This section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail winds through the East Bay hills from the Chabot Staging Area in Anthony Chabot Regional Park to Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area. The northern part of the segment passes through East Bay Municipal Water District lands, requiring a permit.
As usual, this was an out-and-back hike. I had previously hiked the section from the Chabot Staging Area to the northwest, as well as the section from the Cull Canyon Recreation Area parking area to the southeast. From the staging area the trail first goes north up to Dinosaur Ridge, then southeast along the ridge before dropping down into Cull Canyon.
The trail begins and ends in forested areas at about 200 feet elevation, climbing up to open grassland hills at 1100 feet on Dinosaur Ridge.
There is a kiosk at the trailhead, where users sign into the watershed area and record their permit information. About 0.3 miles along the trail, you pass by a fenced off area that appears to be a Christmas tree farm, with regular rows of trees that almost glowed in the sun.
Much of the first mile passes through a cool, shady forested area, with trees appearing to grow at crazy angles from the steep hillside.
The trail shortly emerges from the forested area and begins a steady climb. Although perhaps not obvious from the elevation profile, there are sections of trail in this hike with nearly 20% grades. The morning was warming up, and I promptly shed two layers and a warm headband. I spotted a hawk overhead, soaring around and presumably looking for a meal.
Here is a view of the upper part of the trail, now called Dinosaur Ridge Road and following a lesser ridge line, with Dinosaur Ridge at the right.
The main Bay Area Ridge Trail route skirts the top of the ridge (just visible in the above photo), so I decided to save my visit to the ridge top for the return part of my hike. From this area there were beautiful views across rows of ridges, some of them forested.
More to the southeast there was a vista of open, grassy hills.
Dinosaur Ridge is the northernmost point of this trail section, and the Ridge Trail route follows (unnamed) Rifle Range Road generally south. About 3.4 miles from the trailhead the trail departs EBMUD lands. About 4 miles from the trailhead passes through a gate and through an area where there were several horses grazing. There are houses and a large water tank nearby, near the top end of Columbia Drive, but there isn’t official trail access from the road or houses. Across the clearing there is a sign denoting the Chabot to Garin Regional Trail, and the trail drops down about 200 feet into a brief forested area. Between the trees there is a nice view of Mt Diablo, only about 12 miles away.
After another small rise the trail begins to drop down into Cull Canyon. In some areas the oak trees have dropped so many leaves on the trail that they are literally ankle-deep. The sides of the canyon get progressively steeper, and soon there is a little bit of audible traffic noise from Cull Canyon Rd.
The trail continues down the canyon and, about 6.6 miles from the trailhead, reaches a culvert that crosses under Columbia Dr near its intersection with Cull Canyon Rd. Less than 0.1 mile past the undercrossing there is a parking area for Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area. As I approached the parking area I gradually realized that I was walking into the periphery of some kind of park personnel training exercise. I quickly made my usual documentation of my turnaround location and began my return to the Chabot Staging Area.
When I reached the area near the houses and water tank I again encountered a few horses. But this time one of them had come into a little chute leading to the pedestrian gate, and seemed to be waiting to greet me.
As I fiddled with the locking chain I talked to the horse and encouraged it to back away to let me through, but by then it had noticed the apple in my waist pack and was gently nosing the pack. After a short standoff I gently nudged the horse to the side just enough so that I could pass through and be on my way once again.
When I reached the trail junction just below Dinosaur Ridge I climbed the remaining steep 75 feet or so to the top of the ridge. On the ridge top there is a row of interesting-looking whitish rocks, which are visible from a distance.
A close look reveals that there are fossilized seashells embedded in them. Apparently the area used to be a lake or sea bed and subsequent significant geological activity uplifted it to the present-day 1100-foot elevation. From the ridge top there are views in all directions. This picture looks west across San Francisco Bay, bathed in low-lying haze. An airplane seems to be climbing away from the San Jose Airport on its way to a northern destination. Farther to the north I could barely make out the downtown San Francisco skyline.
After enjoying the view I descended toward the trailhead. About 1 mile away, near the junction of Ramage Peak Trail and Dinosaur Ridge Road, I noticed that a lady bug had landed on my hand, shortly followed by another on my camera. Just then I noticed that the nearby fence rails were moderately crowded with lady bugs. I’m not quite sure of the significance of the season or weather, relative to the life cycle of lady bugs, but surely there was a reason for the high concentration.
The remainder of my return to the trailhead was uneventful. Once again, though, I found myself surprised and delighted by what I encountered and experienced along the trail.