The Rocky Ridge Trail crosses through quiet, open countryside with a remoteness that’s unusual for the East Bay. It is, however, somewhat overshadowed by the nearby Ramage Peak Trail, which is admittedly longer and more difficult but also quite a bit more scenic and interesting.
The trail mostly runs over open grassy hillsides, although in summer it’s not quite as hot as might be expected since it’s across from the Golden Gate. The route is somewhat challenging, with an unusual amount of climbing for its length and some very steep sections.
Like a lot of EBMUD lands, the Rocky Ridge Trail is often heavily grazed by cattle. It generally looks best in the spring and early summer. By mid-summer it takes on a worn-out look, the grass reduced to scraggly, unattractive stubble and the trail liberally strewn with cow manure. If the road has been recently graded it can be wide and dusty and unpleasantly rough.
A $10 annual EBMUD pass is required to use this trail.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
Start at Rancho Laguna Park, a small suburban park at the end of Camino Pablo. Follow the paved trail past the playground and look for a gated trail to your right. The trail immediately leaves the suburbs and enters the rolling golden hills typical of the East Bay backcountry. Remarkably, between here and Rocky Ridge there aren’t any signs of development other than a few houses, the ranching roads, and some distant views of the Bay Area.
The first mile or so of the trail can be especially heavily grazed and unattractive. Fortunately this area is soon left behind as the trail begins to climb steeply through a wooded fold.
The scenery improves even more as the trail reaches a ridge and then switchbacks down a hill. Turn left onto a dirt road and look for the trail to your right in a few yards (a large sign saying "Trail closed/Hazardous conditions" has been at this intersection for years; someone scratched off the “closed” letters). At the bottom of the ravine the trail briefly passes through a little eucalyptus-shaded glen and crosses a creekbed that’s dry in summer.
The trail descends again to Buckhorn Creek, where it joins the Carr Ranch Loop Trail, a wide, well-maintained dirt road. The road climbs through a pleasantly wooded ravine, then breaks out into open grassland and climbs to a ridgetop.
At the intersection where the Rocky Ridge Loop begins, the trail begins a brutal climb up to Rocky Ridge itself. There are some nice views over the East Bay hills. The ringing of the bells at Saint Mary’s College can sometimes be heard in the distance.
At the ridgetop, the trail passes through a large, shady bay laurel grove before breaking out into grasslands again for the final climb to the highest point of the hike, near a radio antenna.
The trail continues along the ridge, with views over the central canyon of Las Trampas Regional Park. This is the most enjoyable part of the hike and also one of the few relatively level, easy parts.
A ridiculously steep descent follows. The descent is so steep that it can be difficult to maintain your footing.
The trail descends into a basin and drops into two pleasantly shady ravines, the second of which has a little creek. It runs through open grasslands for a while. Somewhat annoyingly, there’s a pretty significant climb out of the basin to rejoin the Rocky Ridge Trail.
The return trip on the singletrack section of the trail seems more scenic than the outbound trip. On the outbound trip, you’re facing east and mostly see the bare west-facing hillsides rising up directly in front of you; on the return trip, you mostly see the wooded east-facing hillsides, and since you’re descending, there are more panoramic vistas of the area.
© 2018, 2022 David Baselt