The San Francisco Bay area holds one of the treasures of the East Bay Regional Parks District (EBRPD) — Redwood Regional Park. Snugged among the hills east of the bustling city of Oakland, the park is home to Sequoia sempervirens, the venerable coast redwood.
In fact, Redwood Regional Park hosts the largest stand of natural redwoods remaining in East Bay.
Normally, in order to see stands of these impressive trees you’d have to travel along the coast through the Leona Canyon Regional Open Space Preserve toward Moraga.
This is a historical stretch of land where coast redwoods still crowd together under the cool kiss of the Pacific breeze.
However, the unique conditions found in the Redwood Regional Park allow its coastal redwoods to exist inland, where they would normally not thrive.
Redwoods love the cool and humid coastal air, so places like the Marin Hills and Santa Cruz Mountains have more than their share of these giants.
But near Oakland, cooling winds pushed by the Golden Gate flow across the Bay and into the valley where Redwood Regional is located, nurturing the redwood, Since Redwood Regional’s stand of trees sits in a valley, it’s protected from winds and temperature fluctuations and receives plenty of water — the perfect combination of environmental factors for coastal redwoods.
Redwood Regional Park — An Overview
While the redwoods certainly are majestic, the 1,830-acre park has a lot of biodiversity to offer hikers, including grasslands, chaparral, and other evergreens.
The park fairly teems with wildlife, and it’s quite possible for visitors to catch a glimpse of rare species like the Alameda striped racer and the magnificent golden eagle alongside more common denizens like deer, rabbits, squirrels, and raccoons.
Fishing is not allowed in the park, but hikers will enjoy the fishway interpretive attraction tucked just inside the park’s Redwood Gate entrance.
This fishway helps rainbow trout make their way to their spawning grounds, upstream.
In spawning season, it’s an amazing sight to see the fish struggling to make their way up the fishway and home to breed.
Parking at Redwood Regional Park
The main gate to the park is located in Oakland in the Montclair neighborhood.
Parking is at the Skyline Gate Staging Area, and it is, refreshingly, free. The parking lot is ample, but the park is popular, so the lot does fill up fast.
Fortunately, the surrounding neighborhood allows street parking, so you should be able to find a place to tuck your car for a few hours.
The staging area features water fountains where you can fill your water bottles for the hike, and bathrooms to use before you go and when you return.
Other entrances are located near the intersection of Skyline and Redwood on Skyline Boulevard. As you drive down Highway 13, you’ll come to the following entrances in this order:
- Redwood Gate
- Robert’s Regional Recreation Area
- Robert's Redwood Bowl
- Moon Gate Staging Area
- Skyline Staging Area
Even though Skyline Staging Area is the last on your route, it has the most parking and easiest access to trails.
Packing for the Park
The wonder of this park is that it’s nestled in the hills outside of Oakland, close to everything civilized, so you can put away your bear spray and extreme hiking gear.
Be that as it may, you’ll still need to do some planning to ensure you end the day on a good note.
Hiking is moderate and there are frequent elevation changes, so layering clothes for temperature changes is wise. Make sure you have the basic gears needed.
You should wear solid footwear — hiking shoes are not required, but make sure the shoes you’re wearing offer support and comfort.
A daypack with some water and snacks should be all you need.
If you’d like to indulge in some quiet reflection in some of the beautiful open spaces along the trails, you could have an impromptu picnic, so long as you haul your trash out of the park afterward.
Picnicking at the Park with Groups
If you’d like to bring your family or friends hiking, the park has picnic sites for large groups ranging from 50 to 150 people.
Picnic locations vary from secluded grottos to wide open spaces, perfect for throwing a Frisbee or playing ball.
There are only four locations and they must be reserved by calling 1-888-EBPARKS, so if you’re planning a family reunion or other group event at the park, do call early.
All picnic sites are ADA compliant and people with children, the park offers a playground just down from Stream Trail at the Canyon Meadow entrance.
Hiking the Park
If finding yourself surrounded by third-growth redwood trees towering 150 feet above your head doesn’t awe you, knowing that they are over 100 years old might do the trick.
The unique microclimate of this little pocket of Eden outside of Oakland, California is the perfect incubator for some of the most magnificent trees on the planet.
So, it’s no surprise that this park is a pretty popular place to go for a hike, a picnic al fresco, or a walk with your favorite canine companion.
Yes, the park does allow dogs.
The park is awe-inspiring, but it is on the small side, so it’s best to take a photo of the trail map with your smartphone, download one, or get a paper map to take with you.
This way, you can create your own hiking route by weaving through the various interconnected trails.
You can easily hike the park in an afternoon, although once you get distracted by the trees, the wildlife, and the beauty of the park, you might want to stay all day.
Redwood Regional Park — Sample Interior Route
To make following this route easier, download an app on your phone or use a GPS tracker that can tell you how far you’ve walked.
For a sample route that runs around 3.5 miles in a loop, start at Skyline Gate Staging Area. Make sure you’ve got full water bottles and you’ve use the facilities if you need to.
- Now, look to your left and find the marker for East Ridge Trail.
- Take the trail, then, at the 0.2-mile point, you’ll see a marker for Phillip Loop Trail. Turn right.
- A further .85 miles ahead, you’ll see an intersection with Eucalyptus Trail. Turn right.
- Take Eucalyptus Trail down one switchback until you reach the stream.
- At the 1.1-mile mark, you’ll see Stream Trail, where you’ll begin to enter the area with the greatest concentration of redwoods.
- Turn left onto Stream Trail, then right at Starflower Trail, which is at the bottom of a hill at the 1.27-mile mark.
If you’re feeling winded, take a rest. There’s a nice bench here that’s perfect for recharging or just sitting quietly and reveling in nature.
- Once you’re ready to continue, take Starflower Trail to the top of the hill, where it intersects French Trail at the 1.5-mile mark. You’ll have passed a marker labeled ‘Tres Sendas.’
- Take a right on French Trail, where you’ll proceed deeper into the forest.
- At the 1.9-mile mark, you’ll see the marker for Tres Sendas again. When you do, take a left.
- Tres Sendas will take you to West Ridge Trail at the 2.3-mile mark. This trail is the one you’ll follow all the way back to the staging area, for a complete loop of the park.
Although this may sound like an easy hike, there are some hills among the trails, so you might end up more winded that you might think.
Walking through stands of majestic 150-foot-tall redwoods is like being transported back to a primeval garden. It’s hard to believe that this kind of pristine beauty can exist so close to someone’s suburban back door.
But exist it does, and after you’ve spent a day wandering among the redwoods, wildflowers, eucalyptus, pine, and chaparral, you’ll want to come back again and again.
Redwood Regional Park offers local and visiting California trailblazers the perfect hike for warm, summer days.
As you wander into the heart of the redwood stand, the shade from the trees and cool water from the stream bisecting the park bring the temperature down so you can finish your hike refreshed, both in mind and body.
No matter what season you visit, however, you’ll have the opportunity to view one of nature’s wonders — the incredible coastal redwoods of California.