simple map (order this book from Amazon.com).
Redwood Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
• View 19 photos from the featured hike
(Text above and below quoted from Jane Huber's Bay Area Hiker Web site.)
Every time I hike at Redwood Regional Park (particularly from this trailhead), I am reminded what a truly fantastic open space it is. And I think, (in a variation of the Berkeley Farms radio spots) redwoods in the east bay? Moo! Redwoods would not be the tree to come to mind when most hikers think of the east bay, but Redwood Regional Park has some beauties, plus there's chaparral, a stream where trout spawn, an incredible variety of plants, and a terrific trail system, with plenty of paths just for hikers.
Perhaps the most striking bit of history about the area (part of which was the former land grant El Rancho de Los Palos Colorados) is that trees from the original redwood forest were used by ship captains in the 1800's to navigate into San Francisco Bay. Logging obliterated the virgin stands between 1840 and 1860; the redwoods we see today are not very old, (second and third generation) but really any stand of redwoods is dramatic and majestic.
Redwood is a large park with a few major trailheads, and many minor ones. The main park entrance, off Redwood Road, offers the most parking, and easy access to picnic and group areas. On weekends (when an admission fee is charged) the Canyon Meadow Staging Area (at the end of the park road) can get rowdy with teenager parking lot parties. The Skyline Gate Staging Area seems to be used more by adult locals, but the parking lot can get full on weekends. You can also walk into Redwood from the north or south -- Skyline National Trail and the Bay Area Ridge Trail run through Redwood and then onto parklands in both directions; Anthony Chabot Regional Park to the south and Huckleberry Regional Botanic Preserve to the north.
Once inside Redwood Park, myriad loops are possible. The easiest hike starts at the Canyon Meadow Staging Area and is a simple flat out-and-back stroll on shady Stream Trail. For a bit more elevation gain, any of the mid-slope trails, such as Orchard, Bridle, and French , can be combined with the Stream Trail for a pleasant, not too hard loop. The toughest circuits in the park (though still really moderate hikes) climb from the canyon floor to either ridgeline. You can create a loop which varies in length, from as short as 3 miles, to more than 8 miles. Camping facilities are available at Redwood; contact the park for more information and reservations. With so many people living on the fringes of the park, there are many social trails and shortcuts. Please stay on the designated trails (this is a well-signed park).
For the featured hike, walk to the south corner of the parking lot (the opposite end from the portable toilets), and look for the signed West Ridge Trail. The multi-use path is initially wide and flat, and gets abundant use as an exercise track for joggers, cyclists, and dogwalkers. Eucalyptus trees tower overhead, accompanying California bay, madrone, pine, toyon, broom, sticky monkeyflower, poison oak, coast live oak, elderberry, coyote brush, honeysuckle, common snowberry, and blackberry. In late spring, creambush and hazelnut are conspicuous; creambush with frothy white flowers, and hazelnut with edible nuts. You get a great view almost right away, out of the canyon on the left side of the trail. Later on, you might catch a glimpse of Mount Diablo, if the skies are clear. In winter, look for several currant bushes (the only pink-purple bright blooming shrub in January and February) on the right side of the trail. At 0.49 mile, French Trail sets out downhill on the left side of the trail at a signed junction. (French is an option if you'd like to get off the Ridge Trail; follow French to Tres Sendas, turn left, and follow the remaining directions). Continue straight on West Ridge.
As the trail edges along the high slopes of a canyon, there are views downslope of the redwood filled gorge. Patches of huckleberry bushes and ferns thrive on the right side of the trail. At 0.96 mile, at a signed junction, Tres Sendas Trail begins on the left. (You can extend your hike on West Ridge and descend to Stream Trail on your choice of trail.) Turn left onto Tres Sendas.
The narrow path, closed to cyclists, quickly leaves the varied vegetation behind and descends to dark shaded stands of redwoods and California bay along a fern-lined creek. Hazelnut, ferns, and creambush are the dominant understory plants. In wet months, the steep sections can get slippery, and muddy where the path crosses the creek several times. At one dip in the path two California bays arch over the trail. At 1.35 miles, Tres Sendas meets French Trail at a signed junction. Continue straight on Tres Sendas.
