High on the Ridge

Redwood and Anthony Chabot Regional Parks - Part 2
Gorp.com

When you reach the Archery Center, where the Redwood Bowmen practice, cross the parking area and then veer slightly left to continue on the West Ridge Trail. In deep shade you walk on a wide path bounded by a fence with massive redwood posts draped with thick, green moss. This may be a trail built during the Depression years by Works Progress Administration (WPA) crews. These crews also built four stone huts along Redwood Creek in the canyon east of this trail, as well as trails and a few huts in the Sierra Nevada. From this path, kept damp and cool by fog moisture dripping from the redwoods' upper branches, look left for inviting picnic facilities in the Redwood Bowl.

At the Graham Trail junction, bear left (east) on the West Ridge Trail. (The Graham Trail leads off right to the swimming-pool complex, children's play equipment, and picnic tables in the Roberts Recreation Area.) In 500 feet you could take the Peak Trail left for a quick side trip, a 0.2-mile climb to 1,619-foot Redwood Peak, the highest point in Redwood Regional Park. Continuing on the Bay Area Ridge Trail beyond the Peak Trail turnoff, you are out of the woods. The West Ridge Trail lives up to its name as it traverses the long ridge that lies on the west side of the park. Following the ridgeline on a bare sandstone surface, this wide trail marks the limits of chaparral on the west and forest on the east. Best taken during the cool hours of a hot day, this trail's southwest-facing orientation is most welcome on cool but sunny winter days.

Passing the north and then the south end of the Baccharis Trail you come to the Orchard Trail, which drops into the canyon just east of the Orchard and Old Church picnic areas beside Redwood Creek. In the 1920s, settlers moved into the cut-over forest and built small homes and a church, and set out orchards. Remnants of their fruit trees still send out fragrant blossoms in spring.

Before long the chaparral gives way to a fine, dense, mixed woodland of oak, madrone, bay, and occasional redwood, home to many deer. You may see them bounding across the trail or hear them crashing in the woods. Now the West Ridge Trail descends steeply to a park entrance road. Bicyclists stay on it, crossing a stone bridge at the Fishway Interpretive Site. Here, explanatory plaques tell the story of a unique native species of rainbow trout, Salmo Iridia, found in this creek and others of the San Leandro Creek drainage. Because the Lake Chabot Dam locked this species here, fish in these creeks are descendants of the pure native strain of the original rainbow trout. These fish are unique to this area and are the subject of scientific studies; therefore, fishing is not permitted in Redwood Creek. From the Fishway Interpretive Site bicyclists ride south on the park entrance road, turn right (west) on Redwood Road, and continue about a third of a mile to the MacDonald Gate Staging Area.

Hikers and equestrians may follow the West Ridge Trail too, but their more direct, half-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail route takes a short spur trail to the right (south) just before the West Ridge Trail makes a wide arc to the left (north). This spur trail then joins the narrow Golden Spike Trail for a pretty trip through the woods, across a rivulet, and down the hillside to the Lower Golden Spike Trail.

Here you swing left and emerge in a clearing (probably the site of a former settler's home), marked by exotic plantings, several sizable redwood trees, and a plank bridge across Redwood Creek.

Now cross Redwood Road to Anthony Chabot Regional Park and veer left on the lovely, shady Big Bear Trail through Redwood Canyon. In spring, the white plum blossoms of fruit trees glow among the dark conifers at the creekside. In summer, their deep purple leaves add contrast to the various greens of maples, sycamores, and bay laurels.


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