Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park
and Augustin Bernal Park
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 most scenic trails 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 attractive 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 on the flat part of the road at the bottom of the hill; there's no parking further up the hill.
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 of my favorite features of the park. 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.
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 much more quiet and isolated than the trails to the south: the hum of traffic and views of the Tri-Valley are replaced with grazing sheep and cows. 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 winds down a densely-wooded ravine, then follow the Sinbad Creek Trail through some woods alongside a small creek. This area has a lot of side trails that all have more or less the same scenery, but I like to make a little loop on the Turtle Pond and Mariposa Trails. Return on the Sinbad Creek Trail or the Ridgeline Trail.
For variety, take the Blue Oak Knoll Trail on the way back; this scenic singletrack trail passes through the ridgetop oak grove and is a nice alternative to the dirt road.
© 2014 David Baselt