I haven’t posted anything on backpack trips since February (Ridge Trail SF-Taylor 2022-02). At that point, I’d just done my first backpack this year on the Bay Area Ridge Trail. I have been busy since doing short trips on the trail, with the objectives of: 1) completing the trail again in one year (it took about 3-1/2 the first time); and 2) documenting the Ridge Trail signs along the route. The trail council does not have a good inventory of their signs, so I’m helping with that. Some signs are missing, some are off route, and a lot of locations are over-signed, though on the whole, the signing is in good shape. Most of my trips have been short, one or two nights, since I’m picking up a lot of segments that are short and don’t yet connect to the next segment. It doesn’t seem logical to post on every single trip, so I’m going to try something different – adding each trip to a single post, and at least for the time being, pinning that post to the top of my blog.
Unless there is a stretch of cool weather, I’m done with the ridge trail until fall. I just completed a sweat-soaked three day, two night trip to Vargas Plateau, Alum Rock Park, Sierra Vista Open Space, and Mission Peak Preserve. Dehydration is no fun. I’ve done 265 miles of the 400 so far, so should be able to pick up the rest in the fall. As always, I’m doing the trail by transit to the greatest degree possible. I did ride my bike on the Coyote Lake and Coyote Creek segments, but all the rest has been hiking. More to come…
2022-12-18/19: Hood Mtn and Sugarloaf Ridge
Photos on Flickr:
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304831957
2022-12-07/08: Moore Creek and Pacific Union College
I rode my bike from Rutherford to the trailhead at Moore Creek County Park. I didn’t notice the trail leaving from the east side of the parking lot, so headed up Moore Creek itself, a fire road that becomes a trail, following and crossing the creek several times. All the madrone trees were so heavy with berries that they look red. Sedges along the creek had turned a fall yellow color. The official section ends at Moore Creek pools, near the park boundary. But the trail continues as Dan’s Wild Ride trail, climbing through serpentinitic rocks to the ridgeline, and then dropping to a backcountry road. A bit on the road, and then back onto a trail to the south boundary of Pacific Union College (PUC), where the dedicated trail section starts again. The section is partly trail and partly fire road, Climbing to the ridge, it continues to the north boundary at a gate, where there is not sign indicating the end/start of the Ridge Trail section. Coming back south through Moor Creek, I noticed the actual Ridge Trail which follows the Valentine Vista trail, ascending the high ridge to the east, before descending back down to the trailhead at road end in Moore Creek park. I’m not sure why the trail climbs so high. I thought maybe the future trail would stay high to head south, but the gap analysis document doesn’t indicate that. The views up top are nice, but not worth the climb. I rode my bike from the trailhead back to Rutherford, caught the bus back to Napa, and on home.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304845293
2022-11-28/29: El Sereno
El Sereno Open Space is another short section, just 3.5 miles, and another transit inaccessible section. Someday it will be just a piece of the long Peninsula trail, with connections to a bridge over Hwy 17 to the south, and to John Nicholas trail to the north, but for now, it is isolated. I took light rail to Campbell and bus to Los Gatos. The road up to the Aquinas trailhead on the east side of open space is gradually at first but becoming increasingly steep. I arrived at the trailhead at dark, and rode or walked the trail up to the ridge top, where I camped at the edge of a meadow area. It was cold but the stars were great. In the morning I walked south to the end for now, where it looks down over Lexington Reservoir, and then back to the northwest where it ends at the other trailhead on Montevina Rd. And then back down to Los Gatos. After tea, I rode along Los Gatos Creek all the way to Diridon Station. Some of the creek is just a huge concrete ditch, some is far to close to noisy traffic and buildings, and some feeling very remote and natural.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304774335/
2022-11-28: Santa Teresa
This section logically goes with the South Bay sections to the west and north, starting with Almaden Quicksilver and continuing north, but I want to shave on day off my long Peninsula trip, so checked off this section through Santa Teresa County Park. I started at the bus stop on McKean Rd at Almaden Rd. The trail starts north along Alamitos Creek, and then turns back south along Calero Creek. The trail climbs steeply into the center of the park, where it levels off at the parking lot and picnic areas, and then climbs steeply again to Coyote Peak, which is the end of the trail section for now. The views from the top of Coyote Peak are great, but it was very cold and very windy up on top, so I headed back down. There was some on and off rain, but nothing heavy, and it cleared again by the end of the day. I walked down by a slightly different trail, then back on Calero Creek. I decided to walk the Almaden Parkway to a more frequent bus route (the one to McKean only runs once an hour and not on weekends). Don’t walk on Almaden Parkway! It was designed for the exclusive use of motor vehicles. Nevertheless, it worked, and I caught the bus back into San Jose, early enough in the days to start on the next section, above.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304776556
