Joaquin Miller Park,
City of Oakland,
Alameda County
In brief:
3.5 mile loop through redwoods, in Oakland!

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.5 mile loop hike is easy, with about 500 feet in elevation change. Park elevation ranges from about 800 feet to 1500 feet. The featured hike starts at about 1090 feet, climbs to 1350 feet, and descends to 930 feet before climbing back to the trailhead. There are some steep (but short) trails, and a few seriously eroded paths can make descents tough.

Exposure:
Mostly shaded.

Trail traffic:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
2 hours.

Season:
Nice year round.

Getting there:
From CA 24 in Alameda County, exit CA 13 south (exit 5). Drive south on CA 13 about 3 miles, then exit Lincoln/Joaquin Miller Road (exit 2). At the base of the exit ramp, turn left, cross over the highway, then bear right onto Joaquin Miller Road. Drive uphill about 0.8 mile, then turn left onto Sanborn Drive (look for the Woodminster sign). Drive about 0.1 mile on Sanborn Drive, and park in the lot (or along the side of the road) near the ranger station.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://transitandtrails.org/trailheads/250

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3748'37.50"N
Longitude
12211'4.37"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants near CA 13. No camping.

Trailhead details:
There is a medium-sized paved lot, but many people park along the side of Sanborn Drive. Mind the no parking signs. If there is no parking inside the park, you can easily and legally park on the side of Joaquin Miller Road and walk in. No entrance or parking fees. Restrooms, pay phone, maps, and drinking water at the ranger station. There is one designated handicapped parking spot in the parking lot (which also services the Joaquin Miller Community Center), but trails here are poorly suited to wheelchairs. AC Transit bus #53 stops in front of the park.

Rules:
Some trails are open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. There are a few closed to bikes, and some trails are signed hiking only. Dogs are permitted on leash only (but are not allowed in picnic areas). Park is open from dawn to dusk.

The Official Story:
Ranger Station: 510-482-7888
City of Oakland's Joaquin Miller page

Map Choices/More Info:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from City of Oakland's website
Map from Friends of Sausal Creek
• Trails of the East Bay Hills (Central Section), by Gerald Olmsted (order this map from Amazon.com) is a good reference for Joaquin Miller hikes.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Joaquin Miller hike.
• East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com), has a good map and featured hike.

