This scenic loop climbs to an open ridge with fine views over Hayward and the San Francisco Bay, then returns through a series of attractive wooded canyons. It’s kind of like a half-size version of Mission Peak without the crowds.
The hike starts from the Garin parking lot and goes clockwise. This is the most rewarding way to go, since the ridge scenery gets progressively better throughout the first few miles. The drawback is that almost the entire loop is uphill except for one short, steep downhill. The hike is easier in the counter-clockwise direction, but then it feels kind of dull after the high point.
The hike can also be started at the Dry Creek staging area to save the $5 parking fee.
The loop is fairly popular; at peak times you might pass a group every 5 minutes or so on the ridgetop and every 1 or 2 minutes in the valley.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
From the Garin parking lot, take the dirt road past the red barn and continue straight to the gate on the other side of the lawn. To the left is an unofficial trail that makes a steep climb directly up a hill; a lot of people from the picnic sites climb to the top of the hill and return. To the right is the official trail, a dirt road that climbs, a little steeply at first, then settling into a long, gradual climb along the ridge. There are some nice views that gradually improve as the trail climbs, but the views are somewhat restricted at first because the ridge is wide and gently sloping.
As it nears the high point of the hike, the trail runs along a plateau where the views are obscured by low hills. It passes a side trail to Gossip Rock, then begins a steep descent. Dramatic views of the hills and the glittering urbanized plain below open up as the trail descends, making this the most scenic part of the hike.
After an intersection with an unmarked trail, the trail turns off the ridge and descends into a canyon. There’s a dramatic change in the scenery as the trail leaves the open, grassy hills and enters the wooded canyon.
The shortest way back to the parking lot would be the singletrack Pioneer Trail. However, this trail is rough and involves some climbing, so it actually takes longer than just going the long way around on the dirt roads. It’s also not especially scenic.
The trail descends through open, attractive woods with some pretty good-sized trees, then joins a wide gravel road that descends to a short side trail to the Dry Creek Staging Area.
Just after the Dry Creek staging area, leave the High Ridge Loop Trail and turn right onto the Myers Ranch Trail; the canyon-bottom route is much more enjoyable and interesting, starting with a gentle climb through an idyllic, partially-wooded valley.
Turn left onto the Dry Creek Trail. This wooded singletrack trail is heavily used by people from the picnic areas out for a short walk. The trail crosses the creek several times; at the first crossing the bridge has been removed. Even after heavy rain the creek is just a few inches deep. The woods are remarkably lush for the East Bay, with ferns covering the ground in a few places. There’s a lot of poison oak lining the trail, but the trail is wide enough that it’s easily avoided.
Three oddly narrow and rickety bridges remain. The trail ends with a slight climb up to a pretty duck pond with a little pier. Continue past the picnic areas to return to the parking lot.
© 2018 David Baselt