Fog to Forest in the Berkeley Hills on the Ridge Trail

MAY 15, 2021 – The Ridge Trail from Tilden Regional Park to Redwood Regional Park begins with magnificent views – unless it’s foggy – in the hills above Berkeley and Oakland before dipping into the grassy Siesta Valley and weaving through poison oak-laden woods at Sibley Volcanic and Huckleberry Botanic regional preserves. Find a trail map here.

We are hiking the 390-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sign up to follow our progress here.

Dawn’s Journal

I declared last week that most Ridge Trail hikes sport spectacular views. We landed at a promising site this week, with the awesome name Inspiration Point. So of course, fog completely obscured the view.

No problem. I actually love walking in fog – a good thing since we live in an area nicknamed Fog City, where the chronic murk even has its own twitter feed. I love fog because it creates an aura of gauzy mystery, where the only things seen or heard are within 20 yards. In the Berkeley Hills, the fog gave the impression that we were alone in a primeval forest, when in fact we were in Alameda County, with its 1.7 million people and its notorious traffic.

Apparently plenty of other people also like fog because the trail was busy. People appeared and disappeared into the mist ahead and behind us. Passing was precarious in some spots due to occasional 6-foot walls of poison oak on both sides of narrow trails. I flagged this hazard to one unfortunate hiker after he stepped off the trail to let us pass. Poor guy. I really appreciate his sacrifice. I hope he has plenty of soap and laundry detergent at home. And maybe a vat of hydrocortisone cream.

I had a nice surprise at the end of the hike — an impromptu photo shoot with a couple of juvenile horned owls. I love taking pictures of birds, but they rarely cooperate. I’m part of the problem. I have little patience for sitting quietly for long periods of time. I am also hopeless at bird spotting and worse at identification. So, our only birding strategy is to look for crowds of people with binoculars and telephoto lenses all pointed in the same direction.

We hit the jackpot on the fire road leading to the parking lot. The giant camouflaged lenses and excited conversations were aimed at a family of horned owls, which stared back at the crowd from a safe height in a nearby pine tree. I got lots of pictures and even spotted the nearly hidden mother. In contrast, the half-dozen turkeys hanging out in the middle of one of the park roads would not cooperate, obstinately turning their butts toward me and moving away every time I pointed my lens their direction.

When much of the fog had cleared later in the day, we drove back to Inspiration Point — the name implying that it would be worth the effort. Unfortunately, the bushes near the lookout are overgrown, obstructing whatever inspiration the point once offered.

Win some, lose some.

Dan’s Journal

We didn’t fully consider the commute when we decided to hike the Ridge Trail. Case in point: Our hike across the Berkeley Hills.

Nearly all of the hikes are point to point, so checking off 10 miles of trail either involves 20 miles of hiking – too long for us – or parking a car at each trail head. The round-trip drive to the trailhead at Inspiration Point from our home is 96 miles. Double that by adding the shuttle vehicle and add the round-trip distance between parking lots, and the miles driven and time consumed added up. Driving unfamiliar highways and neighborhoods added to the fatigue.

Possible solutions?

  • We’ve already decided to book a room for several nights in distant counties on occasion to reach multiple trail segments more efficiently.
  • Our daughter has volunteered to do shuttle duty when we’re hiking near her home in Sonoma County, and we’ve got friends spotted around the area that might help out.
  • I’ve pondered bringing my bicycle while hiking the occasional bridge, downtown or trail with minimal elevation changes so that Dawn, who doesn’t cycle, could hike one way and I could cycle round trip and bring the car around without need of a shuttle.
  • Uber, Lyft and public transportation are options in some locations.

I must ponder further.

The view from Seaview Trail at Tilden Regional Park is reputed to be amazing – unless it’s foggy. Dan Page/

Miles we hiked


(with returns and connectors)

Elevation gain






Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 42.9 out of 390 miles


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