I cannot say how many times I have driven by Olompali State Park and wondered what it was like and thought, “we should go hiking there,” and then neglected to go. Last Saturday finally changed all that, and I am thrilled to say that it is a worthy destination and I am looking forward to going back.
First, Olompali has a fascinating history and the park has tried to highlight this. While just about all Miwok lands were taken over by various Europeans, in 1843, a Miwok man named Camilo Ynitia petitioned the governor of Alta California for two leagues of land that included what is now Olompali State Park. It was granted to him and he became the only Native American to be given a land grant in Alta California. In 1846, Olompali was the site of the Battle of Olompali, an event in the Bear Flag Revolt that I had no previous knowledge of. Then the land was variously used as a ranch, a retreat (rented out during this period to the Grateful Dead!) and a commune. This piece of land, in other words, has seen a lot.
There is a small information center at the park, but the kids loved the mock Miwok kotchas– it is really just two granary buildings surrounded by picnic tables, but it led to conversations about what the structures were for, and hey– learning!
Olompali is a small park, which makes it perfect for exploring with kids. You could do an approximately 3 mile loop combining the Miwok trail and the Loop trail, or you could hike up until you felt your hikers needed to turn around and then go back. If you have hikers ready to take on bigger challenges, you could head up Burdell Trail for up to 7 more miles of out-and-back. The trails were beautiful, though. Oaks, madrones & manzanitas shaded the (fairly steep) Miwok trail. We ended up taking the Miwok trail to the intersection of the Loop trail & Burdell trail and then turning around, because it was lunch time and because the Miwok kotchas had been so popular, the kids wanted to eat lunch there.
We also saw very, very few people for a Saturday afternoon hike in the Bay Area. On the trail, we encountered three other groups of people in total. Olompali is a little-known gem and I would highly recommend its exploration.
Parking is $8 and, as it’s a state park, no dogs.