I rode my bike from downtown San Jose out to Quimby Rd, where I intended to ride my bike up the back way in to the park. But once I left the suburbs, the road was mostly too steep to ride, and I walked most of it, in the dark, to the crest where Joseph D Grant County Park begins. I camped at the top. In the morning, I headed south through oak woodlands to the ridge and then back down to the southern terminus in Hall Valley. The black oaks in wetter areas on the hillsides where brilliant fall yellow, though up on the ridge they were a subtle yellowish brown. I looped back on a lower route to where I’d stashed my bike, and rode north along the ridge. Much of it was ridable, though some parts too pocked with gopher holes and cow print mud impressions. The trail leaves the ridge and drops very steeply to Mt Hamilton Rd, where it ends. I rode Mt Hamilton Rd, which climbs for a while and then drops to San Jose, a long long ride downhill which was quite enjoyable. The length of the downhill made me appreciate the accomplishment of getting my bike up the hill the day before. The top of the ridge is almost 750 meters, and the valley floor about 50 meters, so a significant climb, and descent.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304794498
2022-11-22: Mt Madonna
Early this year I had decided that I would skip all the short and transit inaccessible sections of the Ridge Trail. But in the fall I changed my mind, and set out to walk all of them. This was the first.
Mt Madonna is the most remote section of the entire trail, only 3.5 miles of the dedicated Ridge Trail, and far from any connections. But not that inaccessible. I took transit to Gilroy, then rode my bike to the Sprig trailhead along Hwy 152. The trail climbs from the trailhead to the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, steeply up a dry canyon, then steeply up through mixed chaparral and scrublands, and then along a very gradual fire road through the redwoods, to an end near the north side of the county park. I suspect this flat section must have been for a water ditch or pipeline. The top of the mountain has a lot of picnic areas, and it mostly dedicated to Henry Miller (the cattle baron who had a summer home here, not the author). I returned by a separate and longer trail to the trailhead, making a loop through the park. Rode my bike back to Gilroy, for tea, and then the bus back to San Jose, where I started the next section, above.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304684797
2022-10-21: SF to Taylor
Another section that I’d done earlier in the year, but re-did to document sign locations. It starts with a walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, with beautiful views and horrible traffic noise. It is not really something I enjoy, but since there is no transit to the north end of the bridge, is one I repeat every time I do this section. The trail then climbs up through scrublands in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and then along the crest before descending to Tennessee Valley. The ridge is very low at this point, so of course there is a long climb back to the ridgeline, crossing Hwy 1, and then descending to Redwood Creek that flows out of Muir Woods. Though it is possible to hike up through the monument to Pantoll, the ridge trail follows Deer Park Fire Rd most of the way up, and the Old Mine trail (for hikers) and service road (for bicyclists) to Pantoll Ranger Station and Campground. There is a hiker/biker campsite here, $7/might, where I’ve often stayed, but this day I continued north and camped on an hilltop covered with ancient oaks. The upper section of the Matt Davis Trail (not the lower section, which almost everyone agrees is terribly designed) and the continuing Bolinas Ridge Trail are some of my favorites, so I always enjoy doing them again. The trail dips in and out of forested gullies and across steep grassy hillsides with views down to Stinson Beach and the coastline. It climbs into a redwood forest, and then eventually back out into grasslands, where it descends to the Cross-Marin Trail (which does NOT cross Marin) and into Samuel P Taylor State Park. I was early enough to catch the Marin Stage bus back to San Rafael and on San Francisco.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304694359
This was a short trip to pick up a section of trail that I’d already hiked, but my iPhone was dead and so I didn’t take sign documentation photos. Now I have. This section goes from Stanyan St to Clarendon trailhead.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304699093
2022-09-21: Taylor to Lucas Valley
I was at Samuel P Taylor State Park for a sacred circle dance to celebrate the autumnal equinox, so it was a good connection for doing the Ridge Trail section from there to Lucas Valley Open Space. After the afternoon dance in the redwood grove, I headed out backpacking. The trail initially follows an old railroad grade along Lagunitas Creek, then heads steeply up a fire road to San Geronimo ridge. The trails rises and descends along the ridge, with Giancomino Open Space on one side and Marin Municipal Watershed on the other. I camped at one of the few flat spots along the ridge, though next morning exploring I found a better place at Hunt Camp, at bit off the trail, with flat ground and a primitive spring box and trough. Parts of the ridge are dense forest, and one area of grassland, but most is serpentinitic soils with Sargent Cypress and many other species adapted to that nutrient poor soil. The trail descends through White Hill Open Space, crosses under Sir Francis Drake Blvd, and then climbs again into Loma Alta Open Space. A long downhill along an easement through private ranch lands leads to the crossing underneath Lucas Valley Rd at Big Rock. And then, or course, along long steep climb to the ridgeline in Lucas Valley Open Space. About two-thirds of the way up there is a spring to a trough, the only convenient was on this entire section. I walked out east and down via Luis Fire Road and streets to the bus pad at Marinwood.
