Monday, November 17, 2008

Day Hike: Redwood Regional Park Loop II


Being one of the unemployed masses means I can hike when the gainfully employed world is stuck in their grayish beige cubes. This epiphany motivated me to get off my butt on a Friday afternoon and go on a local hike. Previously, on a rainy gray day I had done the mirror version of this hike, so I wanted to explore the "other side" figuratively and literally and start out at the opposite end of the park on a warm, dry (and windy) November day.

Hike Details
  • Date: November 14, 2008
  • Location: CA, Bay Area, Redwood Regional Park, Oakland
  • Lat/Long: 37.8317, -122.18544
  • Trailhead: Skyline Gate
  • TH Facilities: restrooms, drinking water, pay phone
  • Trails Hiked: West Ridge, French, Mill, & Stream
  • Mileage: 5.5
  • Elevation: +/-1,060' ; lo pt 735'; hi pt 1,345'
  • Route Type: Loop
  • Terrain: double track (small rocks); single track (roots); and then more well-maintained double track
  • Why go?: Oak Woodland/Pine, Redwood Forest, & Riparian plant communities; dark forest feel at canyon bottom, spawning trout in Redwood Creek and newts in wet season, dog friendly park.
  • East Bay Regional Parks official website: Redwood Regional Park
Trailhead at Skyline Gate. Eucalyptus and pine trees, but no redwoods here. (I started on the high road and returned via the low.)

One is Never Alone

My hopes of being a solo trail hog were soon dashed as I pulled into the VERY FULL trailhead parking lot. Either the economy is crappier then the government is letting on (which it is) or there are a lot of independently wealthy outdoor enthusiasts (I wish I was) or many people only work a half-day on Friday (I feel robbed for all those years of 8-hour Fridays) or who knows. All I know is I was not going to be alone this weekday. A bonus note is that many of these work truants traveling the trails owned big happy friendly dogs—and I love big happy friendly dogs.

Pretty trail through the oaks.

Deep Dark Forest

Starting out on a ridge at the Skyline Gate staging area, across the street from multi-million dollar bay-view homes, you wouldn't quite understand why this park is called Redwood Regional as you mostly see pine and eucalyptus trees ahead of you. And continuing down West Ridge Trail, you enter oak woodland filled with lots of California hazelnut, bay laurel trees, madrone trees, oak trees, huckleberry bushes, pine (not sure if they are Monterey or knobcone, but definitely pine) and many others. But descend farther, and the oak and madrone trees become older, the underbrush sparser, and the sunlight dimmer. As you get closer to the bottom of the ridge it gets much darker, and suddenly, you are amongst those giant conifer trees—Sequoia sempervirens a.k.a Coast Redwood, hundreds of feet tall, blocking out the majority of light. It feels as if you've entered a fairy-tale forest—moist, dark and cool.

Oak trees on French Trail as I'm getting closer to the dark canyon floor.
redwood trees
In the dark forest amongst redwood trees near the intersection of French and Tres Sendas trails.

Diablo Winds

Today, due to the warm, dry air, this moist, dark coolness is welcomed, however it is accompanied with danger. The "Diablo Winds"— S.F. Bay Area's version of southern California's Santa Ana winds—are blowing hard. This weather phenomenon, like the Santa Ana's, is a dry, warm wind that comes out of the state's interior usually during the driest season of the year—fall. But when I speak of danger, I'm not talking about what most people think—fire; I'm talking about what loggers like to call "widow makers". Redwood trees have a self-pruning method that employs the help of winds. When their lower branches die and become a heavy burden, they usually get knocked off during a strong wind. Some of these branches are the size of a lesser tree's trunk. Hence, getting knocked in the head by one of these "widow makers" is a good way to get yourself injured or killed. While passing under these swaying giants, I kept an eye on the sky and my fingers crossed.


  1. I enjoyed your wonderful photos and well written commentary! I'm inspired now to take some pictures of my own.

    Redwood is one of my favorite parks. The Steam Trail is a fine place to take visitors, especially those who live where the land is flatter! It is an easy lovely walk and one can bring a bag lunch to enjoy along the way.

    Thank you for sharing your hike. IF you can find a companion with free time and no opposition to very steep trails, try exploring some of the interior trails of Redwood. There are some very beautiful little-known spots.

  2. Most of my adventures are in the far north redwood parks, like Jedediah Smith.

    Your photo captioned "pretty trail through the oaks" looks so much like a view in Rogue River National Park along the Cook and Green Trail. Except that it is madrone and oak. Just shy of Red Buttes Wilderness. It's virtually at the north CA border.

    M. D. Vaden

    Beaverton / Portland