High on the Ridge

Two Great Hike and Bike Trails Above San Francisco Bay
The Marin Headlands is one of the areas traversed by the Bay Area Ridge Trail

The unique Bay Area combination of a glorious physical setting, together with avid outdoor enthusiasts, conservationists, and educated, willing volunteers, added to a history of outdoor recreation, a growing greenbelt, and a conservation ethic, was ripe for the establishment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Designed as a multi-use ridgeline route, this 400-mile trail proposes to connect public parklands and watersheds of the Bay Area greenbelt circling San Francisco Bay. It will eventually link over 75 parks and public lands that provide magnificent views, offer visits to important historic sites and urban attractions, afford glimpses of the area's cultural heritage, and promote firsthand experience of the Bay Area's diverse ecosystems.

On a network of paths that traverses a broad corridor along the ridgelands, the Bay Area Ridge Trail provides recreational opportunities for hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. In less than a half-hour's drive or bus ride from any Bay Area community, at least one segment of the Ridge Trail can be reached. This scenic trail will link communities along the ridgeline and will connect to population centers on the Bay side via feeder trails through existing city, county, regional, and federal parks.

When William Penn Mott Jr. was General Manager of the East Bay Regional Park District in the 1960s, he proposed that a trail be built around the entire ridge of the Bay Area. He also envisioned a trail around the bay, close to the water, and connector trails to the Sierra Nevada. In the late 80s, he lent his strong support and encouragement to achieving his vision of a ridgeline trail around the bay.

In 1987, during his tenure as Director of the National Park Service, William Penn Mott Jr. set up the Bay Area Trails Council in September 1987. An informal organization, the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, followed in late 1987. Today, the council has a membership of 6,500 and a growing corps of dedicated, grassroots volunteers.

Bay Area Ridge Trail Accomplishments

As of November 1999, 220 miles of the Ridge Trail have been completed. These miles are dedicated, signed, and in use. The total Ridge Trail mileage is calculated along the main route on a single alignment and does not include alternate routes, connector trails to the main route, or side trips. There is at least one Ridge Trail segment in each of the Bay Area counties. Most of these miles traverse trails in public parklands around the Bay Area. However, one 4.5-mile trail in Napa County is on land leased from the State of California and operated as a park by a private group that offers its use to the public for a nominal fee.

The Next Step — Closing the Gaps

Since 1987 the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, with the full commitment of the public park agencies, has been particularly successful in coordinating the completion of the Ridge Trail on public lands. Of the 180 miles remaining, about 75 percent are in private land.

The additional 180 miles of the Bay Area Ridge Trail that remain to be completed are proposed for lands in private ownership — ranging from open space and agricultural uses to suburban and urban uses. The Bay Area Ridge Trail Council is actively involved in reaching out to private landowners, in building sound public policies that support the Ridge Trail, and in assisting our community partners in fund-raising and trail maintenance efforts — critical components necessary to complete the remaining Ridge Trail miles.


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