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.
Nice year round.
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:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants near CA 13. No camping.
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.
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
The Official Story:
Ranger Station: 510-482-7888
of Oakland's Joaquin Miller page
Map Choices/More Info:
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from City of Oakland's website
from Friends of Sausal Creek
Trails of the East Bay Hills (Central Section), by Gerald
this map from Amazon.com) is a good reference for Joaquin Miller hikes.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Joaquin
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com), has a good map and featured hike.
Miller Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
View photos from
Miller Park has terrain and vegetation similar to
its neighbor, Redwood Park, but the City of
Oakland manages Joaquin Miller with a style very different from Redwood.
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.
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. 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
Joaquin Miller's trail network permits
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.
For 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
(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.
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.)
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.)
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.
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
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. 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.)
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.
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.
Last hiked: Wednesday, November 7, 2001
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