I planned this hike as a “drive-by” hike, that is, a short driving detour on my way from the Lake Tahoe area to the San Francisco Bay Area. I actually did two hikes on Bay Area Ridge Trail segments that are near each other, about 10 miles apart, on the same afternoon. First was the segment in the Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve, which is administered by the East Bay Regional Parks District. There are three designated trail heads for this segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and, to a certain extent, the choice of trail heads to use can depend on whether the hike will be point-to-point or out-and-back. Since I was hiking on my own, I used the southern trail head on Conestoga Way; using this trail head does not require using a connector trail to access the actual Bay Area Ridge Trail segment. Parking is along a residential street, so is limited. The trail head is on the left, essentially immediately after the turn from Castro Ranch Road.
As is evident from the elevation profile of this hike, the trail climbs quickly to the ridge top and then has gentle and relatively slight changes in elevation.
It is worth noting that, as I drove to the Bay Area from Truckee, it rained. In fact, I drove through rain for at least 70-80 miles. When I arrived at the trail head, it had stopped raining but the skies were still cloudy and in the process of clearing. The lower part of the trail, after a short climb, goes through a ravine. I particularly noticed a kind of damp, woody smell that seemed to result from the recent rain. I also noticed lush poison oak growing at the base of many trees. Fortunately, the trail surface was very clear.
The shaded trail through the forested area was very pleasant.
This entire segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail follows the Sobrante Ridge Trail. The GPS track shows that I took a couple of detours.
On the outbound hike, almost exactly 1 mile from the trail head, the Manzanita Trail goes off to the left. I explored that trail on my return. Almost exactly 0.5 mile further is a junction with the Morningside Trail. On my way outbound, I turned right to stay on the Sobrante Ridge Trail. I went about another 0.3 mile before I decided to turn around. Though I did not realize it at the time of my hike, a relatively new segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail connects to the Sobrante Ridge Trail quite close to where I decided to turn around. This new segment passes through the Pinole Valley Watershed portion of East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) property. (My definition of “new” is since 2008, the publication date of the official Bay Area Ridge Trail guide that I consult for trail-finding directions.)
The hills of the watershed area were still tinged with a bit of winter-time green.
After returning to the Morningside Trail junction, I hiked a short distance down the connector trail that leads to the north trail head in Pinole Valley Park. I turned around at the park boundary, just 0.2 mile from the junction. From there I returned toward the Manzanita Trail junction. Along the ridge top there are wonderful views of the San Pablo and Richmond Bays.
The Manzanita Trail is a short side trip, only about 0.5 mile total (out and back), well worth considering. This trail goes down the west-facing hillside to an area where the endangered Alameda Manzanita grows. The microclimate, which includes frequent fog that blows in from the bay, is just right for this type of manzanita.
At the end of the trail there is a short loop that goes through the manzanita grove. Near the southern end of the loop the trail became impassable, so I had to turn around instead of completing the loop. In case it is not evident from the pictures, these “bushes” are actually more like trees in size. Magnificent!
After returning to the junction with the Sobrante Ridge Trail I continued back to my car. Then I proceeded directly to another Bay Area Ridge Trail segment: Mount Wanda Trail in the John Muir National Historic Site.