Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Quicksilver Relics at New Almaden on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail winds past the remains of California’s oldest commercial mining operation at Almaden Quicksilver County Park. The trail segment runs across land first tapped for its mercury content in 1845. Look for the partially reconstructed ruins of a 20th-century processing plant trailside above English Camp and other buildings in the surrounding hills and valleys.

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Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park, Gilroy, CA

Boot-sucking Mud above Coyote Lake on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park rises gently above the 90-year-old Coyote Dam and Reservoir and meanders through a pasture on the ridgeline east of Gilroy. Recent rains left the hills a brilliant green and portions of the trail a cattle-churned quagmire.

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Bay Area Ridge Trail

Silicon Vistas at Mt. El Sereno on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at El Sereno Open Space Preserve winds down the side of the preserve’s namesake mountain past coastal scrub to a scruffy overlook above the Lexington Reservoir. The views of the Silicon Valley are magnificent.

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Hiking the Dixie Fire Scar at Lassen National Park

A green meadow frames Kings Creek as it meanders from a forested trailhead, over the namesake falls and into the Dixie Fire burn scar at Lassen Volcanic National Park. Nearly a year after the fire, the meadow contrasted sharply with the gray cinders and blackened conifers that dominated the landscape on the loop trail to Bench Lake. Signs of recovery were sparse.

Kings Creek Falls and Bench Loop Trail (Aug. 6, 2022) – 4.3 miles

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Bay Area Ridge Trail

Moody Oaks at Rockville Hills on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail climbs abruptly into Rockville Hills Regional Park into a woodland of gnarled blue oaks overlooking rugged bluffs of volcanic rock. The trail leaves the park just as abruptly, descending to the paved and landscaped Vintage Valley Trail as it passes through suburban Fairfield.

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Skyline Wilderness Park

Napa to Suscol Ridge via Skyline Wilderness on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Skyline Wilderness Park begins with a difficult one-mile climb through an oak-studded hillside with views of the city of Napa and neighboring vineyards. The trail continues along canyon highlands and above Lake Marie to Suscol Ridge. The view from the ridge includes vineyards, Suisin and San Pablo bays, the Carquinez Strait, and mountain peaks in all directions. On a clear day, we were told, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Vallejo-Benicia Buffer

A Tromp across the Vallejo Highlands on the Ridge Trail

This suburban segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail extends south from Blue Rock Springs Park to the Benicia State Recreation Area. After tracking two miles of Vallejo boulevards, the trail climbs into the undeveloped highlands along the border with Benicia. The dusty, shadeless highlands include extensive views of Vallejo and San Pablo Bay to the west, and the Carquinez Strait to the south. The trail begins with a short hike up the desolate hill above Blue Rock Springs Park to a dead end at a gap in the Ridge Trail.

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Lassen Volcanic National Park

A Hike to Lassen’s Bumpass Hell … and Back

The trail to Bumpass Hell at Lassen Volcanic National Park gently rises along a lightly wooded ridge with views of Lassen and other iconic peaks before plunging into a steaming geologic cauldron. Acidic water boils. Mud belches. The stench of sulfur hangs in the air. We brought the grandsons.

Bumpass Hell (Aug. 5, 2022) – 2.7 miles

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Jack London State Historic Park

A Ridge Trail Floral Spectacle at Jack London State Historic Park

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Jack London State Historic Park begins with a two-mile hike up a connector trail. The connector traverses a wide service road that passes historic vineyards and buildings on parkland once owned by the early 20th century adventure author before climbing through a shady redwood forest. The actual Ridge Trail segment veers left up a forested single-track trail before breaking into open meadows with views of the mountains to the east.

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Hiking the Burn Scar at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park parallels Ritchey Creek as it ascends steadily through the shade of mixed woodlands and redwood groves. The park’s redwoods – an unusual feature this far inland – and much of the forest in the upper elevations of the park was heavily damaged by the Glass Fire in October 2020. Watch out for poison oak.

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Moore Creek Park

A Wine Country Canyon at Moore Creek on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Moore Creek Park in Napa County ascends steadily up to a ridgeline through a rich mixed woodland and onto a grassy hillside with views of the multi-hued canyon canopy below and mountains to the west. At roughly the half way point, the trail drops steeply to the creek, where the footpath makes five water crossings as it rises and falls through the woods. The Ridge Trail segment ends at a rocky wide spot in the creek that’s perfect for a Wine Country picnic.

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Vista Angst at Pacific Union College on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail passes through the Pacific Union College Demonstration Forest at Angwin. The trail drops gently along an unpaved service road through a heavily thinned woodland for 1.5 miles before dipping sharply down a footpath that winds along a hillside. The trail offers tantalizing glimpses of an unrealized view.

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Lynch Canyon Open Space

Cranky Cattle in the Mist above Lynch Canyon on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Lynch Canyon Open Space Park begins on a farm road along Lynch Creek before climbing through oak-studded pastures to rocky hilltops with views of the Napa Sonoma Marsh, San Pablo Bay, Mount Tamalpais and Mount Diablo. Benches and picnic tables are placed at regular intervals along the trail. Morning fog obscured the views on the day we hiked.

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Ridge Trail by Reservation at San Francisco Peninsula Watershed

The Bay Area Ridge Trail crosses the San Francisco Peninsula Watershed on the Fifield-Cahill Trail between locked gates at Sweeney Ridge and Skylawn Memorial Park. A short section also passes through the cemetery itself. Entering from Sweeny Ridge, the watershed trail undulates past coastal chaparral with views of The Peninsula, San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean before reaching a forest of Douglas fir. The watershed includes three reservoirs: San Andreas Lake, Crystal Springs and Pilarcitos.

Watershed hikes and bicycle rides require reservations with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and are led by volunteer trail leaders. Book a reservation here.

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Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve

A Cobblestone Legacy at Mount Burdell on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve rises steadily from San Marin High School in Novato through bucolic cow pastures and past giant oak trees. About a mile from the peak, the trail levels off with a sweeping view of the preserve and surrounding mountains before rising steeply on the aptly named Cobblestone Trail to the summit. Stone walls at the apex were built by Chinese immigrants who quarried cobblestones used to pave the streets of San Francisco in the late 19th century.

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Madrone and Manzanita at Indian Tree Preserve on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail at Novato climbs south from the Vineyard Road trailhead through Indian Tree Preserve until it ends abruptly at a hillside trail junction. The forested segment is most notable for its many stands of madrone trees and manzanita bushes. Traveling north from Vineyard Road, the Ridge Trail passes through the Verissimo Hills and Little Mountain preserves to Novato’s O’Hair Park, with views of Stafford Lake, the Indian Valley Golf Club and the back yards of homes adjacent to the trail.

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A Toe-Stubber at San Geronimo Ridge on the Ridge Trail

The Bay Area Ridge Trail from White Hill Preserve to Samuel P. Taylor State Park travels southwest from Castro Valley up a moderate grade through grassy meadows and groves of mixed trees. The trail flattens out at the Gary Giacomini Preserve and becomes incredibly rocky as it reaches stands of pygmy cypress that grow in the thin serpentine soil along San Geronimo Ridge. The rocky surface finally yields as the trail drops steeply into a canyon filled with ferns and redwoods before leveling off at the state park, paralleling San Geronimo Creek for the final two miles.

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