Part of a long section of contiguous Bay Area Ridge Trail passes through Chabot Regional Park. For this hike I started at the Chabot staging area on Redwood Rd and turned around at the Bort Meadow staging area for my out-and-back hike. It was several days before the first rainfall of the Fall, and the trail conditions were very dry. There was a noticeable breeze, which contributed to create a reminder of how dangerous this latter part of the fire season can be in the East Bay hills.
The first part of the trail climbs up the Willow View Trail for about 1.2 mile. Near the beginning of the trail you pass by the Willow Creek Golf Course, nestled in the valley below a pretty forested hillside.
The trail passes along a steep hillside, with trees providing dense shade among ferns and large rocks. The smaller trees grow at an angle (I did not tilt my camera for the picture!) searching for more sunlight.
After climbing 500 feet and crossing Marciel Road the Brandon Trail goes west of the ridgeline for a couple of miles before dropping down to cross Grass Valley Creek.
The trail passes by almost continuous eucalyptus forest, apparently planted about 100 years ago by the People’s Water Company of Oakland.
It is worth noting that the Brandon Trail actually passes rather close to a marksman range. Between Marciel Rd and Deer Canyon Trail, depending on the activity of the day, you are likely to hear shots. I was glad I knew about the range, because there were quite a few – I thought surprisingly many – quite loud shots both outbound and on my return. The range is properly contained, and there is signage warning trail users not to stray from the trail.
Just past Deer Canyon Trail I noticed a distinctive grass-like plant with beautiful feathery stalks that waved in the breeze.
The dry trail conditions accentuated evidence for the different modes of trail users: hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrian users.
After dropping down almost 400 feet from the highest point at the Marciel Road crossing, the Brandon Trail crosses Grass Valley Creek at a stone bridge. The Ridge Trail route branches, just before the bridge, onto Grass Valley Trail. In the moister valley there are a few redwood trees among the more numerous eucalyptus trees.
The Grass Valley Trail climbs up the east side of Grass Valley, which used to be a ranch. The native grasses tend to lie flat late in the summer season; the valley is undoubtedly brilliant green in the spring.
Although I didn’t see any cattle, they do graze in the area and there are several gates separating different areas. Typically there is a small unlocked gate for regular (hiker/biker/equestrian) trail users and a wider locked gate for park or other authorized vehicles driving on the trail, which is a fire road. I was amused to find one of the wide gates locked in the open position, right next to the “Please Close Gate” sign on the trail user gate.
After continuing to climb up Grass Valley there is a Bay Area Ridge Trail sign pointing the way to the MacDonald Trail. Following the sign, after a short climb on a paved road, there is a parking area for the Bort Meadow staging area and the next segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which I hiked about a year ago.
When I started the hike there was quite a bit of marine layer over the San Francisco Bay, so the views were obscured. As the afternoon progressed this cleared up somewhat for my return trip. Along the higher section of the trail there were several places with views of the Bay. Though there was still some marine layer in the background, the afternoon sun reflected brightly off the water.
From one particular location there was a pretty good view of the downtown San Francisco skyline in the distance, with the Bay Bridge at the right.
On a clearer day these views must be spectacular. What a great reason to look forward to a return visit!