Ridge Trail by Transit

For the last three and a half years I’ve been hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which encircles the bay area on the ridges high above the bay, except where it crosses at the Golden Gate, and the delta near Martinez. Of the completed trail (390 miles / 628 km), I have walked 92% of it, and have also walked some of the gaps in the trail which will eventually measure about 550 miles (990 km), so I have not even come close to the whole route, but with my hike two weeks ago on Almond Ranch have reached a point of completion that I’d like to write about.

And I did almost all of it by transit!

The Bay Area is relatively rich in transit, and many trail segments have transit access close to or even at the trailheads. Of course my tolerance for walking to the trailhead from the nearest transit stop is probably greater than most people’s, but a commitment to transit instead of driving makes for a wonderful accomplishment, and for me an enjoyable planning activity. I have been car-free for nine years, and car-lite for five before that. My life is one of walking, bicycling, transit and trains. The most important decision I’ve made in my entire life was to become car-free, and the word free is appropriate. One cannot truly be free if one is attached to a car. So I encourage everyone else to become car-lite, or car-free. The earth will thank you. The natural areas you love to visit, including the Bay Area Ridge Trail, will thank you. Your city or town will thank you.

Matt Davis Trail (Bay Area Ridge Trail), Mt Tamalpais State Park

Trip Planning

I use both Google Maps and Transit app to plan my trips. Of course I take the Capitol Corridor train from my home in Sacramento, usually transferring to BART and/or the bus as I get closer. Google Maps is good for overall planning, as it shows multiple options if they exist. Google also allows you to save or send the planned route, for future reference on a different device. When I’m actually traveling, though, I use the Transit app (iOS and Android) as it contains real-time information for most of the transit agencies, rather than the scheduled times shown by Google Maps. It shows only up to three options, so sometimes misses an appropriate routing that Google would show.

Pandemic note: All of the transit agencies have cut back some of their services during the pandemic, ranging from minor cuts to cutting entire routes. Routes may have less frequent service, or longer gaps mid-day, or a shorter span of service (from start to end on each day), or run less frequently on weekends, or not at all. Do not rely on information that may be out of date, including mine, but check for the specific date you are planning on traveling. If the level of service seems unacceptable, try different times of day or different days of the week (weekdays/weekends). For some transit agencies, Google is updated to current schedules almost immediately, but for some agencies there may be a delay of several days or up to two weeks, so if a change has happened recently for the transit agency you are planning to use, it may be worth calling to check. Transit app, so far as I have experienced, is brought up to date within a day.

If you are traveling on any of the Bay Area transit providers (except Capitol Corridor), Clipper Card is the way to go. You can load value on the card, and can set it up to autoload more value when you get low. It is contactless and very convenient, and eliminates the need to figure out how to purchase tickets for each agency or trip.

For the trail itself, I use GaiaGPS iOS app on my iPhone. I have entered the trail segments, often by tracing on trail routes while looking at the Ridge Trail pdf maps. The web browser version is the place for planning trips and tracing routes, but the iOS version fits in my pocket. The council also has used OuterSpatial, a phone app, and recently developed a partnership with AllTrails.

I freely admit that your trip including transit will take longer than if you drove, sometimes a little longer, sometimes a lot longer. The further out you are, the less frequent the bus is likely to be, with up to 75 minute headways, gaps during the mid-day, and less or no weekend service. So part of the planning process is seeing if the transit schedule matches your schedule. How much time do you have? Do you have a choice about days of the week, or time of day?

If you bicycle the gap between the transit stop and the trailhead, of course that will be much quicker, but sometimes there are pretty steep hills, and unless you have an old beater bike, leaving your bike locked at the trailhead all day (or longer) may not be smart. But I have done that a few times, for some of the longer walks. Of course if you have a mountain bike and those skills, most segments of the trail are open to mountain bikes, and you can just continue right onto the trail. With the exception of Muni Metro, all trains and buses have some bicycle capacity.

I have also hitchhiked a few times. Saratoga Gap, where the Ridge Trail crosses Hwy 9 on the peninsula, is not accessible by transit, so I hitchhiked down to Saratoga at the south end of one hike, and then back up to the gap to continue my hike south. I also hitchhiked from the summit on Hwy 29 back to Calistoga, after completing the Oat Hill Mine, Palisades, and Mt. St. Helena spur trails. I realize that most people will not be comfortable hitchhiking (and you probably would not get a ride during the pandemic anyway), so making use of Meetup may be your solution for these segments.

