Trailhead: Redwood Regional Park–Richard Trudeau Training Center at 11500 Skyline Boulevard, Oakland, CA
Parking: Parking is free in the lot next to the training center and has approximately 25 spaces. There is also street parking on Skyline Blvd. after it veers right/splits with Joaquin Miller Road, just about 500 feet farther up the road from the training center.
In a Nutshell: A beautiful hike that starts with staggering views of the entire bay, while the second half will take you into deep woods. Ample sun exposure in many areas of the Dunn and Montiero Trails, while Golden Spike is mostly shaded. Overall a moderate trail with some shorter, slightly strenuous sections.
Approximate Length: ~3 mile loop (closer to 3.3 miles per Map My Walk)
Approximate Time: 1 – 1.5 hours
Terrain: Variable—a few steep descents and ascents and much narrower gauge on second half of trail.
I have to say I’m partial to this particular hike. Perhaps because of the wildlife encounters I’ve often enjoyed on these trails. Or maybe because it was the first hike I took at Redwood Regional after quitting my job, and where I would first experience the calming, healing effects these trails would provide me in the days and months to come.
I had plotted out the hike using the map I found at the EB Parks website, but I had no idea what the terrain would be like, what I would see, if it would be safe or a trail I could manage in my current physical condition (which had been sorely diminished by the egregious amount of time I’d spent working at a computer). Once I got started on the trail, it didn’t take long for me to see that the hike was a metaphor for what was going on in my life. I had just left the security of a job to go out on my own as an independent contractor, something I’d never done before. I had no idea what lay ahead. It was all new territory and I had no idea if I could pull it off. What if the work didn’t come? What if too much work came? Who would help me? And what would I do if I failed?
On the trail, there was no guide, I didn’t bring the map. Even if I had, those squiggly lines couldn’t tell me much about what I’d encounter. What if there was a mountain lion or a snake on the path? I didn’t even know at the time what poison oak looked like! And after the first half of the hike, as I went deeper into the woods, I didn’t see a single other person. No one was around to assure me that this path was doable. No one was around to help me if I fell.
There was a path, I saw that, but was it prudent to follow it? As I descended farther down into the valley, I was submerged in the shadows of the landscape, not knowing what might be waiting around the corner for me. Something kept me walking down that trail, though. Perhaps it was simply exhaustion preventing me from worrying about one more thing. Whatever it was, I told myself I would just have to face whatever was around the bend when I got there. I couldn’t predict it, or control it. It was just going to happen.
And once I surrendered myself to this thought, the trees, which had been there all along, came into focus. And I realized: My god, it’s beautiful out here! Look at these fantastic trees. So large, so tall I couldn’t even see the tops of some of them. They were so peaceful, powerful, earnest. It was impossible to look at these trees without feeling a profound sense of respect and reverence for them. There they were, steadfast, growing according to their nature. They had no questions about what they were supposed to do. Theirs is an existence without doubt, without attempts to control their surroundings. They live perpetually connected to, undistracted from, their own essence. And I thought, I must be in the land of gods, a forest of divinity, right here in Oakland!
That day the trees became my teachers. In their silent splendor, they remind me to quiet my tendency to over-analyze and worry; they remind me to listen for my own essence, and to reacquaint myself with the sound of my own spirit. So that when the unexpected happens, or I find myself in unfamiliar territory, the din of self-doubt, disappointment and confusion will be drowned out by the force of my own nature.
The first thing you’ll notice, even from the parking lot, is the spectacular views of the bay. It’s easy to see as far as Twin Peaks on a clear day.
From the lot, I walk behind the Trudeau building and catch the Dunn Trail as it winds up the hill. This trail is somewhat popular, mostly with people walking dogs off leash and some horseback riders (watch out for large piles of horse manure).
Dunn Trail is wide and heavily canopied in many areas. It provides some great shade, but a few stretches along the ridges get generous exposure to the sun throughout the day. Within the first half mile or so of Dunn, I have gotten some great glimpses of wildlife, including a pair of deer crossing the trail and a large gopher snake slithering back into its hole on the side of the trail.
The hike here is not strenuous but has moments of ascent and descent. And as you walk farther into the woods, and away from the views of the bay, you’ll find yourself surrounded by beautiful redwoods, ferns, madrones and eucalyptus trees. You will also notice plenty of poison oak on the trailsides, so be sure to stay on the path and watch your step.
After about the first ½ mile, turn right to stay on Dunn Trail. You’ll continue for almost a mile (.85 according to map) before coming to Montiero Trail. Since I’ve been hiking here, there has been a sign at the entrance of Montiero that says the trail has been damaged by storms. For the .37 miles of the trail that I am on during this hike, I don’t see clear signs of this. Maybe the damage is farther along the trail. Either way, I don’t find it unsafe. I will say, however, the first time I began this trail, I fell flat on my a**. The trail begins with a steep decline on soft dirt, and I wasn’t wearing proper shoes (little to no tread). With proper shoes and careful steps you’ll be fine.
For the most part, you are descending on this much narrower, sun-exposed trail. And for the rest of the hike, it’s likely you won’t see another person. However, you will likely see, or at least hear, several lizards who typically scurry out of your way off the trail. But sometimes the lizards are there just enjoying the scenery themselves and will pose for a photo.
In less than half a mile, you’ll come to the Golden Spike Trail. Turn right. This is my favorite part of the hike. The path gets even narrower and you are in deep, dark shadowy woods here. It gets quieter and quieter as you walk along; now, though, you really start hearing nature. In particular, I often hear hawks, woodpeckers and various other birds. And if there’s any wind, you’ll hear the tall trees creaking as they sway back and forth. It’s a bit eerie, yet there’s also something quite intimate about it.
This trail winds uphill and down, and every once in a while you get a glimpse outside the forest you’ve been walking through and see lovely views of mountains in the distance and birds of prey soaring in the sky.
At about ¾ of a mile into the trail, the trees will start clearing and you’ll see the meadow where you started out on Dunn Trail. Take a right onto Dunn Trail for another ¼ of a mile up to the parking lot.