Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve is the best little hiking spot you’ve never heard of. If you’re not a) obsessed with visiting all the East Bay Regional Parks, b) trying to complete the Bay Area Ridge Trail or c) a neighbor of the preserve, it’s unlikely it was on your radar. And yet, I would argue this little slice of the Bay Area is perfect for kid hiking.
Sobrante Ridge is not big. You will not complete huge miles at this preserve. If you hike from one side to the other and back again, you could probably get 5 miles out of the entire preserve. It does have a fair amount of climbing for its short distance, so be prepared for some uphill. Even if you’re not going to go big, (because you have small hikers?) Sobrante Ridge is a lovely little slice of oak-filled wonderland and well-worth a morning or day of exploration.
There are two entrances to the preserve– the lower entrance is at the intersection of Conestoga and Castro Ranch Rd, and the higher entrance is at the end of Church Drive. The one at the end of Church Drive has a short, steep uphill section, but if you have a hiker who would prefer to do less uphill, it’s a better entrance than Conestoga Lane. If you have a hearty hiker, the Conestoga Lane entrance is more interesting– it climbs up through oak trees, then goes through a lovely shaded section with bay trees and ferns, then continues to climb through oaks until you pop out on Sobrante Ridge.
Several great picnic tables dot the ridge, giving you views looking toward Mt Diablo, out towards Mt Tam or even up the Delta. It’s not known for being a high point in the landscape of the Bay, but it has several remarkable views. If you can get your hiker to engage in a good mile of hard hiking, the reward of a picnic with sweeping vistas reinforces the joy of such effort.
The park also holds a small grove of rare manzanitas– the Alameda Manzanita. Smaller hikers may not be as amazed, but you can marvel at the fact that the only other grove of this particular manzanita is all the way over in Huckleberry Regional Preserve. Small but mighty Sobrante Ridge is a biological hot spot! To find the grove, you must go off Sobrante Ridge trail and take the Manzanita trail to the lovely Manzanita Loop trail.
If you have hikers who are ready to take on further challenge (or, perhaps, you are reading this with an eye toward more strenuous hikes), you can create some very interesting hikes by connecting with either Pinole Valley Park or heading out on East Bay MUD land toward Fernandez Ranch (see picture below, and map here). It is possible to hike from Sobrante Ridge all the way to Fernandez Ranch– you will need an EBMUD trail permit.
As in most East Bay Regional Parks, dogs are fine off-leash and under voice control. Be forewarned however– the poison oak thrives in this park, so be aware of where your pooch and/or smaller hikers are wandering.
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