While looping past Redwood Peak, this mostly shady hike sharing part of the East Bay Skyline Trail, explores a variety of habitats including root clustered second and third growth redwood groves, left over from mid-1800’s logging used to build the Gold Rush era Bay Area. The route also visits oak woodlands mostly following the high ridges and containing wonderful old contorted examples of madrone. Easiest drive in access involves taking Hwy 13 to the Park exit, left to Snake then Shepard Canyon Rd., with its Montclair eclectic architecture, and then right on Skyline to the Skyline Gate entrance to the park.
Begin hiking on the flat West Ridge Trail on the right side of the parking area. Views left out to the East Bay Hills and Mt. Diablo appear along the first half mile in, where you will then find the French Trail. Named after Harold French, an important early local environmentalist and associate of John Muir, French was instrumental in saving the summit area of Mt. Diablo as public land. Thus started a conservation movement that wasn’t formally organized until 1971 when Mary Bowerman and Art Bonwell founded Save Mount Diablo. Additionally, French founded the Contra Costa Hills Hiking Club, the oldest such club still continuously leading hikes and raising conservation funds for over 93 years in the greater Bay Area. This hike was developed by CCHC Board Member and hike leader Sophia Garcia. Thanks too to photographer and Club Member Debi Thomas for generously supplying all hike photos.
Resume hiking by continuing straight ahead another half mile to Tres Sendas Trail, and take it left and downhill. Reconnect with the French Trail in about one third mile, and this time take it right and uphill through lovely redwood groves, shafts of sunlight and peaceful calm on sometimes rocky stair casing sections of trail about a half mile to the Redwood Peak Trail. Continue ascending to a wide flat area where 3 trails meet. On the East Bay Regional Parks Redwood Park map (available free at the trail head) this is the spot where a short lateral trail leaves the Redwood Peak Trail and goes uphill to the rocky tree covered 1619 foot Redwood Peak summit. The rocky area is visible from the last trail junction. The summit doesn’t have any distant views but it is a cool and relaxing place for lunch.
After the break, orient yourself to the map and refer to it frequently to check your location, and that you're taking the correct turns. There are frequent crossings of trails with the same name. Return to the trail junction area and hike straight through the junction until you locate the trail sign for the Madrone Trail a short distance on the left. Take the Madrone as it begins to descend through mixed woodland past scenic colorful ancient madrones. Watch carefully for the trail sign on the left side of the trail marking the beginning of the Starflower Trail less than a half mile ahead. Take the beautiful descent down the Starflower through 150 foot high coastal redwoods in steep sided canyon where a lean-to constructed of sticks in a Native American design along the trailside can soon be found. At the bottom, cross the creek and join the Tres Sendas Trail yet again, at about 900 feet elevation. Begin the 400 foot climb back to the staging area up the Tres Sendas to the French Trail right, following the creek side and passing a couple of small springs or “seeps” next to the trail. The French tops out at the West Ridge Trail to complete the loop. Take a right on the West Ridge and use the last gentle half mile back to the start to unwind from the climb up. Total elevation gain for this rolling hike was about 1000 feet.