Joaquin Miller Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Joaquin Miller Park has terrain and vegetation similar to its neighbor, Redwood Park, but the City of Oakland manages Joaquin Miller differently. Parking lot With the East Bay Regional Park District the dominant public land manager in Alameda and Contra Costa Counties, a certain standard prevails at most East Bay parks and preserves. Trailheads are clearly announced, trail junctions well signed, maps always in a particular spot, etc. Things are pretty much the same at Oakland's Joaquin Miller, but subtle differences result in the slight similar confusion that a loyal McDonalds customer may experience when making a rare foray into an In-and-Out Burger. Joaquin Miller's minor differences, mostly relating to signage and maintenance, certainly shouldn't keep you from visiting the park, and whether you experience the missing trail signs and eroded paths as character flaws or endearing qualities is up to you. Sunset Trail
     My experiences at Joaquin Miller Park have always reminded me that I was visiting an urban park. There is generally more garbage along, and more people on the trails then in more remote parks, and traffic and airplane noise seems omnipresent. But on my last hike at Joaquin Miller I had a pleasant surprise to balance the negative experiences. For over an hour saxophone music drifted through the heart of the park, as someone, somewhere played a series of lovely melodies.
     Land comprising the 425 acre park once belonged to poet Joaquin Miller, and a few landmarks, monuments, and structures remain to be explored along Sanborn Drive.The historical area is small though, and most of the park is devoted to a network of trails, where hikers can accompany cyclists and equestrians through redwood groves, dark canyon creekbeds, and more exposed slopes invaded with non-native trees such as eucalyptus, acacia, and broom. :Looking back down Sunset Trail from Sequoia Bayview Trail Neighborhood residents favor nearly flat Sequoia Bayview Trail as a regular exercise track, but once you exit that trail, there's quite a lot of solitude to be found, at least on a weekday. Unfortunately, even when there is little trail traffic you'll probably experience a considerable amount of noise pollution from the surrounding roads, as well as overhead airplane noise. Autumn is an appropriate season to visit, with cool and dry conditions, but you might brave the mud and storms on a winter hike with great success, for the park's many seasonal and perennial creeks swell with water after heavy rains.
      Joaquin Miller's trail network permits quite a few short loop options. Choose from a handful of ascending paths, then stroll easily on Sequoia Bayview, the park's main street, and return to the trailhead on a descending path. The longest loops here are under 4 miles, and although you can easily add on some out-and-back stuff, if you're an experienced hiker you'll soon exhaust the park's possibilities. View from Sequoia Bayview TrailFor inexperienced hikers with limited map reading abilities, Joaquin Miller provides excellent opportunities to hone navigating skills. Families with small kids might get the most out of Joaquin Miller Park's facilities, which include lots of picnic areas, restrooms, and a grassy meadow perfect for romping.
     (Note: the park has many unsigned paths and shortcuts. Only major, signed trails and junctions are described below.) Start out from the ranger station and walk back on Sanborn Drive toward Joaquin Miller Road. After about .10 mile, you'll reach a yellow gate on the left side of the road. Turn left through (around) the gate, then ignore the side trail to the left and walk straight down the main path, Sunset Trail. Redwoods, California bays, and a few coast live oaks shade the wide path. A meadow and picnic area is visible to the left. At 0.16 mile, you'll reach a signed 3-way junction. Take the middle path (uphill) to remain on Sunset Trail. Sequoia Bayview Trail
     Multi-use Sunset Trail begins a slight climb through a redwood canyon. A few big-leaf maples litter the trail in autumn. At 0.22 mile, Sunset Loop Trail departs to the left. Continue straight on Sunset Trail. A few steps later, at 0.27 mile, a path breaks off to the right, across the creekbed, while Sunset presses on uphill. Continue straight, following the sign "to Sequoia Bayview Trail."
     The grade picks up. Look for blackberry, ferns, thimbleberry, and hazelnut beneath the cool shade of redwoods. After one last steep and rocky stretch, Sunset Trail ends at an undersigned junction with Sequoia Bayview Trail at 0.60 mile. Turn left onto Sequoia Bayview Trail. (You can extend the hike by turning right here, then, just before the trails ends at Skyline Boulevard, turn left onto Big Trees Trail. Big Trees visits the park's largest redwoods, and loops around to Sequoia Bayview Trail. Unfortunately, the trail spends most of its time very close to Skyline Boulevard, so the route can be noisy.)Non native trees line Sequoia Bayview Trail near Sequoia Arena