The Meetup group Bay Area Ridge Trail (RT) & More, offers group hikes along various sections of the Ridge Trail and other nearby trails. You can often arrange to catch a ride with a participant, if you plan ahead of time, getting to the trailhead for hikes without transit access. The council itself offers guided hikes from time to time, day and overnight, including some segments that are not yet accessible to the public. Check https://ridgetrail.org/events/ for details. Of course there are many fewer group activities during the pandemic, but I imagine both sources will ramp back up as the pandemic fades.

The council’s trail maps, at https://ridgetrail.org/trail-maps/, and the book Bay Area Ridge Trail: The Official Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, and Equestrians, by Elizabeth Byers and Jean Rusmore (https://www.wildernesspress.com/product.php?productid=16685; also Amazon Kindle book https://www.amazon.com/Bay-Area-Ridge-Trail-Equestrians-ebook/dp/B07WXPPWMS/), are of course valuable planning tools.

sunset and smoke, Loma Alta Preserve, Marin County

Trip Examples

The council’s Backpacking Trip: Presidio to Mt. Tamalpais (https://ridgetrail.org/backpacking-trip-presidio-to-mt-tamalpais/), can be accessed by transit. Arguello Gate is accessible from Muni 1 on California, 0.3 mile walk, or Muni 38/38R on Geary, 0.6 mile walk. The south end of Golden Gate Bridge is accessible by Golden Gate Transit 30, 70, or 101 buses. The. North end of the bridge is NOT accessible by transit, except by walking the 1.8 miles across the bridge. Pantoll Ranger Station, the north end of this trip, is accessible by Marin Stage 61 bus. Some corrections to the book text: Haypress Campground is not free, it is $5/night, reservations at https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/10067346. Site 3 at Pantoll Campground is $7/night for backpackers.

Access to both Almaden Quicksilver County Park and Santa Teresa County Park is also by transit, using VTA 83 bus stop on McKean Road near Almaden Road. Walking south 0.4 miles is the Mockingbird Trailhead entrance to Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and thence 16.3 miles (26.3 km) of Ridge Trail through the park and Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve to Lexington Reservoir. Walking north 0.3 miles to Alamitos Creek trailhead, that follows Alamitos Creek and Calero Creek, and into Santa Teresa County Park, 6.3 miles (10.2 km) to Coyote Peak. 

A short 0.2 mile walk from the AC Transit 99 bus stop on Mission Blvd in Hayward to the Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park leads onto the long Chabot to Garin segment of the Ridge Trail. This 10.6 mile segment to Five Canyons Parkway, is also the southern-most of a continuous 48.4 mile Ridge Trail to Kennedy Grove Regional Park in El Sobrante. Notes: You can also go through Garin Regional Park, but the walk to or from Mission Blvd bus stop is much longer. The Dry Creek section will become a side trail once the next segment to Niles Canyon is completed, perhaps in 2021.

And of course the council’s Berryessa BART Transit to Trails Adventures (https://ridgetrail.org/bart-transit-to-trails-adventures/), not only starts at the Berryessa BART station, but passes the VTA Penitencia Creek Light Rail Station as well. It provides access to Alum Rock Park, with a short but safe no-trail section of road, and Sierra Vista Open Space.

Bay Area Ridge Trail, Huckberry Preserve, Alameda County

Resources

GaiaGPS: my Bay Area Ridge Trail tracks and routes, including waypoints for the major transit access points, at https://www.gaiagps.com/datasummary/folder/ced071b9-a8d3-45b3-9c28-570b755ef065/. I do not claim that my tracks and routes are completely accurate, or that they are fully up-to-date, but I do update it as often as I can, and refine the routes I’ve traced as soon as new trails show up in Open Street Maps, which is the underlying geographic database for GaiaGPS. You do not need to have a GaiaGPS account to view this information in a web browser, but do for iOS/Android, but to change map layers or manipulate data for your own use, you do need an account.

My photo collection for the Ridge Trail is on Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.