This is a segment I’d cone earlier in the year, but before adopting the sign documentation project, so was hiking it again for sign photos, but it is a section I much enjoy doing anyway.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304679521
2022-08-23: Kennedy Grove to Dry Creek
I would not normally hike on the Ridge Trail during August, but my mountain trip changed, and a cooler (somewhat) stretch of weather is forecast, so back to the Ridge Trail, starting at Kennedy Grove, near El Sobrante, which I accessed by train and bus. First day I walked to Redwood Regional Park above Oakland, a long day. Breakfast at Redwood Bowl, a picnic area that gets busy during the day but is almost unused in the morning. Walking south the trail descends, in this case into the fog and heavy fog drip as the trees condense out moisture from the fog. The trail signing approaching Redwood Canyon is confused, leading to a trailhead that is not on the main route. A snack break at Bort Meadow in Chabot Regional Park, where there is water, and a lunch break at Chabot Staging Area, which is not a pleasant place for lunch, just a huge parking lot, but that’s where I was. The steep climb to Dinosaur Ridge follows, not quite as bad as it used to be as a trail cuts off the very steepest part of the fire road. I camped off the trail in the Call Canyon area, unfortunately loud for being too close to I-580 and the stroads of Castro Valley. Then on the the Five Canyons section and on to the access trail to Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park. This section is called Chabot to Garin Trail, but Dry Creek trailhead is a more logical exit point, and for me, is just a short walk to transit.
There is a campground just off the trail at Sibley Volcanic Natural Preserve, but it is not at a location where most people would be stopping to camp. I have used group campsites at Gillespie in Tilden and Bort Meadow in Chabot when they were not occupied by groups. There is also camping in Chabot, but nothing designed for backpackers.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304480567
2022-07-30: Hill Ranch
This was a day hike sponsored by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council and the owners of Hill Ranch. Hill Ranch sits between Lucas Valley Open Space and Indian Tree Preserve. The ‘trail’ follows ranch/fire roads through the private property. Good views in all directions. The council offers led hikes on this section from time to time, but it is otherwise not open to the public. The group was shuttled from the end point to the base of the Indian Tree fire road, and we hiked up to meet the family. At the end, we walked out the trail through Lucas Valley to the origin at Big Rock. A number of council staff were on the hike, so it was a good chance to catch up with plans for new sections of the trail.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720304473481
2022-06-24: Vargas Plateau, Alum Rock Park, Sierra Vista Open Space, Mission Peak Preserve
Vargas Plateau: Capitol Corridor to Fremont, then Fremont BART, then walked up Morrison Canyon Rd to the Cliff trail, then up the trail to its connection with the Ridge Trail along the ridgeline. I walked to the north end, where there is no end-of-segment sign, then back to Morrison Canyon Rd and down again to Fremont BART. There is water at the south end trailhead. Pretty area, but nothing special, and the hike up the Cliff Trail access was hot, hot. This is one of those segments that I had skipped before, as it is not very transit accessible. There are no near-term plans to connect to the north or south ends of this segment.
Alum Rock & Sierra Vista: BART from Fremont to Milpitas, and then VTA light rail to Penitencia Creek station. Up the Penitencia Creek trail to Alum Rock Park, then up the North Ridge and Boccardo Trails to the ridge, a long steep climb, mostly in Sierra Vista Open Space. Then along the Upper Calaveras trail and lower Calaveras trail to the south end of the trail at an overlook. There are no near-term plans to connect to the north or south ends of this segment. My next section was the Mission Peak, Levin to Ohlone section, so I walked Felter Road all the way to Levin, a long gaps but along a road that works OK.
