The very popular Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park is located on a prominent and scenic wooded hillside above the town of Pleasanton. The long, narrow park has only one official entrance near its southern end, making it a bit of a challenge for day hikers to reach the best trails, which are in the northern half of the park. There is, however, a second entrance, not marked on the official park map, that provides a useful shortcut and also makes it possible to avoid the crowds at the main entrance.
This hike climbs to the top of Pleasanton Ridge, where there's an attractive oak grove and some impressive, sweeping views of the Tri-Valley area. Most hikers just go up to the ridgetop and enjoy the sweeping view of the Tri-Valley area, but it's worthwhile to continue a little further and explore the quiet valley on the other side.
The hike starts in Pleasanton's Augustin Bernal Park. Although the park has a small parking lot, it's only accessible to residents of Pleasanton and is often full, so it's a lot easier to start on Longview Drive. Park under the eucalyptus trees at the bottom of the hill; there's no parking further up the road.
Walk up the road. Just before the road ends at a cul-de-sac, there's a driveway marked with a small park sign. The driveway looks private but there's an easement for park visitors.
At the end of the steep driveway is a gate that marks the entrance to Augustin Bernal Park. Continue up the paved road to your right until you reach a water tower. Go around the water tower and take the a trail to the right, which switchbacks uphill through oak and laurel woods to the Valley View Trail.
The Valley View Trail is an enjoyable and popular climb up wooded Pleasanton Ridge. There's an occasional glimpse of the suburban landscape below and traffic noise drifts up from Highway 101.
On top of the ridge is an attractive, open oak grove, one the park's best features. Continue along the fire road, which passes through a ridgetop meadow to a gate that marks the boundary of Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park. Go left at the Y intersection. The trail continues through the attractive oak grove, climbing over a slight rise before dropping out of the oak grove into a large, grass-covered ridgetop meadow. A lone bench on top of the ridge has the park's most spectacular view, a commanding vista of the Tri-Valley. The whoosh of traffic noise from Highway 680, even though it's a mile away and far below, carries surprisingly well to the ridgetop.
Most hikers turn around here, making the hike an enjoyable 6 mile round trip with 1230 feet of climbing. If you're up for a longer hike, you can continue on into the Sinbad Creek canyon. The canyon is remarakably quiet and isolated: the hum of traffic and views of the Tri-Valley are replaced with grazing sheep and cows and, in winter, the trickle of creeks. It can be a little dull, since most of the trails are dirt roads on open grassy hills, there aren't any challenging climbs, and the only dramatic views are more views of the Tri-Valley. But I still think that the change in scenery makes the whole hike more worthwhile.
Take the Bay Leaf Trail, which descends into an attractive, densely-wooded ravine, then follow the Sinbad Creek Trail through some woods alongside a small creek. The woods along the creek are somewhat mundane, but they soon give way to scenic open meadows. This area has a lot of side trails that all have similar scenery, but I like to make a little loop on the Turtle Pond and Mariposa Trails. Return on the Sinbad Creek Trail or the less-attractive Ridgeline Trail.
Where the Ridgeline Trail splits into two parallel trails, take the left branch. This branch, which winds through a very nice ridgetop oak grove, was converted from a dirt road to singletrack in 2014, and it's remarkable how much more enjoyable and scenic the trail is now. After the singletrack ends, continue along the dirt road for a few yards and then take the Blue Oak Knoll Trail; this scenic singletrack passes through the ridgetop oak grove and has some nice views.
© 2014, 2017 David Baselt