Previous blog posts on my Ridge Trail trips are accessible at https://allisondan.wordpress.com/tag/bay-area-ridge-trail/. Not all my trips, mind you, I missed posting on some, particularly the shorter day hikes.

Ridge Trail: Big Rock to Pantoll 2020-09

I finally got to the Lucas Valley and Loma Alta sections of the Bay Area Ridge Trail in September, and re-hiked from White Hill to San Francisco, on a five day backpack trip in September (yes, posting this late because I’d forgotten to earlier).

As usual, this was transit accessible section: Capitol Corridor to Richmond, AC Transit 72M to west Richmond, Golden Gate Transit 40 to San Rafael, and Marin Transit 245 to the intersection of Lucas Valley Road and Gallinas Road. The a longer walk than most trips along Lucas Valley Road, 3.4 miles (5.5 km), most with a wide shoulder or parallel residential streets, but some unpleasant along narrow shoulders. It would have been a longer walk, but some women playing tennis recommended that I head up Luiz Fire Road to the ridge, much better than continuing along Lucas Valley Road.

Finally on trail (fire road) again, the steep climb opened up great views to the south and east. At the top of the ridge, I turned west to meet with the end of the Ridge Trail as it comes up from Big Rock. I had always assumed that Big Rock was on top of Big Rock Ridge, but in fact it is in the low gap where Lucas Valley Road goes from Lucas Valley to Nicasio Valley. Of course as always, there are great views from the ridge. The end/start of the ridge trail is further west along the ridge, and the Big Rock Trail (as called the Lucas Valley Trail) heads downhill towards Big Rock, sometimes on fire roads and sometimes on single track.

bay laurel and rock, Loma Alta Trail

Crossing Lucas Valley Road in a tunnel, the trail ascends Loma Alta Fire Road through private ranch lands, and then into the Loma Alta Preserve, where is descends to Sir Francis Drake Blvd. I had forgotten, after a summer of backpacking in the Sierra, how damp and foggy the coast ranges can be, a different world.

From this point to San Francisco, I’ve hiked the Ridge Trail in the past, Ridge Trail: White Hill to Pantoll 2017-10 and ADT9: San Francisco to Point Reyes 2013-11, but it is a favorite section, so I did it again. People are outside much more than usual as a result of the pandemic, and the trails were crowded through Samuel Taylor State Park, the Matt Davis Trail north of Pantoll Station, and around Tennessee Valley. I camped at the Pantoll campground, which has a lower cost backpacker site, and again at Haypress campground near Tennessee Valley. On the other hand, I saw almost no one on the Bolinas Ridge section.

After some time in San Francisco, I took San Francisco Bay Ferry to Oakland, and Capitol Corridor train back home to Sacramento.

This hike was approximately 46.4 miles (74.7 km) from the start to the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is the official zero point of the trail, though of course I also walked the bridge and into San Francisco.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157716600491713; Bay Area Ridge Trail collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.

Ridge Trail: Almond Ranch 2020-12

On December 5 I completed the Almond Ranch section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. This section, which is on a newly acquired property managed by John Muir Land Trust (JMLT) fills a gap between the Mount Wanda trail within John Muir National Historic Site and Sky Ranch which were previously protect by the trust, and which now forms a large protected area along Franklin Ridge.

My access was by Capitol Corridor train from Sacramento to Martinez, then walking along streets of Martinez to the trailhead in John Muir NHS. There is a bus stop very close to the trailhead, but on weekends the bus only runs every 785 minutes, so it was much easier to walk the 2.1 miles (3.4 km) than wait for the bus. The trailhead for Mount Wanda can be accessed from Alhambra Ave just south of Hwy 4, or through the NHS when it is open. There is also a back-gate access to the trail, but as an exit only, you can’t re-enter the NHS, which takes you under Hwy 4 and connects to the trailhead.

The Mount Wanda trail is a fire road that climbs to the ridge top, opening up good views in all directions, then dips a bit and climbs to the Mount Wanda/Almond Ranch fence and gate. Almond Ranch was opened in October. Rather than following the fire road, a new trail diverges off the ridge top and contours around hillsides to regain the fire road/trail in Sky Ranch. Most of Almond Ranch is open grasslands, but the off the ridge and down in the draws there are oaks, California Bay Laurel, and other species that like more moisture and less wind. Where the new trail meets Sky Ranch, there is a row of huge concrete pipe segments, the purpose of which mystifies me. These are the sort of pipes usually used for sewer lines in cities, so what are they doing here?

