4.6 mile loop over sharply rolling, rocky hills. Great views and wildflowers
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.6 mile loop hike is moderate. Trailhead elevation is
about 1040 feet. The featured hike climbs to about 1880 feet and then descends
back to the trailhead. There are numerous short, somewhat steep ascents
and descents, and the total elevation change is about 900 feet.
Some shade, but mostly exposed.
Dirt trails and one paved fire road.
Late winter through spring. Trails are very muddy after heavy rains.
From eastbound CA 24 in Contra Costa County, exit south Interstate 680 (exit
15a). Drive about 10 miles and exit Crow Canyon Road (exit 36). Drive west
(right) for about 1 mile, then turn right (north) onto Bollinger Canyon
Road. Continue about 4.5 miles to the trailhead at the end of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 3'0.27"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, restaurants, and pay phones back on Crow Canyon Road. No camping.
Large parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. Portable toilets, maps,
and drinking water at the edges of the parking lot. There are two designated
handicapped parking spots, but the trails are not well-suited to wheelchairs.
There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.
Bicyclists are allowed on about half the trails, but some trails are designated
for equestrians and hikers only. A few are hiking-only. Dogs are permitted.
Las Trampas is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Official Story:
Las Trampas page.
Park headquarters 925-837-3145
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
from EBRPD (download the pdf).
A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of the East Bay Hills, Central
Section, published by The Olmsted & Bros. Map Co.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Las
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub, has some good maps and
trail descriptions (order
this book from Amazon.com).
East Bay Out, by Malcolm Margolin, has a slightly outdated
map and good descriptions of trails (order
this book from Amazon.com).
View 58 photos from the
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Trampas Regional Wilderness is the tough guy of the East Bay Regional Park District. There
are no steam trains or petting zoos. Just steep, rugged trails, interesting
geology, and fantastic views. Las Trampas (Spanish for the traps) has
two distinct areas, each with its own personality. Rocky Ridge, on the
west side of the valley, is known for views in all directions, unusual
rocks, and green rolling hills lightly forested with California bays,
oaks, and maples. The wildflower display on the hills just off the ridgeline
is an east bay favorite. The Las Trampas Ridge, to the east, is quite
different, featuring a plant community dominated by chamise, with other
chaparral plants such as manzanitas and coyote brush. On the Rocky Ridge
side, there are two trails that climb to the ridgeline, Elderberry and
Rock Ridge, and all loop hikes make use of at least one of these trails. On the Las Trampas Ridge side, there are many loop possibilities, most of them long, tough hauls. A 7-mile loop that covers
both sides of the ridge combines Chamise, Mahogany, Trapline, Sulfur Springs,
Amigo, Virgil Williams, Madrone, Corduroy Hills, Las Trampas Ridge, and
the Bollinger Canyon Trails. The shortest loop
strings together Chamise and Mahogany Trails, a 1 mile hike. The easiest
loop of all at Las Trampas combines the Bollinger Canyon and Creek Trails,
a nearly flat 1.2 mile hike. Las Trampas is sun-baked in the summer, and
the trails are annoyingly muddy in the winter and early spring (especially
in areas where the cattle graze). The best season is spring, after the
trails have dried out a bit, but before it becomes hot.
For the featured hike, start at the western
edge of the parking lot, near the shady picnic area. Enter the park
by the large metal gate, walk across the grass, then pass through the
cattle gate on unsigned Elderberry Trail. Right away you'll get a
sense of the trail quality. If
the surface is squishy, muddy, and/or rutted, expect the same from the
rest of the trail. To the east Chamise Trail is visible as it switchbacks
uphill. Elderberry Trail crosses over (through
may be a better word) the first of many seasonal creeks near a buckeye
tree. After leveling out across a meadow,
the trail passes a corral and reaches a signed junction, at 0.42 mile.
Turn right to remain on Elderberry Trail.
The trail climbs sharply uphill, first under
coast live and black oak as well as California bays near a creek, then
emerging into grassland with views up to the ridge. After the initial
climb, the trail curves slightly south and tapers out a bit. The worst
muddy sections occur where the trail dips
down to shaded creek crossings, and then climbs back
up. I've hiked through here when the mud has been that industrial strength
shoes-sucked-off-your feet quality. It's
not too much fun, but those stretches are brief, and the trail returns
to the grassland and all is forgiven, for now. Along the trail in spring you
may see paintbrush, purple bush lupine, and California poppy. Sunny stretches
harbor sagebrush, coffeeberry, and poison oak. Where the trail is deeply
shaded, gooseberry bushes flourish along with nettles, beneath California
bays and a few maples. At 1.19 miles, a shortcut path (not on the map)
departs uphill to the right, leading to Cuesta Trail. Continue straight
on Elderberry Trail, which continues to rise and fall through trees and
grassland. Look for deer, coyote, and bobcat tracks at the muddy spots.
