Bay Area Ridge Trail: The Official Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, and Equestrians

Bay Area Ridge Trail: The Official Guide for Hikers, Mountain Bikers, and Equestrians

by Elizabeth Byers

Paperback(4th Revised ed.)

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Find Solitude and Dramatic Views Around San Francisco Bay

Everyone needs a break from their daily life. Escape to the oak-studded grasslands and tranquil forests of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Hike, bike, or ride through nine counties with the official guide endorsed by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council. Discover dramatic coastlines, a range of ecosystems, former Mexican ranchos, vistas that inspired Spanish explorers, and more.

Join author Elizabeth Byers—a founding board member of the council—and Jean Rusmore, and choose from 75 trail segments on a network of paths that ring San Francisco Bay. Make your way through parks and public lands like Mount Tamalpais State Park and Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. Trips range from a 2.5-mile excursion over the Benicia-Martinez Bridge to a 12.5-mile traverse of Bolinas Ridge. You can also link several trips together to create a continuous trek that is 20, 40, or even 80 miles long.

Each trip includes summary information, like distance, accessibility, regulations, and facilities, as well as an easy-to-read map. Comprehensive trail directions help to ensure that you always know where to go, while details on the region’s history and culture entertain you along the way. Grab the updated, full-color edition of Bay Area Ridge Trail and start planning your next adventure. The perfect outing is closer than you think.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780899979052
Publisher: Wilderness Press
Publication date: 04/16/2019
Edition description: 4th Revised ed.
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 525,276
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

A Mill Valley resident and native Northern Californian, Elizabeth Byers has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for most of her life. As a child and teenager, she explored the beautiful mountains of Carmel Valley and Big Sur near her home. Her love of the outdoors led her to study environmental planning in college and graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. She began working in the land conservation field in the mid-1980s, for 16 years as a project manager, program director, and writer at the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and then as a consultant for many nonprofits and agencies, including the Garden Conservancy, the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, and TPL.

In 1988, while at TPL, Elizabeth became one of the founding board members of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, and she stayed connected to the organization over the years. She coauthored the second edition of The Conservation Easement Handbook, copublished by TPL and the Land Trust Alliance in 2005, and was a photographer and project coordinator for the 2014 Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy publication Alcatraz Gardens: Remembered, Reclaimed, Reimagined. She is a mom to two children in their 20s who grew up on the lower slopes of Mount Tamalpais.

Elizabeth hiked, biked, and photographed the Ridge Trail to update this guidebook, often with family and friends, and this journey reconfirmed for her the magnificence of the Bay Area landscape.

Jean Rusmore, the author of this book’s first three editions, grew up in what was once the small town of Anaheim, California, in the county that boasted orange and lemon groves as its namesake. She took her first backpacking trip at age 16, when she and a cousin ascended the slopes of Mount Wilson in the San Gabriel Mountains with some food and a jacket rolled up in a blanket. Her outdoor experience was enlarged through her husband, Ted, whom she met at the University of California, Berkeley. They skied and backpacked with their six children, and all looked forward to their annual Sierra backpacking trip.

When the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was established, Jean and her friend Frances Spangle decided to write a book about the new foothill preserves, Peninsula Trails, followed by South Bay Trails, both published by Wilderness Press. When the first segments of the Ridge Trail opened, they wrote pamphlets about each leg. These were later combined and published as the first edition of this book.

Read an Excerpt

Penitencia Creek

From North King Road to Rock Canyon Circle in San Jose

  • LENGTH: 3.7 miles one-way (3.9 miles from Berryessa/North San Jose BART station, scheduled to open in 2019); car shuttle possible
  • ELEVATION GAIN: 180' one-way
  • ACCESSIBILITY: Hikers, equestrians, and mountain hikers
  • AGENCIES: County of Santa Clara, City of San Jose, Santa Clara Valley Water District
  • PARKS: Penitencia Creek Parkway, Penitencia Creek Gardens, Penitencia Creek Park
  • REGULATIONS: Penitencia Creek Park open 8 a.m.–sunset; dogs must be leashed
  • FACILITIES: Restrooms and picnic tables in Penitencia Creek Gardens and Penitencia Creek Park