Almond Ranch trail (Bay Area Ridge Trail) and oak

With this gap closure, the Bay Area Ridge Trail is now continuous from Benecia, across the Martinez-Benicia bridge, through Martinez, to Nejedly Staging Area, and up through the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, to John Muir NHS, along Franklin Ridge and then down to Ferndale Road, a distance of 10.2 miles (16.4 km). There follows a gap of 1.7 miles (2.8 km), which can be walked by following Ferndale and Alhambra Valley roads for 2.5 miles (4 km). The trail then climbs out of Alhambra Valley over East Bay Municipal Utility District lands, through Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve, and down to Conestoga Way. There is then a 1.8 mile (2.9 km) gap along surface streets to the next segment of the Ridge Trail in Kennedy Grove.

Almond Ranch will also be part of the yet incomplete Carquinez Strait Loop Trail. With this Almond Ranch gap closure, the Dutra Ranch Trail (also called Contra Costa Feeder Trail #1) becomes a side trail of the Ridge Trail.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157717423100027; and Bay Area Ridge Trail collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.

Ridge Trail: East Bay 2020-10 (+ SF + ADT)

This month I re-hiked the continuous section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail from Kennedy Grove recreation area in the north (El Sobrante) to Garin park in the south (Hayward), about 73 km (45 miles). Kennedy Grove is less than a mile from the AC Transit 74 bus stop on Castro Ranch Rd (though be warned, only every other bus goes to this destination), then along Hillside Dr (though be warned, the back gate from Hillside is signed as being open all park hours but was locked when I was there, so I had to crawl under the gate). The Ridge Trail leaves the area, parallels and then crosses San Pablo Dam Rd, and then climbs on trail and fire road to Nimitz Way on the crest. Nimitz Way is an old road now only open to hikers and bicyclists, and it can be quite busy when the weather is nice, as it is moderately flat and has great views. The trail then heads south to Inspiration Point on Wildcat Canyon Road in Tilden Park.

Dropping down to cross the road, it climbs again to the ridge crest and continues south to nearly Vollmer Peak, then down to the trailhead near the redwood railway. There is water here. On this hike, I found about half the water sources to be turned off. There is no justifiable reason for this, just lazy park personnel using the pandemic as an excuse to not clean drinking fountains.

Ridge Trail in Huckleberry Preserve

The trail continues south into East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) lands, then Sibley Volcanic and Huckleberry Botanic preserves. The ridgeline is not flat, so the trail repeatedly loses and re-gains elevation. It passes Skyline Gate, which is one of the most popular access points in the east bay, so expect to see crowds of people for several miles though Redwood park. The water here was turned off. The trail loses considerable elevation to cross Redwood Creek, then climbs again into Anthony Chabot park. Passing close to Bort Campground (but not to, the maps are incorrect for the current alignment), the trail follows the creek and then gradually climbs to the ridge north of Chabot before descending to Chabot Staging Area, which is the EBMUD trailhead.

The Ridge Trail then ascends the ridge and then descends again to Cull Canyon recreation area, where there is usually water, but it was off. Following some streets and trail segments, the trail crosses Castro Valley Blvd and goes under I-580 (or you can follow Five Canyons Parkway, which is not a pleasant walk but saves distance and elevation loss).

From the Five Canyons trailhead, the trail climbs steeply to the ridgeline and wander along with good views and a lot of cows. PG&E is doing vegetation clearing in the area and has made a dust bowl of the fire road. They probably won’t fix it when they are done. The trail descends into Palomares Creek, dry this time of year, and then climbs the ridge again to Stonebrae Country Club. A ways south on the ridge, the trail starts its long descent. You can either go out to Dry Creek trailhead at May Rd, or out through Garin Park, which is nice but longer. Regular transit runs along Mission Blvd, a short walk from Dry Creek or longer walk from Garin. This entire section of the trail is dry, which is strange, since it passes five huge water tanks and goes through Stonebrae, which is an island of emerald green fairways on the otherwise dry ridge.

The trail will eventually stay on the ridge to the south and descend into Niles Canyon, instead of going out at Dry Creek, but that segment is not completed yet.

