Gear Trails, Vol. IV: The Bay Area’s Best Trail Run

Redwoods, singletrack and route-finding in the Oakland Hills

By The Editors

Quite Possibly the Best Trail Run in the Whole Bay Area
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10 March 2016

The biggest problem with getting outside in the Bay Area? Being spoiled for choice. We’re trimming that process by getting the goods straight from the experts. Previously, we discovered the top Bay Area paddle and waterfall backpacking trip.

Today: a 10.5-mile trail run through the Oakland Hills, courtesy of Megan Burwinkel from A Runner’s Mind. Megan’s run eight ultramarathons, and finished as the first-place woman in six of them.

So yeah, she knows.

“When I think of beautiful trails in the Bay Area, usually what comes to mind is the vast network in and around the Marin Headlands and Mount Tam. Lately, my favorite trail combo has been to start at the base of the Palos Colorados Trail at Joaquin Miller Park.

There are numerous ways to hook up with this trail as it winds its way up the canyon through the length of the park; I either run or drive to a little trailhead at the end of a residential street, Joaquin Miller Ct., right off of Mountain Parkway. It’s a quiet singletrack that hugs the side of a small canyon belonging to Palo Seco Creek.

What I love about this trail is how lush it is: the canyon is hung heavy with ferns and mosses and towering redwoods overhead, and the faint rush of the creek is audible below. I take this trail (~1.5 mile) up to the Sunset Loop Trail before turning onto Fern Ravine, a steep climb taking me up and out of the canyon before dropping you out onto the more popular Sequoia Bayview Trail. You turn right onto this trail for a very short while before taking the first left up onto Big Trees Trail. Take the trail up to the road and cross over it — this is Skyline Boulevard, where Joaquin Miller Park ends and Redwood Regional Park begins.

There is an unmarked dirt trail directly across the road behind a yellow metal bar to stop cars from driving on it — this trail will take you up to West Ridge Trail, onto which you will turn right. Take your first left onto Redwood Peak Trail. Next, turn right on French Trail. This stretch of trail through Redwood Regional is stunningly beautiful — the forest floor is lush and soft. The footing is technical in parts, but entirely runnable.

The French Trail is predominantly singletrack, hugging the hillside, but there is a good amount of climbing. There tend to be more people and dogs on this trail, but it is one of the prettiest trails I have found in this area. And on the hot days we get in Oakland, the shade offered by the dense tree cover is a welcome respite.

To get back to your car at the bottom of Joaquin Miller, I generally run on French Trail until it ends at Orchard Trail, then double back, covering all the same trails I took on the way out. If you prefer a little more sunshine, you can go up Orchard Trail and take the much more exposed West Ridge Trail back.”

Editor’s note: We’ve linked above to more information on the primary trails where available. This is a dense network of trails: If you’re new to them, we suggest bringing a map or two. Because we do get lost, we don’t mind a Swedish Silva sport compass on our keychain. For your dogs, Megan recommends the Saucony Peregrines: “The tread is fairly aggressive, so they’re good for trails like these, which are likely to get slick in rainy weather.”

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