5.4 mile loop along the length of a little valley, then climbing up and
down a ridge. Hosts a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 5.4 mile loop hike is easy, with a total elevation change
of about 800 feet. Trailhead elevation is about 680 feet. The featured hike
drops to about 435 feet, then climbs to a high point of about 950 feet,
before descending a bit, then climbing back to the trailhead.
Almost totally exposed, with some shade toward the end of the hike.
Dirt fire roads and trails.
2 1/2 hours.
Too hot in summer. Best in late winter and early spring.
From CA 24 in Alameda County, exit south CA 13 (exit 5). Drive about
4 miles south and exit Redwood (exit 1c). Turn left onto Redwood and drive
uphill about 0.5 mile, to the junction with Skyline Boulevard. Stay in the
left lane, and continue straight on Redwood about 4.3 miles, to the trailhead
on the right side of the road.
From westbound Interstate 580 in Alameda County, exit Redwood Road
(exit 36a). Turn left on Castro Valley Blvd., then right on Redwood Road.
Drive north about 8 miles to the trailhead on the left side of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 7'30.03"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants back near CA 13 -- there are also
limited facilities at Lake Chabot. Camping info from EBRPD: "Overlooking
the lake is Chabot Family Campground, a year-round getaway only minutes
from the city (camping fee). The camp has 75 trailer, tent, or walk-in campsites,
hot showers, naturalist-led campfire programs, an amphitheater, and hiking/fishing
access to Lake Chabot. There are reservable youth group campsites within
the park as well. Telephone (510) 562-2267 for camping information or reservations."
Large dirt parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. Maps available at the
information signboard located just off the parking lot. Pit toilets and
drinking water located at the edge of Bort Meadow. There is no designated
handicapped parking, and trails are not well-suited to wheelchairs. There
is no direct public transportation to this trailhead, but AC Transit will
bring you within walking distance of the park; visit 511.org for details.
Most trails are multi-use. Some are open to equestrians and hikers only,
and a few short trails are designated hiking only. Dogs are permitted. Park
is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Official Story:
EBRPD headquarters 510-562-PARK
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
This hike is
described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco,
by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). Order
this book from Amazon.com.
A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of the East Bay Hills: Central
Section, published by The Olmsted & Bros. Map Co. (order
this map from Amazon.com).
The East Bay Out, by Malcolm Margolin, has a useful map and
park descriptions (order
this book from Amazon.com).
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and park descriptions.
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub, has a good map and descriptions
of 2 Chabot hikes (order
this book from Amazon.com).
in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
View 86 photos from
the featured hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Park is a nice companion to its neighbor, Redwood Park. The
two parks are separated only by narrow Redwood Road, and with an interconnected
trail system, you can hike for hours on a long segment of the the Bay
Area Ridge Trail, through both parks. While Redwood is dominated by its
namesake trees, and a riparian corridor, with just a bit of chaparral,
Chabot features a lake, meadows and grassland, eucalyptus forests, and
lots of chaparral. At the southeastern end of Chabot, Lake Chabot is a
focal point, and the area has been developed with a public golf course,
family campground, and marina. The northwestern edge, which borders Redwood
Park, and the middle of Chabot are less developed, although there is a
campground at Bort Meadow.
With 9 trailheads
(the EBRPD calls the largest of these staging areas), Chabot offers many
choices when it comes to hiking. MacDonald Staging Area, on the park's
northeastern edge, serves both Chabot and Redwood Parks. Going south,
Marciel Gate, and the other trailheads off Marciel Road, are the last
subdued set-off points before you reach the developed parking areas at
Willow Park Golf Course and Lake Chabot Marina. Starting from Bort Meadow
Staging Area allows you to wander southeast or northwest, and it's my
favorite trailhead at Chabot. From here you can take an out-and-back hike
west through chaparral on MacDonald Trail (a segment of the Bay Area Ridge
Trail), or just wander downhill to Bort Meadow and lie
in the grass. Grass Valley Trail (another segment of the Bay Area Ridge
Trail) meanders levelly south through the valley and joins with Brandon
Trial on a march through eucalyptus forests. Brandon runs all the way
to the eastern edge of the park, ending near the Proctor Staging Area.
Equestrians are commonly encountered on the trails
at Chabot, although less so in the winter, when the equestrian center
on Skyline Boulevard is closed. Trails can get quite hot in the summer,
so spring and autumn are the best times of year to visit. Some wildflowers
bloom throughout the park, and a hike through the grassland and chaparral-lined
slopes can be an education in bay area plants.
For the featured hike, head downhill
on the paved road near the entrance to the staging area. Coyote brush
and poison oak line the route. A glance to the left reveals the valley
you will soon be hiking through. At 0.10 mile, the trail splits at a signed 3-way intersection. The paved trail right goes to Bort Meadow.
The trail straight is a spur to Brandon Trail. Turn left, on Grass
Grass Valley, a wide multi-use trail, is curvy
and almost flat.This segment is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and
the East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail. In spring, the grassy
hillsides of this valley are dotted with wildflowers, most notably yellow
suncups, and tiny purple-blossomed filaree, which produces a carpet effect
in places. Cows graze through the valley, so the grass is kept short and
neat. A few oaks produce shade on the edge of the trail, but for the most
part you'll walk under full sun. Coyote brush and poison oak continue
to be prominent plants along the sides of the trail, although some occasional
broom shrubs lend a sweet aroma and yellow flowers in the spring. At 1.04
miles, Redtail Trail sets out from the left side of the trail at a signed
junction. (Redtail climbs to the Marciel Gate; you can make an extra loop by taking
Redtail to Cottontail, and then turning right onto Grass Valley Trail,
after which you can pick up this featured hike at the stone bridge.) Continue
straight on Grass Valley Trail.
