In June I hiked two sections of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, the two longest sections available so far. Of the ultimate 530 miles or so, 367 is completed, and the two longest sections are Kennedy Grove to Castro Valley, and San Francisco to Alta Loma. With the Sierra still deep in snow, the Bay Area was the perfect place to hike.
I took the Amtrak and the AC Transit Bus 74 to its end, and walked to Kennedy Grove, where the east bay section starts. It is about 35 miles to Castro Valley. The trail climbs to the ridge, then heads south through Wildcat Canyon, Tilden, Sibley, Redwood, Huckleberry, Chabot, and Cull Canyon (East Bay Regional Parks), plus various pieces of EBMUD (East Bay Municipal Utilities District). At the other end I walked out to the Castro BART station. The ridge nature of the trail is various scenic with views of the bay and to the east, and close in, as it goes through extensive forests, and the trail is mostly in good shape and well signed. There are two backcountry camps, in Sibley and Chabot, but they are hard to find out about and even harder to reserve, so…
There is a closed section of the trail in Huckleberry preserve, where the trail slid out last winter. Unfortunately, there is no information on the trail about an alternate route. I walked Pinehurst Road, and that worked, but I was uncertain and there was considerable additional mileage and climbing. I assumed that I had just missed notice of this on the Bay Area Ridge Trail website, but in fact there is no mention of it at all, despite the fact that the slide happened last winter. Grr.
The next area of complaint is that the continuing trail turns onto EBMUD land at Chabot Staging Area. After wandering lacksidaisically up the valley, the trail heads straight up a fire road, so steep that I had to zig-zag just to make it up. How the association could call this part of the trail is beyond me. I was wondering why there were almost no footprints on the trail, and now I know, though ironically I did run into one other person who said it was the worst part of the trail she’d ever been on. An alternate route is to go out to Proctor Staging Area, but then one has to walk on the road down toward Castro Valley. At any rate, once down in town, you can catch a local AC bus, though I walked all the way to the BART station.
From Castro Valley, I took BART to San Francisco, walked to the Golden Gate Bridge, and continued north along the other long section. This section, going through Golden Gate NRA and state park lands, is in much better condition. Of course I had to stop, as always, at Pelican Inn in Muir Beach, off the trail but well worth the side trip. I also walked through Green Gulch Zen Center, which I’d never visited before, very impressive gardens.
I ended my trip at Pantoll Ranger Station where the Marin Stage stops and takes me down to Marin City and then on to the city, and back on BART to Richmond and home on Amtrak. I’m car-free, and love how much hiking and backpacking I can do in the Bay Area just by using transit. I stopped short of Loma Alta as my feet were worn out, being the first long backpack of the season, so I’ll go back in the fall to finish that piece from Pantoll to Loma Alta, where another Marin Stage takes me back to San Rafael.
Photos on Flickr