Poor draining soil has resulted in a few landslides on both side of the
trail in one or two places. Elderberry Trail crosses through a pretty
California bay grove, then winds through the grassland and makes a final
steep push to the ridge line. A few old big-leaf maples, somewhat out
of place on the exposed hillside, stand downslope on the left. On a mid-April
hike, I saw filaree, fiddleneck, California poppy, and creamcups on the
hill to the right. Elderberry Trail ends at a signed junction at 1.85 miles. From the junction, savor the
views east, of Mount Diablo. There's a short trail to the south that dead-ends
at a belvedere, but take Upper Trail uphill to the right.
With unobstructed views to the southwest, Rocky
Ridge is the best site for a glimpse of the East Bay M.U.D. property that
is largely closed to the public. From this ridge soft-looking hills roll
downhill to Upper San Leandro Reservoir, and end at Anthony Chabot Regional
Park. A few trails are open to the public, but you must obtain a trail
use permit from East Bay M.U.D. before heading out on any trails. I've
been pinning to hike from Las Trampas to the Chabot Staging Area for a
few years, but it's a long trek; about 9 miles
Upper Trail climbs steeply through the grassland, to a series
of crests. It may be windy along the ridge. Once on a March hike, I watched a UFA (unidentified frolicking animal) across the canyon to the west. I had forgotten my binoculars, but could see the large dark creature was unaccompanied by a human. Bigger than a coyote or a bobcat, could this be the mythical black panther? You might notice some rocks
jutting out of the ground on the left side of the trail. Take a close
look at them. These rocks from the Orinda Formation hold remnants of ancient
shoreline. Shells are visible embedded in some of them. At 2.23 miles,
Devil's Hole Trail departs to the left at a signed junction. If you want
to extend your hike, Devil's Hole Trail drops down the west side of Rocky
Ridge and passes the wind caves, an ominous-looking cluster of rocks (it's
shown on the Olmsted map, but not on the EBRPD map). Then Sycamore Trail
climbs back to the ridgeline and adds about 2.5 miles to the featured
hike. Today, continue straight on Upper Trail.
After a steady climb along the ridge, Upper
Trail descends along the east side of the hill. On a breezy day, you'll
be glad for a respite from the wind. The grade levels out, and at 2.62
miles, Cuesta Trail departs on the right side of the trail from a signed
junction. Either Cuesta or Upper Trail is an option here. Upper continues
along the ridgeline, while Cuesta angles along the hillside beneath the ridge. For the featured hike, turn right onto
Cuesta is open to hikers and equestrians only.
The narrow path initially doubles back to the south, descending steeply
through coyote brush, then turns and heads north. The trail has some dips
up and down along the way, but mostly follows a downhill course. Cows
use the path frequently, so even though it traverses an exposed slope,
sections of Cuesta are soggy and rutted in winter and early spring. Views
of Mount Diablo and Las Trampas Ridge accompany your descent. A spur back
down to Elderberry Trail is visible on the right side of the trail at
2.81 miles. Continue straight on Cuesta.
In late winter, milkmaids, California poppies,
California buttercups, and shooting stars enliven the green grass. Later,
in spring, you might see woodland star, purple bush lupine, mule-ear sunflowers, fiddlenecks, and creamcups. California bays are the dominant
tree, flourishing in the damp creases of the hills, but look for a magnificent,
sprawling big-leaf maple on the right side of the trail. Cuesta makes
a final descent to a signed junction at 4.04 miles. Paved Rocky Ridge
Road ascends from here to Upper Trail; a small dirt path runs along it,
offering an optional route for hikers. Turn right onto Rocky Ridge
Although the trail is wide and paved, it's
closed to cyclists. Rocky Ridge Road is popular with folks exercising
and walking dogs; the moderately steep grade ensures a good workout. As
you descend through the grassland bordered by coast live oaks, there are
nice views right, uphill to Rocky Ridge, and left, to Las Trampas Ridge.
Rocky Ridge Road ends at a cattle gate, back at the trailhead.
Total distance: 4.56 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April