The dirt path winds slightly downhill, and the
grass gives way to tall eucalyptus and redwood trees. At 1.52 miles Grass
Valley Trail comes to a junction near the stone bridge. Grass Valley Trail
continues uphill to the left. Turn right and cross Grass Valley Creek
(a good rest spot), then pass the signed entrance to Cascade Trail
on the left and walk uphill to the left on Jackson Grade.
Jackson Grade is a multi-use dirt fire road
that climbs pleasantly through partial shade. You may see white slim solomon's
seal and wood strawberry, orange sticky monkeyflower, and purple bush
lupine in spring. Maple, creambush, hazelnut, blackberry, wild rose, toyon,
coast live oak, and coffeeberry
mix together on the sides of the trail. Eucalyptus towers over all. After
an easy climb to the ridgeline, Jackson Grade ends at a signed junction
at 1.93 miles. Turn right onto Goldenrod Trail.
Goldenrod, a dirt multi-use trail, climbs
a bit. Tall, scrawny eucalyptus trees tower above the chaparral-covered
ridge. To the right views encompass the eastern section of the park. Goldenrod
is mostly level, but occasional uphill stretches persist. Very little
shade makes for hot hiking in the summer. Blue witch nightshade grows
on the side of the hill, along with blue elderberry, toyon, poison oak,
and monkeyflower. Yellow-blossomed broom, an invasive pest plant, has
a strong foothold among the plants in this chaparral community. In spring,
you may see checkerbloom, bluedicks, blue-eyed grass, scarlet pimpernel,
California poppy, and purple bush lupine. Goldenrod Trail nears Skyline
Boulevard and then stays close to the road. Eucalyptus trees fade away
as you continue to hike northwest, and they are replaced by some pines.
The buildings of the equestrian center come into view
just before a junction at 3.60 miles.The signpost stands among a bunch
of yellow broom and may be hard to see if the trail hasn't been brushed
recently. Turn left to stay on Goldenrod before the gated trail
crosses into the equestrian center.
After a tight squeeze through the broom, the
trail cuts through some grass right beside Skyline Boulevard, then drops
away from the street, crosses the access road to the equestrian center,
and returns to chaparral. At 3.74 miles a path to the right leads to Horseshoe
Trail, which drops down and meets Brandon Trail in the valley. Continue
straight on Goldenrod.
Cow parsnip pushes up white flowers on tall thick
stems on the side of the trail in spring. Look for the delicate white
woodland star flowers in the shade, and colorful scarlet pimpernel and
redmaids growing close to the ground in the sun. To the right (east),
if it's clear you should be able to see all the way to Las Trampas Ridge.
In the foreground Grass Valley Trail and Redwood Road are visible. To
the north MacDonald Trail stands out as it traverses the ridge. At one
point the trailhead is obvious, and you can check to see if your car is
still there! Back on Goldenrod Trail, purple bush lupine thrives in the
sun alongside California
sagebrush and California poppies. The trail curves across the hillside
where blackberries and creambush are abundant. At 4.43 miles, the trail
appears to end at an unsigned junction with a service road. Turn right,
and walk on the pavement past the water tank. The trail resumes on dirt
at 4.49 miles. A few maples accompany hazelnut and creambush on the left
side of the trail. At 4.70 miles, Buckeye Trail begins at a signed junction
just before Goldenrod shoots uphill. Turn right onto Buckeye.
After miles on multi-use trails, hiking-only
Buckeye is a pleasure. Some tricky, downward-sloping steps descend sharply
along a creek, then the narrow trail twists under some coast live oaks
and California bays, and crosses a bridge. Edging along the creek, the
path tends to crumble toward the water, so watch your step. You may see
hound's tongue and fringecups among the ferns. A dramatic patch of forget-me-nots
is a froth of delicate light blue blooms in spring. You might enjoy a
rest stop under the shade on a wooden bench standing off the right side
of the trail. I was sitting here on a hike in April when I think
I heard a mountain lion shriek. I've never heard this sound before in
nature (I've listened to audio clips), and it was loud and distinctive,
but probably not closer than 1/4 mile away. When I've heard audio snippets
I thought they sounded
kind of fake, but as soon as I heard whatever this was, I was struck by
the resemblance to those clips. I certainly wouldn't say for sure that
this rather unearthly screech was a mountain lion, but I will be on alert
at Chabot from now on. Shortly after you pass the bench Buckeye Trail
crosses a second bridge and ends at 5.03 miles, at the edge of Bort Meadow.
Cross the grass and look for a junction near a row of pit toilets.
A group of picnic tables sprawl in the grass to the right. A paved road
makes a sharp curve on its way back to the trailhead, but instead take
the trail, signed horses OK/no bikes, to the right of the gate.
This slip of a trail passes through coyote brush,
poison oak, and eucalyptus. There are quite a few plum trees along the
trail, and when the fruit is ripe you might see animals ranging from birds
to coyote gorging on the sweet plums. In spring California buttercups
and blue-eyed grass draw your attention to their colorful petals. At 5.34
miles the trail splits; stay to the left and continue uphill. At
the crest of a hill, the spur ends at a signed junction with MacDonald
Trail, at 5.40 miles. Turn right and walk the few remaining steps to
the gate at the edge of the parking lot.
Total distance: 5.44 miles
Last hiked: Monday, April 22,