If you want a hike that offers great views, a healthy dose of wilderness, and the ability to hike over 20 miles if you’re so inclined without straying from civilization, try Pleasanton Ridge Park.
The 8,800 acre gem that is off the radar for most people is part of the East Bay Regional Park District. If you’ve ever made your way to San Jose via Sunol Grade on Interstate 680, you’ve passed Pleasanton Ridge Park. It is part of the ridge to the west which is covered with oak trees.
While I generally don’t like sharing trails with mountain bikes or dogs whose owners are allowed to leave them off-leash within the park boundaries, Pleasanton Ridge Park was a pleasant surprise.
The level of courtesy compared to some I have met elsewhere is out of the ordinary. And given the terrain, the many hiking trails, and the short climbs some of which are relatively steep, I’m almost tempted to try a mountain bike on the more than 25 miles of trails in the park myself.
It is also an ideal place to try out trail running. Several runners I have encountered – including one from Tracy – have said they are heading to Pleasanton due to the hilly terrain and crisscrossing trails in a setting that is neither too crowded nor too remote.
I chose Pleasanton Ridge Park because I was going a little crazy. Every time I have tried to do a day hike in the Sierra or even Mt. Diablo over the past two weeks, something has happened at the last second.
I freely admit to being a mileage addict not so much as to rack up the miles, but more so to exercise and make sure I get to an area where I can think about things with just background noise. the flapping of the wings of birds. I also have to do a bit of rock climbing during the hike.
I wasn’t in the mood to get to the trailheads east and west of San José to get into what I wanted. That’s when I turned to Marc Soares’ book, “100 Hikes in the San Francisco Bay Area” from Mountaineer Books for $ 17.95. It offers 100 hikes, all accessible by car on the 209 with 2.5 hours one way as the outer limit.
I came across the description of Pleasanton Ridge. The 7.4 mile loop trail with an estimated walk time of four to six hours and an elevation gain of 1,500 feet was not long enough for me but decided to do it after following a RIPPED morning classes at 11th Street In Forme in Tracy.
It turned out to be the best decision I could have made.
I ended up getting the workout I wanted for the day which meant I didn’t feel the need to kill myself on the hike. With plenty of quick stops for photos of flowers and views, as well as trying – unsuccessfully I would add – to film the flight of many hawks as they descended among the trees along the ridge, the hike took me four hours.
I have my own pace when I’m alone. That said, given the layout of the trails and terrain, the park is friendly for hikers of all skill levels. I ran into parents with young children, people in their 80s, amateur walkers, relatively serious hikers, and hardcore trail runners.
The trail system uses various pre-existing dirt roads. That said, the first chance I had to get off the main trail and take the Woodland trail (0.2 mile) on what some call “the climbing trail” is what I did. have done. I wasn’t disappointed going up a trail through some pretty heavy woods. When I got to Ridgeline Trail, living oaks gave way to huge splashed valley oaks among the open meadows.
To the northeast, I could make out Mt. Diablo and its slightly shorter cousin known as North Peak. However, I could still hear the slight hum of traffic on I-680 below. That’s when I decided to do the loop in the opposite direction and head south to connect to the Thermalito trail.
I’m glad I did.
Within minutes I was on the other side of the ridge. Instead of a panoramic hilltop view with urbanized Dublin and Pleasanton below, I got 360 degree nature where the only sound piercing the silence was the sound of hawks in flight.
The Thermalito trail passes on one side of a majestic abandoned olive grove as well as two ponds. The first pond had a group of cows and was pretty much in the open. The second was partially in the shade and was jumping with frogs. This pond is known to be home to western turtles and the endangered California red-legged frog. The frogs that I saw frolicking in the water were the most abundant chorus frogs.
When I found Ridgeline Trail, I went into the 585 acre Austin Berna Park in the town of Pleasanton for a bit before turning around and heading back to the parking lot.
Elevations at Pleasanton Ridge range from 400 feet at the parking lot to 1,600 feet at the highest point.
You will find a few picnic tables as well as benches scattered throughout the park. There are also a few places where you can get clean drinking water. However, unless you are planning a 20 mile autonomous run, it is wise to bring the water you need.
Some precautions. There is poison oak, a lot. You can easily avoid it by staying on the trails. Rattlesnakes are one possibility that you may come across although it is quite rare for someone to do so.
Additionally, the only one of the 49 California ticks known to be a potential carrier of Lyme disease – the western blacklegged tick can be found in grass and brush. They don’t fly, jump or fall from trees.
Since the cattle graze, follow the rules and close the gates as you move from one section of the park to another.
From 209, take Interstate 205 through Tracy and go through the Altamont Pass where the freeway turns into I-580. Take I-680 towards San Jose in Pleasanton. The most enjoyable route to the park is to take the Bernal Avenue exit and head west for 0.2 miles where you will turn left at the T-junction which has traffic lights on Foothill Road. You then drive 3.2 miles down a pleasant tree-lined road past some pretty upscale homes to the parking lot at Pleasanton Ridge Park.
Parking and access are free.