Best Hikes of the East Bay
Our trail guide includes awesome views and abundant flora and fauna.
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Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach
Alameda 2.5 miles, easy.
Highlight: An abundance of seabirds, athletic kiteboarders, and windsurfers, and views of San Francisco.
Crown State Beach runs from Crab Cove to the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary on Shoreline Drive, providing a leisurely stroll with ample opportunities for watching birds, gawking at Curious George-like kiteboarders and windsurfers, and enjoying views of fog-shrouded San Francisco. During fall and winter, the best time to observe grebes and loons close to the shoreline is at high tide, while low tide is best for watching creatures that feed in the exposed mudflats, including egrets, sandpipers, or the occasional human with a clam bucket. Tide tables are available at Crab Cove Visitor Center, which is a treasure of information about the animals and plants that thrive here, where saltwater and freshwater meet. Dogs on-leash allowed in the park but banned from the beach.
East Ridge Trail Loop
Redwood Park Regional Park, Canyon/Oakland Five miles, moderately difficult.
Highlight: Look for the massive clusters of ladybugs that migrate to the park’s trees each winter along the park’s coast redwoods.
Redwood Regional Park is a hiker’s dream, an ethereal redwood forest with myriad trails including sunny ridgeline walks and rigorous hill climbs connecting to the shady, flat strolls along the valley floor. The park has many access points. Try starting at the Pinehurst Staging Area on Pinehurst Road near the tiny town of Canyon. Park on the roadside and head straight onto the East Ridge Trail, turn left at Canyon Trail and then take three right turns, first onto Stream Trail, then Prince Trail, and back to the East Ridge Trail to complete the loop. This is a moderately difficult two-hour hike with all the best the park has to offer. Dogs must be leashed on the Stream Trail.
Redwood Regional Park, Oakland Eight-mile loop, difficult.
Highlight: The Stream Trail, the wide, mostly flat trail that skirts Redwood Creek, is home to native rainbow trout, California newts, and several historic sites.
Ships entering the Golden Gate used to use the East Bay’s giant coast redwoods as navigational points, but by the 1860s all the old growth had been harvested for lumber. Thankfully the area that became Redwood Regional Park was not developed; today its magical fairy rings of second- and third-growth redwoods are lovely reminders of the once-towering trees. From Skyline Gate, take the West Ridge Trail for a half mile to pick up the French Trail. This quiet and contemplative (bike-free) single-track trail descends into the ravine and meanders along its edge through thick and shady redwood groves for about four miles. Several trails intersect with the French Trail; keep a close eye on your map and helpful trail markers. Stroll back along the Stream Trail. Dog must be on leash on the Stream Trail.
Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Oakland 1.7-mile loop, moderate to difficult.
Highlight: A unique flower display all year-round and a bay forest that provides welcome shade in the heat, thanks to exposure to winter rain and summer fog.
Huckleberry is a botanic marvel and can be explored via a 1.7-mile loop that takes two hours to hike and includes steep ascents, though less-strenuous options are available. The trail winds through barren rocky knolls where small white and rose-tinged manzanita blossoms open as early as November, mourning doves forage for the orange-red berries of Pacific madrone, and young huckleberries are slowly gaining ground. The path plunges into a forest of mature bay trees for a mile and leads (depending on the season) through leathery fern fronds, pink-flowering currant bushes, purplish-blue Douglas irises, and silky Coast Silktassel catkins. No dogs allowed.
Guide to 12 East Bay HikesInstead of schlepping to see redwoods alongside throngs of tourists in the Muir Woods, beat a path to Redwood Regional Park, where redwoods stand as quiet sentries along the Stream Trail, often without the crowds. The beauty of hiking in the East Bay is that it can be a lone experience not far from the trailhead. A hike can be rife with misty vistas, dusty ridge trails, and rolling hills flecked with lowing cattle. The landscape announces seasons with California poppies bursting orange and interlocking tendrils of blooming Scotch broom undulating like a vast yellow sea. To understand this bit of East Bay paradise, follow this guide to 12 worthwhile hikes. It includes lesser-known adventures as well as old favorites in a world of hiking microclimates with unique characteristics. From Alameda, Berkeley, and Crockett to Moraga, Oakland, and San Leandro with varying distances and levels of difficulty, these hikes are sure to please.
Photos by Pat Mazzera