THIS 3.7-MILE LINEAR PARKWAY TRAIL crosses San Jose neighborhoods and ends at the eastern edge of the Santa Clara Valley. Mostly paved, the trail follows Penitencia Creek, a tributary of Coyote Creek, which flows down from Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve and Alum Rock Park. In total, Penitencia Creek Parkway covers 134 acres and passes through two sizable parks: Penitencia Creek Gardens and Penitencia Creek Park. It makes an excellent bike ride through urban San Jose.

Getting Started

WEST TRAILHEAD: North King Road, about 400 feet south of Commodore Drive, San Jose. Street parking. (GPS: N37° 22.211', W121° 52.286') Fall 2019 and thereafter: Berryessa/North San Jose BART Station, 1620 Berryessa Road, San Jose. BART station parking. (GPS: N37° 22.230', W121° 52.452')

EAST TRAILHEAD: Penitencia Creek Road and Rock Canyon Circle intersection, San Jose. Street parking. (GPS: N37° 23.696', W121° 49.723')

On the Trail

The Penitencia Creek Parkway was dedicated as Ridge Trail in 2008 after several decades of planning and construction. The trail begins at the Berryessa/North San Jose BART station and heads west for 0.2 mile to North King Road; this short section, however, is scheduled to open with the station in fall 2019. So until then, start at North King Road and enter through the stone pillars at the parkway entrance. The dirt trail runs on the right side of the creek, with an undeveloped lot on the right. Halfway to Mabury Road, you pass a residential complex on your right and, in 0.3 mile, you reach Mabury Road, a major thoroughfare. Take a left and head down the sidewalk.

In another 0.3 mile, you reach the entrance to Penitencia Creek Gardens, a park completed in the early 1990s. Take a left into the park and go straight, following the outer loop trail and “Ridge Trail” signs. The paved path follows the creek and passes picnic tables, benches, mature trees, and a large pond, a stop on the migratory flyway for a number of species. At the intersection where the restrooms and interpretive panels are located, stay left on the paved path that heads out of the park.

At Jackson Avenue, take a left at the sidewalk and cross at the crosswalk. Look for the “Ridge Trail” sign at the Mossdale entrance to Penitencia Creek County Park. As you travel down the paved trail, which parallels Mossdale Way, the creek is on your left, lined with walnut and eucalyptus trees. The trail veers to the left at Gateview Drive and with a low clearance, passes under I-680. The trail then follows the creek in an undeveloped oak woodland; it veers right when you get to Capitol Avenue, a major street. The Penitencia Creek VTA Light Rail Station is located here. Go right and cross at Gilchrist Drive; then take a left to get back to the trail.

At 1.6 miles you’re at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Penitencia Creek Road. The trail turns right just before Penitencia Creek Road—this is where the landscape opens with an expansive field to your right and a view of the Diablo Range in front of you. After crossing a bridge, the field continues with the creek on your left, edged by willows, eucalyptus, oaks, and walnut trees. This stretch is a welcome relief from the subdivisions you’ve passed through, yet there are more subdivisions up ahead. The trail comes to Viceroy Way: turn left and when you reach Penitencia Creek Road, cross to Penitencia Creek Park, and then stay right on the Penitencia Creek Trail. From the trail you can see the park’s large open field, and you can use the restrooms and picnic tables.

The trail skirts the southern edge of the park, paralleling the creek and passing by buckeyes, oaks, sycamores, and pines, as well as the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley. You come into a large open field and then go back into the trees, where you pass an old house leased by Santa Clara County Parks. At 2.6 miles you reach Piedmont Road, a major street. Cross the road and follow the sign for the creek trail. You’re on a gravel path with fences on either side. After crossing a bridge, look for percolation ponds on your left. You are getting close to the eastern edge of the Santa Clara Valley, with the hills ahead. Keep veering right and you reach Noble Avenue. Take a right and then a left on the paved path running along Penitencia Creek Road. Pass over stretches of boardwalk (bicyclists must dismount), and under sycamores, willows, walnuts, and buckeyes, and head uphill. The Ridge Trail ends at Rock Canyon Circle, where you can read interpretive panels and rest on a bench.

