High on the Ridge
In a few minutes hikers and equestrians join bicyclists at the MacDonald Gate Staging Area to begin the second half of this trip. Now they travel through 4,927-acre Anthony Chabot Regional Park, named for a pioneer Californian who built an earth-fill dam across San Leandro Creek, forming Lake Chabot. Long before the time of Chabot, the Ohlone people lived in these hills, fished the streams, hunted small game, gathered acorns, and dug bulbs for food.
Begin your 3.2-mile trip through Anthony Chabot Park on the MacDonald Trail, which climbs steeply through oak woodlands to the park's central ridge. As you ascend the wide, multi-use trail and park service road, pause to look back northwest into wooded Redwood Canyon and over the vast public lands you have been traversing. Then, when you are almost at the crest of the ridge, search for a little side trail on the left that leads to a vista point. From a bench in this pleasant, shady spot you can see across a deep canyon to the opposite ridge where Pinehurst Road swings northwest. On beyond is Moraga, and towering above the ridges and valleys of the East Bay is Mount Diablo, the central survey point for Northern California.
Returning to the MacDonald Trail, a segment of the EBSNR Trail, hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists now contour along close to the ridgetop through grassland and chaparral. In one mile the trail arcs right to a junction where the Parkridge Trail comes in from the park's south boundary. This trail crosses a narrow, transverse ridge that divides two drainages, the one to the east feeding the little creek that flows through Chabot's Grass Valley.
You bear left on the MacDonald Trail around a small knoll graced by a few oak trees and many wildflowers in spring. This trail continues for another 1.7 miles along the southwest-facing ridge, with no tree cover, so plan to do it in the cool hours. Above, on the ridgecrest, is a fringe of oak trees, and on the slope below is baccharis (coyote bush), now gaining a toehold. Although many informal trails take off from and re-enter the MacDonald Trail, you continue on the main park service road.
Before long you begin to see the grassy valley and tall trees of Bort Meadow. Please stay on the trail to the green gate. The end of this Bay Area Ridge Trail segment, the Bort Meadow Staging Area, is about 500 yards beyond the green gate. You can have a shuttle car waiting here to return to the Skyline Gate or to drive east on Redwood Road to family campsites in Anthony Chabot Park. (Use the Marciel Gate.)
Just beyond the green gate, a trail turns downhill to the valley. There you turn right (west) to find picnic tables, barbecues, water, and restrooms in Bort Meadow. The eucalyptus trees around the periphery are remnants of vast plantings done by the People's Water Company in the 1910s, which greatly altered the landscape, but the EBRPD is now replanting with native trees. Group camping can be arranged for Bort Meadow through the EBRPD.
If you are continuing another 3.5 miles to Anthony Chabot campsites, head east on the Grass Valley Trail or the Brandon Trail after descending to the valley.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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