Mission Peak: The trail council is proud of the Levin extension, from Sandy Wool Lake to a point along Calaveras Rd, but I think it sucks. It follows property and fence lines rather than any natural path of travel, winding around so much it almost but not quite overlaps itself. The short section from Old Calaveras Rd to the water tank on top of the hill is almost impossibly steep, most hikers could probably not walk it. The Mission Peak section does have many steep hills already, but why add another? The 560 meter climb from Sandy Wool Lake (pond) to the ridge is steep, but once finally on the ridge, the trail wanders along, and passes Eagle Springs backcountry camp, which is both for this trail and the Ohlone Trail. I stayed there. Nice views, great sunrise, Venus and crescent moon. There is water, which EBRPD says needs to be purified, but it comes from a well-fenced spring area, so is likely OK. The Ohlone extension on the north end is better, not as much up and down, and only a few steep hills. Mission Peak is a very popular destination, and I passed at least 300 people on the trail, on Sunday morning. Bus to Fremont BART, BART to SF, and Stern Grove Festival. And home on Capitol Corridor from Richmond.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720300218063
2022-02-25: Milagra Ridge, San Francisco
For this trip, I started at Skyline College, accessible by bus, and walked north. Milagra Ridge, part of Golden Gate NRA, has great views north to San Francisco, south to Montara Mountain, west to the Pacific. I gradually descends to Pacifica, where I took a break for tea, and then continued to Mussel Rock. I had heard that it was possible to walk north along the beach at low tide, and it was low tide, so I went for it. It is indeed possible. The Ridge Trail heads up into Daly City, which is a pretty boring walk, but the beach is spectacular. The terrain is too rough for there ever to be a trail close to the beach, but as an alternative, it is great. I climbed up to Daly City again and headed north past Lake Merced, through Stern Grove (had to bypass most because it was closed due to water main break flood), and to West Portal. After a stay at the hostel, I continued from West Portal to Twin Peaks and Sutro Tower. A new alignment splits the trail through SF to Golden Gate Park, so I did one leg and then the other. The older route has very old signing. I walked to Arguello Gate and through the Presidio to Golden Gate Bridge.
The next day I did the Fifield-Cahill section through the San Francisco Watershed, which is a docent guided hike, but continued north out Portola Gate and Sweeney Ridge to Skyline College, completing this section from Hwy 92 to Golden Gate Bridge. It is interesting to hike with groups when most of my hiking is solo.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720300177349
2022-02-20: Taylor, Giacomini, White Hill, Loma Alta, Lucas Valley
Taylor to Lucas: This was a continuation of my previous trip which ended at Samuel P Taylor State Park, with has a hiker/biker camp, and great transit access. The ridge trail follows an old railroad grade to the crossing of Lagunitas Creek, then climbs onto San Geronimo Ridge through Giacomini and White Hill. This section of the trail, with Sargent Cypress and other unique plants growing on serpentinitic soils, is fascinating to me. The trail crosses under St Francis Drive (a transit flag stop), then into Loma Alta which is mostly an upland grassy area. The trail crosses under Lucas Valley Rd and into Lucas Valley Open Space. There is one water source along the trail, a piped spring. The trail ends, for now, on the ridge, though the ridge trail signing is not clear about where, and there are some signs off route. The trail will connect to Indian Hill eventually. This is the end of the longest section of the ridge trail, from Hwy 92 to Lucas Valley, 80 miles. From the end of the trail, I walked the ridge to the east and out to the Marinwood bus pad, then by bus to Novato for the next section.
Indian Hill: The bus delivers me exactly to the trailhead for the O’Hair Park, Little Mountain Open Space, Stafford Lake, and Indian Hill Open Space. The trail edges a suburban neighborhood for a while, but eventually climbs to wilder spaces, and ends at Indian Tree, which is a group of large redwood trees. Someday there will be a connection through Hill Ranch to the previous section at Lucas Valley. At the end of this hike, I was tired of cold and wind, and so headed home rather than continuing to Mt Burdell.
Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72177720300178893
Photos on Flickr: Ridge Trail collection
More on GaiaGPS: I’ve organized my GaiaGPS routes and waypoints a bit, hopefully to make it easier for you (and me) to find things:
- Water Sources: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/folder/011462f1-46c6-4d77-b837-8a4bd6e33ab6/
- Transit Access Points: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/folder/7479d443-918a-4acd-a858-14948f7c2c8c/
- Campsites: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/folder/bb4d6a8e-07de-4f17-bc27-3095b96d2678/ (there is definitely a paucity of legal campsites along the trail)
- All the trail routes and other waypoints: https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/folder/ced071b9-a8d3-45b3-9c28-570b755ef065/ (in GaiaGPS, the main ridge trail is purple, trail gaps are red (shown only if they use other trails or roads, not shown on private land or closed agency areas), and side or access trails are blue; however, I cannot guarantee that you will see the same colors when you load maps or routes)
Other posts on Bay Area Ridge Trail.