This section of the Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail climbs into the low hills above Hayward. It's a fairly easy trail but it doesn't have any really dramatic scenery. Being a long-distance trail, though, there's a nice sense of traveling somewhere, of winding your way over the hills.
The trail starts in suburban Hayward and the first mile or so of trail is cobbled together from various service roads and paths, but as the trail leaves the suburbs behind it turns into typical ranch roads.
The trail is little-used; at peak times you might see a group every hour. Parts of the trail are a little rough and overgrown.
Start at Ridge Trail Park on Boulder Canyon Drive. A paved trail meanders under the power lines between big suburban houses before turning into a paved fire access road. Across busy Five Canyons Parkway and to the right, the real trail begins, climbing past houses before joining a paved water tower access road.
After passing several water tanks, the paved road gives way to a dirt road that leaves the suburban fringe and descends through an attractive open field.
After the Newt Pond and Shady Creek trail intersections, the trail contours along a hillside for a while with views of an unattractive terraced hillside. This middle section of the trail is the least enjoyable.
The scenery improves a lot after the trail crosses a paved driveway and descends into a wooded canyon. The trail follows a little creek under the dense, deep shade of the laurel woods for a while. The canyon section is one of the more enjoyable parts of the trail and adds some crucial variety to what's otherwise an entirely open hike.
The trail climbs through a side canyon, then emerges from the woods and reaches an open, grassy plateau.
The trail runs through a cow pasture on the wide hilltop. The trail can be almost invisible at the point where it turns to the right and starts the climb to the large radio antenna.
The radio antenna is both the literal and scenic high point of the hike; the views are a little limited but still pretty good. A short unofficial trail leads a few yards to the top of a knoll, but the views there aren't really any better. This is the turnaround point for the hike.
(The radio tower, which is about halfway between the Five Canyons Parkway trailhead and Garin Barn, is a good turnaround point because just ahead the trail becomes a lot less scenic. It enters a ridgetop golf course and turns into a paved golf cart path, then runs through the golf course parking lot and becomes an unattractive paved service road. The trail finally re-enters open ranch lands and becomes the Whipsnake Trail at the boundary of Dry Creek Regional Park. The trail is a lot more enjoyable after this point, but still doesn't have any really noteworthy scenery until it reaches the High Ridge Loop Trail.)
For the return, turn left onto the Shady Creek Trail. This little-used road descends into a canyon, where it meets a much more heavily-trafficked singletrack loop. Turn right onto the wide trail and begin an easy descent through the canyon.
Although this canyon is sandwiched between suburban developments, it's actually the most enjoyable part of the entire hike. The woods are remarkably lush and attractive, mainly because of the leafy sycamore trees but also because of the smattering of ferns and little creek. There's no sign of the nearby housing developments.
The best of the scenery ends when the trail passes under a high bridge that carries Five Canyons Parkway, but the last quarter-mile of the trail is still pretty nice.
© 2018 David Baselt