Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area

Featuring the Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail
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The view from the high point of the Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail

Cull Canyon is best known for its swim lagoon (a shallow man-made lake), but it also has a section of the long-distance Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail. The trail isn’t especially promising at first as it runs through the densely-wooded canyon, but as it climbs out of the canyon and winds over oak-carpeted hills, it gradually gets quieter, more remote, and more scenic. The scenery doesn’t get really good until about two and a half miles in, when the woods give way to open scrub and the singletrack turns into a dirt road. You can actually skip all the wooded singletrack and start the hike from this point by parking on Bellhurst Lane, but the round-trip hike would only be 4 miles.

Although the trail’s elevetion never gets above 1200 feet, it has lot of up-and-down and a respectable elevation gain. The best part of the hike is on EBMUD property, but a permit isn’t required.

Parking in Cull Canyon is free; you only have to pay if you want to get into the swimming area. On summer weekends, the parking lot can fill up unless you arrive well before the lagoon opens at 11 am, but almost everyone is here for the swim lagoon and picnic areas so the trail is little-used. Unfortunately, there’s no snack bar.

From the north end of the Cull Canyon parking lot, take the faint trail uphill to the intersection of Columbia Drive and Cull Canyon Road. Cross Columbia Drive on the crosswalk, then continue north for a few yards until you reach a dirt road that leads to an EBMUD maintenance facility. The trail begins a few yards down the dirt road. It runs alongside Columbia Drive, crosses a bridge over Cull Creek, then dives into the woods.

The trail, which is clear and wide at first, runs through the heavily-wooded canyon. Even though Cull Canyon Road is nearby, there’s still a nice rural character to this area. There’s a lot of poison oak but it’s easy to avoid. There’s a surprising amount of up-and-down for what’s essentially a canyon-bottom trail. The trail descends and crosses the creek twice. The crossings usually aren’t a problem even in winter but could be difficult after a heavy rain.

The Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail in Cull Canyon

The trail then turns away from Cull Canyon Road and starts climbing the out of the canyon by a series of switchbacks. As it does the woods start to open up and become more attractive.

(One time as I was climbing the switchbacks I was accosted by a male turkey who ran onto the trail, clucking furiously and strutting back and forth about three feet in front of me. As I tried to continue walking he stayed right in front of me, maybe trying to protect a nearby nest. Eventually I left him behind at a switchback, but was then accosted by a female turkey a few seconds later.)

At the top of the hill the trail ends in a grassy clearing near a housing subdivision. To the left is Bellhurst Lane. Take the little-used dirt road to the right through a horse pasture.

The Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail

The trail climbs through scrub. Entering EBMUD property, the comes to a T intersection with a well-maintained dirt road.

The road rises and falls through patchy woods with views of the green, oak-carpeted hills to the west. This is the best part of the trail; it’s completely quiet, feels very remote, and is quite scenic.

The Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail

There’s a steep climb up to the highest point of the trail. The views from the top aren’t really spectacular, but this is a good turn-around point as it makes about a 10-mile round-trip, and after this the trail begins a steep descent to the Ramage Peak Trail.

The view from the high point of the The Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail


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