With its extensive second-growth redwood groves, Oakland's Joaquin Miller Park is one of the best examples of the surprisingly lush landscapes found in the Oakland Hills. The park isn't all redwoods, though; there's a nice variety of scenery. The park is quite popular, especially the relatively level Sequoia Bayview and Sunset Trails. And although it looks tiny compared to the nearby regional parks, it feels pretty expansive when you're hiking it.
The recommended hike combines the two most scenic parts of the park: a lush redwood-filled gorge on the Palos Colorados Trail and a hilltop redwood grove on the Big Trees Trail.
Vehicle break-ins are common in this area, especially along Joaquin Miller Road and Skyline Boulevard, so I like to park in the residential neighborhood on Joaquin Miller Court.
Start on Joaquin Miller Court, just south of the attractive Montclair shopping district. The Palos Colorados Trail is one of the park's best; it climbs through a remarkably lush, steep-sided gorge filled with small redwoods. Masses of invasive ivy cover the ground and some of the trees and also hang down from the trees. The trail gets more scenic as you climb.
At the first intersection, turn left and climb the steep trail past the foundations of an old house to reach the Sunset Trail, which is a dirt road. Go left to reach the Cinderella Trail.
The Cinderella Trail isn't as scenic, but it climbs to a hilltop plateau where there's a nice redwood grove. There's no ivy here, making it a more ordinary-looking upland grove. The redwoods grow in a wide band that roughly follows Skyline Boulevard for almost a mile. The best part of the grove is at the highest point of the Big Trees Trail, where there's a flat hilltop. Although the redwoods are small, the flat has a little of the cathedral-like quality of an old-growth alluvial flat. Unfortunately, the Big Trees Trail only runs through the flat for a few yards; it then starts to descend, leaving the redwoods.
Turn left on the Sequoia-Bayview Trail. This wide, level trail is the most popular in the park. There are a few patches of redwoods, but the trail is mostly non-redwood forest. Turn onto the Sunset Trail, which descends into the redwoods. The dirt road isn't that interesting, so take the Sinawik Trail. Although it runs alongside the dirt road and just a few yards away, its lush canyon environment is a lot more interesting.
Return on the Palos Colorados Trail.
© 2014 David Baselt