Leona Canyon is a small park just south of Merritt College in Oakland. The deep canyon is heavily wooded with oaks and is remarkably well-isolated from the surrounding suburbs. It’s mainly used by locals out for a pleasant short walk.
The park entrance is a little hard to find; the parking lot is inside the Ridgemont condo complex, and not only is there no indication that you should pull into the condo complex, there’s actually a discouraging sign that says "Private Property".
The trail is a wide dirt road that descends slightly through an open, sunny area before entering the woods. The woods are remarkably attractive for this area, with good-sized oaks and a dense understory; in places the canopy that covers the trail, in other places the trail is open to the sky. No sign of the surrounding suburbs can be seen. It’s quite an enjoyable walk.
After passing two side trails that climb out of the canyon, the trail begins to climb more steeply. As it does, the woods thin out and then give way to less-attractive brush. The trail ends at Merritt College.
Just a third of a mile from the end of the Leona Canyon Trail, the City of Oakland’s Leona Heights Park is similar to Leona Canyon, except it doesn’t have the same isolated feeling since a road runs through the canyon just across from the trails. The singletrack trails are overgrown and feel like unofficial trails, but the dirt roads are fine.
Leona Heights’ main claim to fame is that it has the only old-growth redwood left in the East Bay. Unfortunately, the redwood can’t be seen from any of the trails; the 93-foot-tall tree grows from a crack in a boulder on a steep hillside and isn’t easily reached. The trail does, however, pass through a stand of small second-growth redwoods.
© 2018 David Baselt