This section of the trail is the second longest of the entire trail, so makes some wonderful hiking. There is one backcountry camp, in Sibley Volcanic, but it is not at a location that makes sense for walking the trail. There are other backcountry camps on the planning horizon, but none under construction.

I took transit to San Francisco, and spent a day there, for the enjoyment and to give my feet a rest. I visited one of my San Francisco favorites, the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, swam a bit at Baker Beach, walked Lands End, and of course went to Acme Bread in the Ferry Building.

Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco

Then I headed back out on the American Discovery Trail section CA-08, from San Francisco to Pleasant Hill. The route includes the ferry ride from the Ferry Building in San Francisco to Oakland Jack London, and then streets from there to UC Berkeley. I skipped the street walking this time to be nice to my feet, took transit, and picked up again at College Ave and Bancroft Way, where the route goes up Strawberry Canyon and the Jackson fire road to the crest. From here is follows the same route as the Bay Area Ridge Trail though Tilden Park, but descends from Inspiration Point to San Pablo Creek. On EBMUD lands, it parallels and then crosses the creek and goes around the east side of Briones Reservoir to Bear Creek Staging Area. Where the water was again turned off. From Bear Creek, the trial climbs to Lafayette Ridge and follows it down to Pleasant Hill Blvd, then up through Acalanes and down through the north end of Walnut Creek to where it meets the Contra Costa Canal trail. The trail along Lafayette Ridge is a roller coaster, up and down over enumerable hills, not a fun hike, but the views and vegetation are great.

ADT Trail on Lafayette Ridge

The ADT heads east southeast from here and up over the shoulder of Mt. Diablo, but my feet had had enough so I walked out the the Pleasant Hill BART station, took the bus to Martinez, had a beer at Del Cielo, and caught the Capitol Corridor home to Sacramento.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157716598013768; Bay Area Ridge Trail collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/

Ridge Trail Big Rock & Alta Loma 2020-09

In mid September I headed out to complete the last segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that I will be doing as my “Ridge Trail by Transit” circumnavigation. The details of that are for a later post, but this trip was to do the Lucas Valley and Loma Alta sections.

I took transit from Sacramento to Lucas Valley Road and Las Gallinas Ave in San Rafael, and headed west up Lucas Valley. There is a trail alongside the road, or separate, for some of the distance, but it is not really a pleasant walk. On the suggestion of some women playing tennis, I headed up the Luiz fire road to Big Rock Ridge. I walked along the ridge, which has good views of the bay side of Marin County. Don’t be fooled by the Ridge Trail signs along the ridge, which are misplaced. From the point at which the future Ridge Trail will head north to Indian Tree, the trail descends to Big Rock, which is not, as I presumed, on the ridge, but along Lucas Valley Rd where the trail crosses.

Big Rock, Lucas Valley Rd, Ridge Trail tunnel

Alta Loma fire road climbs the ridge and then descends back down to Sir Francis Drake Blvd. With this section, I’ve completed 93% of the completed Ridge Trail, and this was my main objective. But since the trail from here to San Francisco is a favorite, I continued. From the summit at White Hill, the trail ascends onto San Geronimo Ridge and wanders through Sargent cypress and chaparral vegetation that forms on serpentinitic rocks. After several miles, the trail descents to Samuel P. Taylor state park where I had lunch. The park is served by Marin Stage 68 bus, with a stop at the park entrance. The White Hill summit can also be accessed by the same bus, by request.

Sargent cypress cones in the serpentinitic soils

From the park the trail ascends Bolinas Ridge and heads south-southeast along the crest of the coast range. Open grasslands, mixed forests, and redwood forest alternate along the ridge. My assumption that the fires in Point Reyes National Seashore were out was a misunderstanding; they are contained and being allowed to burn as they would naturally, so there is some smoke being produced that filled the valley with smoke at times. The fires will burn, at a low level, until there are real rains to put them out. The Matt Davis Trail, which goes from Pantoll down to Stinson Beach, was crowded with hikers, being Sunday, and very few of them were wearing masks. Very uncomfortable for me, and though this is one of my favorite sections of the trail, I hurried through it.