The two trails run together, until French breaks off at a signed junction at 1.43 miles and heads back uphill. Continue on Tres Sendas. The trail surface is soft and quiet with fallen redwood needles. Tres Sendas (translates from Spanish to three paths) is a wonderful trail if you love walking through these giant trees. In spring, the blossoms of trillium brighten the forest floor. At a signed junction at about 1.67 miles, Star Flower Trail departs uphill on the right. Continue downhill on Tres Sendas.
Just past this junction, you'll reach Redwood Creek, fenced to prevent creekside erosion and to protect the downstream spawning grounds of local wild trout. Follow the path as it crosses the creek and then ends at a signed junction with the Stream Trail at 1.75 miles. (If you'd like to return to the trailhead now, you can cut this hike short by turning left and walking a little less than a mile uphill on Stream Trail.) Turn right onto Stream Trail.
Just past the junction there's an interpretative sign about the park's redwoods. When I was hiking here once in February thousands of ladybugs (ladybird beetles) were spread out among the understory foliage on the right side of the trail, and further downtrail near the junction with Prince Road. They seemed to be hibernating. It was an amazing site; all those beetles tucked against each other on plant fronds and stems. From a distance they appeared to be a pile of orange leaves. (Visit theOddities page for photos.) Stream Trail (on which bicycles are permitted on the paved section downtrail, but not here) is a wide path that winds through redwoods along the canyon floor and Redwood Creek. On the left side of the trail look uphill for a glimpse of a huge boulder field covered with green moss. Fences continue to discourage access into the creek, which gives this section of the park a bit of a Muir Woods feel, except that there aren't busloads of tourists taking photos of scrub jays. At 2.20 miles, look for the start of Prince Road to the left at a signed junction. Turn left onto Prince Road.
Before you head uphill, you may opt to take a break on a bench under the shade of madrones and a few walnut trees. After a few miles of easy level and downhill hiking, Prince Road offers the only real climb of the featured hike. The broad trail, open to equestrians and hikers only, leaves the redwoods behind as it curves uphill under the shade of California bay, coast live oak, and madrone. Look for the red orchid coralroot in spring. Prince Road leaves the trees and ascends through a mixture of grassland, coyote brush, blackberry, and poison oak. Luckily the climb doesn't last long, and at 2.41 miles, the trail ends at a signed junction with East Ridge Trail. Turn left onto East Ridge Trail.
A few steps from the junction, off to the side of this wide multi-use trail, there's a grassy spot with views to the redwood covered hills to the west: a good choice for a rest break or picnic. Look for bobcat, deer, and coyote prints on the trail, particularly evident when the surface is a bit muddy. Madrone, coast live oak, coyote brush, and pine line the trail. At a signed junction at 2.66 miles. East Ridge Trail continues straight, and Phillips Loop Trail breaks off to the left. Both trails are about the same length, with Phillips providing a few more ups and downs on a trail running below the ridge line. Turn left onto Phillips Loop Trail.
Pine, madrone, broom, coyote brush, and eucalyptus line the path, which is closed to cyclists. When there's a break in the foliage, look to the left for views of distant hills to the south. You may hear hawk cries piercing the quiet skies. At 2.96 miles, Phillips Loop Trail crosses Eucalyptus Trail at a signed junction. Continue straight on Phillips Loop Trail.
The trail slightly wanders up and down, through a mix of native and exotic plants. You might see poison oak (in abundance) and toyon, as well as the purple flowers of Ithuriel's spear and brodiaea in late May. Non-natives such as eucalyptus and cotoneaster are common. Phillips Loop Trail ends at a signed junction with East Ridge Trail at 3.58 miles. Turn left onto East Ridge Trail.
Just past the junction, on the right side of the trail, the Bay Area Ridge Trail/East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail (the Skyline Trail is a 31-mile continuous course running from Wildcat Canyon Park near Richmond to Anthony Chabot Park near Castro Valley) breaks off at a signed junction, and heads north toward Huckleberry Regional Botanic Preserve.Continue straight on East Ridge Trail. The broad flat, multi-use trail sweeps around a hillside verdant in late winter, but dry and choked with thistles by late spring. Every year during winter storms, a few tall pine trees are uprooted by the wind; fallen comrades sprawl downhill toward the canyon. East Ridge Trail offers up one last view to the south, before ending at the parking lot.
Total distance: 3.74 miles
(Text above quoted from Jane Huber's Bay Area Hiker Web site.)