This hike starts with a big climb up to Pleasanton Ridge, but the best part is a loop through the peaceful, open hills of the park's interior. This little-visited part of the park is gorgeous on a sunny spring day. There are also some spectacular views over Pleasanton from the ridgetop.
The ridge can also be reached through an unpublicised entrance to Augustin Bernal Park. The Augustin Bernal route is a better choice if you just want to go to the ridge, since it takes you to a much nicer section of the ridge. On the other hand, the Courdet Trail makes a more enjoyable climb and is closer to the park's interior trail network.
About half of the hike is wooded but the interior of the park can get hot in summer.
The hike uses the Castleridge entrance behind the Alviso Adobe, which was opened in 2018 and is the only official trailhead for the northern unit of the park. Although there aren't a lot of parking spots and the trailhead is becoming fairly popular, finding parking hasn't yet become a problem.
Here's the trailhead location in Google Maps.
To reach the trailhead, take Old Foothill Blvd from its northern end, just north of the Alviso Adobe (don't try to pull directly into the Alviso Adobe lot; the road is one-way and you won't be able to reach the trailhead from there).
The Courdet Trail starts out in an open field but soon enters a pleasant oak woodland. The gradient isn't entirely consistent and there are a few steep but short bits. There are a few glimpses of the suburbs below through breaks in the trees, including one pretty good view near the top, but unfortunately there aren't really impressive, sweeping views during the climb.
At peak times you might pass a group every five minutes. Interestingly, the traffic noise from Highway 680 gets louder as the trail climbs, even though the highway gets further away.
At the ridgetop, the trail emerges from the woods.
If, like most visitors, you just want to hike to the ridge and back, a short side trip will take you to a much better viewpoint. Just a few yards before the trail ends, turn left onto an unofficial mountain biking track that runs alongside the Ridgeline Trail and go about a quarter-mile to reach the viewpoint described below. If you're doing the full hike, save this side trip for the end of the hike.
For the full hike, turn left onto the ridgetop dirt road and then after about 50 yards turn right onto a narrow singletrack trail. There's a dramatic change in the feel of the hike as the trail descends off the ridge: the dense shady woods give way to open, grassy hillsides and the traffic noise quickly fades away. There are also a lot fewer people in this area.
At the bottom of the singletrack, turn left onto the Shady Creek Trail. On the map it looks like it would be better to turn right and continue along the ridge, but there's actually more climbing that way and it's not nearly as scenic.
The Shady Creek Trail, true to its name, makes a gentle descent through a canyon under the typically deep shade of bay laurels.
Take the Sinbad Creek Trail and turn onto the Turtle Pond Trail. This warm, sunny trail climbs an open hillside with great views of the little pond and the wooded valley and is one of the highlights of the hike. Turn left onto the North Ridge Trail and then turn left again to descend on the Mariposa Trail, which is also quite scenic.
The Sinbad Creek Trail runs through a series of meadows separated by some wooded patches.
Take the Bay Leaf Trail, which climbs through dense, poison oak-infested woods and then emerges into an open meadow with increasingly scenic views of the surrounding hills. The high point of the Schuhart Trail has a striking but somewhat limited view of Pleasanton.
For a short, optional side trip, turn right onto the Ridgeline Trail and then in a few yards look for an unofficial mountain biking path on your left. In a few more yards the path comes to a point with a rather spectacular view of Pleasanton.
Take the Courdet Trail back to the trailhead.
© 2012, 2018 David Baselt