I stayed the night in the Pantoll hike/bike camp site for $7. This is also another transit access point, with Marin Stage 61 bus several times a day. I rarely stay in campgrounds, so I was a little taken aback by the noise and bright lights of this campground. Though walk-in, it is a short enough distance that people can and do lug all the accoutrements of civilization with them from the parking lot. Continuing from Pantoll, I left the Ridge Trail route and took the Coast View and Heather Cutoff down to Muir Beach, had lunch at Pelican Inn. With outside seating only if isn’t the same experience at the inside pub, but still nice. Then up Dias Ridge and back to the main Ridge Trail route down to Tennessee Valley, where I camped at Haypress campground, one of the few official backcountry campsites along the trail. Morning, I walked down to Tennessee Valley beach, and then continued to the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.

Tennessee Valley beach

Then SF Bay Ferry to Oakland and Capitol Corridor home from Oakland Jack London to Sacramento.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157716600491713; Ridge Trail collection on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/

Ridge Trail: Indian Tree & Burdell 2020-01

Yet another transit-accessible ridge trail segment. I took Capitol Corridor to BART to Golden Gate Transit 70 to Marin Transit 251, and got off at the intersection of Novato Blvd and San Marin Dr, which is right on the trail route. I finally after all these years realized what the difference between GGT 70 and 101 is. 70 stops at every bus pad along highway 101, meaning every interchange, while 101 only stops at the transit center in San Rafael. The difference is travel time is remarkable, so my return trip was on GGT 101.

First I headed southwest, into O’Hair Park (city of Novato), where the trail climbs up through bay laurel forest to grassy hillsides, then along the edge of a residential neighborhood. It then climbs again to the ridge of Verissimo Hills Open Space, North Marin Watershed, and some private lands, with good views off to both sides. Then down to cross Vineyard Rd and to the trailhead for Indian Tree Open Space. The trail initially climbs through bay laurel and oak forest, then into scattered groves of redwood trees. At the top, the forest gives way to grasslands with open views west and north. A small cluster of redwoods just south of where the trail tops out contains a very large redwood. I walked out to the end of the mapped trail, and then north for a while for the views, though I think the future trail will head south from here, towards Lucas Valley Open Space. There are already ranch/fire roads, so I assume there are easements to be obtained.

trail through redwoods in Indian Tree

I retraced my steps to the O’Hair trailhead and then a short ways along roads to the Mt Burdell section. The trail starts alongside a creek in a narrow corridor, but then starts to climb in the wide open Mount Burdell Open Space preserve. The website says this is the largest of the Marin County Open Space District lands. Climbing steadily through grasslands and forest patches, the Dwarf Oak trail climbs to a fire road where it continues upward. There are indeed dwarf oaks along the trail, interior live oak I’m guessing, but whether they are a different variety, or dwarfed by grazing, or on poor serpentine soils, I don’t know. There is a wide valley about half way up, and then the climb continues, steeper on the fire road than the trail. Mount Burdell itself is covered with trees, no expansive views, but open areas nearby do offer views. Or at least would if the south wind had not blown the bay fog up into Marin. The day was warm with broken sunshine at the bottom, but at the top, it was cold and windy and damp.

meadow in Mount Burdell

I walked a ways down the trail into Olompali State Park, a nice and seemingly little used trail, and then cut back across to the ridge top meadow, climbing over the stone wall that runs along the summit ridge. I headed out the Eagle Rim Trail, a new one that follows the ridge westward and then hooks back to meet the fire road. The trail was obviously laid out by mountain bikers. This might be the route of the future ridge trail, as it is my guess that it would follow this ridge down into the valley before climbing again to Helen Putnam County Park.

Flowers are not out yet. I saw a few yellow composites, not sure what they are but perhaps non-native (early flowering plants often are), and a single California poppy. The trails are muddy from the rain, but certainly not impassible.

I walked followed the fire road and trail back down, picked up my backpack, and caught the bus back to Novato, to San Francisco, and BART and Capitol Corridor home.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157712757638286; Bay Area Ridge Trail collection: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.

Circumnavigation progress: 555.1 km of 612 km (380 miles), 91% of completed trail.

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Ridge Trail: Petaluma area 2020-01

A day trip to the Petaluma area, by transit, and partly bicycling and partly hiking. I took the train to Richmond, BART to the Embarcadero, the Larkspur Ferry to Larkspur (my first time on that ferry), and the SMART train to Petaluma. I rode my bike to the trailhead for Helen Putnam County Park, across a trail gap of 2 km on surface streets.