     This broad trail, open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians, keeps a remarkably flat grade, winding through coast live oak, redwood, California bay, and pine. As the trail follows the curve of the hillside out into a clearing, some chaparral plants including coyote brush, sagebrush, and monkeyflower bask in the sunlight. This is also where long views appear, downhill to Oakland and then across the bay to San Francisco. Sequoia Bayview Trail heads back into the woods, where you might see some stately madrones, honeysuckle vines dangling toward the ground, and a few huckleberry shrubs. The trail repeats a pattern like a child tracing her fingers to make a paper Thanksgiving turkey, visiting cool canyons where redwoods thrive and creeks trickle downhill in winter, then creeping out to exposed sloping hillsides that descend toward the west. As you draw near to Big Trees Trail, the slightest breeze may stir the tall trees and draw your gaze skyward. But the wind rustles pines on these high slopes, with redwoods preferring the sheltered protection of the canyons. At 1.20 miles, you'll reach a signed junction with Big Trees Trail. Continue straight on Sequoia Bayview Trail. (If you want to shorten this hike, you can take Big Trees back to Sequoia Bayview, turn right, then turn left onto Sunset Trail and return to the trailhead.)Erosion on Chaparral Trail
      Sequoia Bayview Trail, still consistently flat, delves into a very dark and cool canyon. At 1.43 miles, you'll reach a signed two-part junction with Fern Ravine Trail. The hiking only path heads downhill to the left, and then a few steps later, climbs uphill to the right. Continue on Sequoia Bayview Trail. Just a few curves more down the trail, at 1.54 miles, there's a signed junction with Wild Rose Trail, another hiking-only path that heads downhill to the left and uphill to the right. Continue straight on Sequoia Bayview Trail.
      Native plant lovers may find themselves shaking their heads in disgust as they hike through this next stretch, for invasive trees (mostly Australian imports) have almost completely overtaken the landscape along the trail. Monterey pines (native but probably planted by Miller) mingle with eucalyptus and acacia, choking other natives. At 1.72 miles, a signed trail to the right shortcuts the route to Sequoia Arena. Continue straight on Sequoia Bayview Trail.Sunset Trail
      Just a stone's throw from the park's equestrian staging area, this part of Sequoia Bayview Trail is in sad shape (although park staff were working in the area when I visited). Horse traffic on clay soil has left the trail rocky and eroded, particularly on the last downhill stretch leading to Chaparral Trail. Step carefully to the signed junction at 1.96 miles. Turn left onto Chaparral Trail. (You can extend this hike by remaining on Sequoia Bayview Trail to Castle Rock Trail.Turn left and then left again onto Cinderella Trail. Take Cinderella Trail to Sunset Trail, turn left, and pick up the hike again at the junction with Chaparral Trail.)
      A hillside covered in coyote brush falls away to the right, but the hiking-only trail descends through a mixture of coast live oak, hazelnut, ferns, madrone, creambush, and pine. This somewhat steep path is seriously eroded (although park staff were working in the area on my visit) and downhill footing can be hazardous. Palos Colorados Trail Before long the grade slackens as the trail curves left, offering nice views of a forested hillside to the west. Broom is common on the sides of the trail, and keeps company with another "garden escapee," cotoneaster. Cotoneaster produces red poisonous berries in autumn; toyon is a native shrub (with non poisonous red berries) of similar size, and you can see the two plants growing opposite each other on the trail as you descend. At 2.31 miles, Chaparral Trail ends at an undersigned junction with Sunset Trail. Turn left onto Sunset Trail.
      Multi-use Sunset Trail ambles at a level grade through a melange of coast live oak, pine, California bay, toyon, and maple. A few buckeye and blue elderberry trees linger on the right side of the trail, near the mouth of a shaded redwood ravine. At 2.43 miles, Sunset Trail meets Palos Colorado Trail. Turn right onto Palos Colorado. (This next segment is an out-and-backish side trip that you can skip, but it's well worth the short detour.)A pretty maple just before Upper Meadow
     Tiny hiking only Palos Colorado Trail descends along the redwood and California bay lined banks of a creek. The understory is infested with ivy and a creeping plant that looks like English Holly (which is rarely found in bay area parks). Ignore any side paths that lead toward the visible Sinawik Trail on the other side of the creek, and persist on Palos Colorado to a bridge and junction at 2.75 miles. This shaded, cool and quiet trail intersection, in the shadow of (shuttered) Sinawik Cabin and at the confluence of two creeks, is a great place for a secluded lunch break. When you're ready, cross the bridge and turn left onto Sinawik Trail.
     The narrow multi-use trail climbs back uphill on the opposite bank from Palos Colorados. After a pretty stiff but short climb the trail crests and reaches a junction at 3.10 miles. Turn left to remain on Sinawik Trail and walk a few feet through the woods and over a bridge to another signed junction at 3.12 miles. Turn right onto Sunset Trail.Upper Meadow
     A pretty maple stands over an unsigned junction at the edge of Upper Meadow at 3.17 miles. Continue straight (right) into the meadow. Tall redwoods line the small but pretty and lush flat meadow, where picnic tables and restrooms greet both weary hikers and picnickers fresh from the parking lot. A thin path runs down the middle of the meadow; follow the path to its terminus at the edge of the meadow at 3.37 miles. Turn right and walk a few feet to the gate at Sanborn Drive, then turn right and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 3.47 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, November 7, 2001