Why You Should Explore the Bay Area Ridge Trail This Spring
We asked Elizabeth Byers, author of the newest edition of Bay Area Ridge Trail, what makes the trail special for her and why others should take time to hike, cycle, ride, and explore it this spring.
I first heard about the Bay Area Ridge Trail back in the late 1980s. These were the early days of the project, when the planned 550-mile circular trail along the ridges of the Bay Area’s nine counties was just getting started. I became involved with the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, served on its board for a number of years, and then became a writer for the organization. I would go to trail dedications nearby when I could but for the ones further away I was often busy, raising young children.
When I had the opportunity to update the Bay Area Ridge Trail guidebook two years ago, I realized this was finally my chance to walk and bike the entire route that’s open today—375 miles. It would mean a lot of time and travel, but working on the guidebook gave me the perfect excuse to wake up and head out to a trail.
Before I worked on the book, I had frequently hiked the Ridge Trail through the Marin Headlands, Mt. Tamalpais State Park, and Bolinas Ridge because I’ve lived in Marin County for several decades. These had always been my favorite places. Once I started on my research and traversed more and more of the trail in different counties, I realized the brilliance of the Ridge Trail vision. I felt energized by experiencing the Bay Area from all these ridgetops, bridges, and even valley crossings. By exploring the trail, I got to know so many communities and beautiful Bay Area landscapes.
Now, after my Ridge Trail explorations, I have more favorite places: for example, over my lifetime, I’ve driven south on the highway corridors through Alameda and Santa Clara Counties countless times to visit my family in Carmel Valley. I never knew that on so many of those open ridgetops to the east, from Castro Valley all the way south to San Martin, you could feel on top of the world in such peaceful, scenic places, and have a completely different perspective of the valley below. And for all the times I’ve barreled down the I-80 freeway toward Sacramento, I didn’t realize what amazing parks I passed on the Ridge Trail route: Hiddenbrooke and Lynch Canyon Open Spaces and Rockville Hills Regional Park.
The updated guidebook, with its trail descriptions and maps for 75 Ridge Trail sections, makes it easier for anyone wanting to explore the Bay Area in this unique way. Since the last edition, the trail has entirely new segments in parks that the Ridge Trail had not yet traversed, such as Vargas Plateau Regional Park, Fernandez Ranch, the Pinole Watershed, North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park, Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, Moore Creek Park, and Robert Louis Stevenson State Park. And the trail now climbs up two of the high peaks in the Bay Area—Mt. St. Helena and Mt. Umunhum.
Once you get hooked on the trail, you’ll want to see the last 175 miles come together so you can complete the 550-mile circuit and have such an awesome long-distance trail in the Bay Area, close to where millions of people live. It’s a lot of hard work to put the trail in place, but with enough people supporting the Ridge Trail vision, this ambitious project will one day be complete. Hopefully getting out on the trail and experiencing its wonder will inspire you to join this collaborative effort!