The trailhead is at the edge of a residential neighborhood in western Petaluma, just up into the hills. The Putnam segment is short, only 2 km, but it does provide nice view of the coastal hills west of Petaluma. The weather was great that day, and it was the end of winter break, so there were a lot of people out hiking. Though the trail ends at Chileno Valley Rd, I suspect the future trail will head south-southeast from the higher area, towards the next segment (or last segment, depending on direction), at Mt Burdell near Novato.

spreading oak in Helen Putnam park

I then returned to the route through eastern Petaluma, all on streets and paths, riding my bike, 9.6 km each way. Though this is a temporary route, to be replaced by one closer to the Petaluma River and along Adobe Creek, I understand, it is still a nice route. The trail follows the Petaluma River upstream, and then Lynch Creek, and then along the greenbelt at the east edge of town. Though the route is never far from suburbia, it feels more natural. I extended beyond the end to Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park, where I’d not been since I was a little kid. This was General Vallejo’s working ranch home, from which he kept his army supplied.

bridge over Petaluma River

At the end of the ride, I went back to the SMART train, then GGT bus to San Francisco, then BART to Berkeley for a Cris Williamson concert at Frieght & Salvage, and then following day time at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, and a Groundhog Day at San Francisco Playhouse. A full weekend!

Circumnavigation progress: 538.3 km of 612 km (380 miles) existing, 88%.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157712551997467

Category search for Bay Area Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail: Hwy 92 to Saratoga Gap 2018-09

I’ve looked back at all my Ridge Trail hikes, and noticed that I missed several, including Sneath to Daly City, Fifield-Cahill docent hike through San Francisco watershed, Daly City to Golden Gate Bridge, and some Ridge Trail Council day hikes. But the major trip I’ve missed is Highway 92 south to Saratoga Gap, so here is that one.

I took various forms of transit from San Francisco to the Highway 92 summit at Skylawn Cemetery, the last being SamTrans bus 294. South from here there is no trail, so I walked on the shoulder of Skyline Blvd, which is not pleasant but is not horrible,, 4.6 miles. The trail starts again in Purisima Creek Redwoods, dropping through oak and then redwood forest to Purisima Creek, and then climbing back to the ridge. The elevation loss and gain, and distance, is worth it, and much more pleasant than walking along Skyline.

The next section to Wunderlich County Park mostly parallels Skyline, but most of the time is far enough away to not hear the traffic. The forest is mostly oak and oak woodlands with occasional views. South of Wunderlich, the trail is a fire road, not officially part of the Ridge Trail but easy to walk and easy to follow. I stopped at Alice’s Restaurant in La Honda, where I could have got anything I want, but only had a beer, and then continued south along the shoulder of Skyline. The official trail picks up again at Windy Hill Open Space. The next day started with heavy fog below the ridge but bright sunlight and no wind above. After a short gap, the trail starts again in Russian Ridge Open Space and continues into Skyline Ridge Open Space, most across open hillsides of grass, with occasional patches of forest.

fall grasses along Ridge Trail

The ridge trail continues through various open space preserves, along the ridge with views for a while, and then dipping into the forest for the remainder to the distance to Saratoga Gap. Though Skyline Blvd is never far from the trail, you hear it only occasionally, and cross it once.

Saratoga Gap is one major trailhead not served by any kind of transit, so I hitchhiked down to the town of Saratoga, where I discovered the the bus doesn’t run on weekends, so had to hitchhike to a Caltrain station. And home on Caltrain and BART and Capitol Corridor.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157704670762222/. The collection of my Ridge Trail photos, which includes trips not posted about, is at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/collections/72157708271186714/.

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Ridge Trail: Saratoga to Almaden 2018-10

This is a Ridge Trail hike that I neglected to post about in 2018, but it was a significant chunk of the trail, so I’m posting now for the record.

I took Capitol Corridor to San Jose, then a bus to West Valley, and then hitchhiked up to Saratoga Gap where I’d finished off on a previous trip (also not posted), and headed south. No transit comes close to the trailhead at Saratoga Gap, so driving or hitching is the only access. I hope that someday there will be at least limited weekend transit access to all the major trailheads. A desire to get out in nature should be available without driving a car, which is destructive of the same nature you are accessing.

