Often when we tell people that were going hiking, deep into fairytale forests, in Oakland, there's a collective eye rolling. Oakland, they think, is so urban. Yet, 20 minutes from downtown, up in the Oakland Hills, groves of gigantic redwoods, oaks and eucalyptuses are waiting for anyone to hug them. Here are a few forest trails to try.
The gem of the Oakland Hills is Redwood Regional Park. While the original redwoods were felled in the 1800s to build houses in the expanding region, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the originals, many roughly 150-years-old, survived. There's a stream that rainbow trout swim in; hazelnuts hang from shrubs. One of the nicer hikes for redwoods is the Tres Sendas trail, which you can reach from the Waterloo parking area, on Skyline north of Chabot Space & Science Center. The three-mile French Trail is a local favorite. You can link onto it from Tres Sendas. Directions and trail maps are available from the East Bay Regional Parks, and the AC Transit #360 will drop you nearby.
Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve will give you a botanical lesson while you hike. Pick up the trail map which identifies 17 trees and shrubs, such as different varieties of manzanitas, chinquapin, and madrones, as well as the best time to see some flowering species. Currants, coast silk tassel, and Western leatherwood flower are seen in the winter months into spring and huckleberry in the late spring. The Huckleberry Trail is a 1.7-mile loop.
Nineteenth-century poet Joaquin Miller once owned the land that is now named after him; on land that is part of Joaquin Miller Park he planted 75,000 trees, Monterey cypress, olive and eucalyptus create an artists' retreat. What people praise here are the stairs, Woodminster Amphitheater and reflecting pools off Joaquin Miller Blvd. But dig into the trail system, too, that weaves through dense forest, like the Big Trees or Sunset trails.
Two canyon hikes to try are Leona Canyon, behind Merritt College, where you will see the reddish bark madrone, live oak, and Monterey Pine trees. At Dimond Canyon, with a trailhead off Fruitvale Avenue on El Centro, the best wooded view is near Leimert Bridge: Bay trees arch into a canopy, and just past that is a fern glade. From this point on, the Sausal Creek stream bed becomes the path, so any rains will make it impassable. If it is passable, up creek is a redwood canyon.
Looking for more hiking in Oakland? Check out the 100,000+ acres of parks and trails available through the East Bay Regional Park District.