The trail south along the ridge is mostly through forest, without many views, through Castle Rock State Park and Sanborn County Park. There are some small groves of Pacific Yew, a conifer with ‘cones’ that look more like fruits. It then drops off the ridge via the John Nicholas Trail, a new trail which is a travesty. It was clearly designed by mountain bikers, as it roller coasters, loops around, drops and then climbs without reason, and has unnecessary steep downhills. The route then follows a fire and water facility access road out to a trailhead on Black Road. I walked Black Road out to the Bear Creek Road crossing over Highway 17. There is no shoulder, or space for a trail alignment on Black Road, but it was a low traffic day and not an unpleasant walk except for too much time on pavement. I walked along the edge of Lexington Reservoir along roads and informal trails to the next trailhead on the east side of Lexington. My understanding is that the trail alignment will climb to a ridge and then run down towards Lexington Reservoir. This is a gap of 6.2 miles in the trail.

Ridge Trail south of Saratoga Gap

The trail climbs steeply into Sierra Azul Open Space, heading east. As it reaches the ridge there are good views and interesting chaparral vegetation, as well as some patches of oak forest. The trail drops into the Guadalupe Creek watershed, beneath (far beneath) Mount Umunhum on fire roads and out to the Jacques Ridge Trailhead on Hicks Road. It crosses several small tributaries, and is mostly in denser forest. I ate lunch at the trailhead and then crossed the road. I did not take the side trip up Mount Umunhum as that was beyond the capability of my feet. I don’t keep my feet in condition between backpack trips, only walking, so my feet wear out before my muscles do. So the top is for another trip.

The next section through Almaden-Quicksilver County Park is much more open, and passes a lot of relicts of the mercury mining era, which ended surprisingly recently (1976). There are many parallel trails through here, more than are necessary, and it is a little hard to figure which one is the official ridge trail.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/sets/72157679975620528/

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Ridge Trail: Santa Teresa 2019-11

Another section done, November 2019, one the last of the transit accessible sections in the south bay and east bay. I took Capitol Corridor to Diridon Station, light rail to Santa Teresa, and bus to McKean Road, near the trailhead. I walked up to Mockingbird Trailhead, which is the end of the Almaden Quicksilver section that I’d hiked in October 2018 (no post). There is a gap on surface streets, then the trail follows Alamitos Creek down and Calero Creek up, through suburban neighborhoods and then agricultural land.

sycamores along Calero Creek

The trail then heads steeply uphill into Santa Teresa County Park. It was raining off and on all day, with more rain visible to the west over the Santa Cruz Mountains, so the trail was muddy, but there were people out hiking on this day after Thanksgiving. Just before reaching the Pueblo picnic area, there is a ridge trail sign that is impossible, pointing three different directions, but the correct route is towards the picnic area, or to the right in the opposite direction. I sheltered at the picnic area to wait out a short downpour, then headed up the fire road to Coyote Peak. Coyote is supposed to be one of the best views around, but the views were obscured by low clouds and rain. The official trail ends at this point, but is likely to head east down through private lands to Bailey Avenue.

I headed down trails out of the park at an informal trailhead on Bernal Road. Though this will not be the final alignment, it is the practical gap to fill from Santa Teresa to Coyote Creek, so I walked the Bernal Road to the junction with the Coyote Creek section of the Ridge Trail, 6 km. This is not a pleasant walk; it is along a wide arterial road with heavy traffic and very poor crossings of side streets and freeway on-ramps and off-ramps. Presumably the Bailey Road alignment will be more pleasant.

This was a largely transit access trip. I took Capitol Corridor to San Jose, light rail to Ohlone/Chenowyth station, and bus 83 (weekday only) to the junction of Almaden Parkway and Harry Road, very close to the trailhead. On the east end, it was a fairly long walk to transit from the Coyote Creek junction, and due to a poor bus schedule I just walked all the way to the Santa Teresa light rail station. Then the reverse of all this back home.

Circumnavigation progress: 527 km of 612 km (380 miles), 86% of existing trail, plus 81 km of gaps.

Photos on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/allisondan/albums/72157712067223436

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