* * *

There is a short 0.1-mile Ridge Trail gap on Penitencia Creek Road before you reach the next segment in Alum Rock Park.

Table of Contents

Overview Map


An Inspired Vision to Connect People, Parks, and Open Space


The San Francisco Bay Area

The Bay Area Ridge Trail

How to Use This Book

Trail Sampler: Trips for Many Reasons

North Bay

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Marin Headlands from the Golden Gate Bridge to Tennessee Valley
  • Marin Headlands from Tennessee Valley to Shoreline Highway
  • Mount Tamalpais State Park and Dias Ridge Trail
  • Mount Tamalpais State Park and Bolinas Ridge
  • Bolinas Ridge and Samuel P. Taylor State Park
  • Samuel P. Taylor State Park to White Hill Open Space Preserve
  • Loma Alta Open Space Preserve and Loma Alta Fire Road
  • Lucas Valley Open Space Preserve
  • Indian Tree Open Space Preserve
  • Stafford Lake Watershed to O’Hair Park
  • Mount Burdell Open Space Preserve
  • Petaluma: Helen Putnam Regional Park and City of Petaluma
  • Jack London State Historic Park and East Slope Sonoma Mountain Ridge Trail
  • Jack London State Historic Park and North Sonoma Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
  • Spring Lake Regional Park and Trione-Annadel State Park
  • Hood Mountain Regional Park and Open Space Preserve
  • Bothe–Napa Valley State Park
  • Robert Louis Stevenson State Park: Lower Oat Hill Mine Trail
  • Robert Louis Stevenson State Park: Table Rock and Palisades Trails Spur
  • Robert Louis Stevenson State Park: Mount St. Helena Spur
  • Moore Creek Park
  • Skyline Wilderness Park and Napa Solano Ridge Trail
  • Rockville Hills Regional Park and Vintage Valley Trail
  • Lynch Canyon Open Space and McGary Road
  • Hiddenbrooke Open Space
  • Blue Rock Springs Park to Vallejo–Benicia Buffer
  • Vallejo–Benicia Waterfront
  • Benicia–Martinez Bridge

East Bay

  • Carquinez Bridge and Crockett
  • Crockett Hills Regional Park
  • Fernandez Ranch
  • Martinez City Streets
  • Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline and John Muir National Historic Site
  • Contra Costa Feeder Trail #1
  • Pinole Valley Watershed
  • Pinole Valley Watershed West and Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve
  • Kennedy Grove Regional Recreation Area to Tilden Regional Park
  • Tilden Regional Park to Redwood Regional Park
  • Redwood and Anthony Chabot Regional Parks
  • Anthony Chabot Regional Park
  • East Bay Municipal Utility District Lands and Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area
  • Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area to Five Canyons Parkway
  • Five Canyons Parkway to Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks
  • Vargas Plateau Regional Park
  • Mission Peak Regional Preserve and Ed R. Levin County Park

South Bay

  • Penitencia Creek
  • Alum Rock Park and Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve
  • Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve
  • Joseph D. Grant County Park
  • Coyote Creek Parkway North
  • Coyote Creek Parkway South
  • Coyote Lake–Harvey Bear Ranch County Park
  • Mount Madonna County Park
  • Santa Teresa County Park and Calero Creek/Los Alamitos Creek Trails
  • Almaden Quicksilver County Park
  • Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve and Lexington Reservoir County Park
  • Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve: Mount Umunhum
  • Sanborn County Park: John Nicholas Trail
  • Sanborn County Park and Castle Rock State Park

The Peninsula

  • Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve to Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
  • Skyline Ridge and Russian Ridge Open Space Preserves
  • Windy Hill Open Space Preserve
  • Wunderlich County Park to Huddart County Park
  • Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
  • Skylawn Memorial Park
  • San Francisco Peninsula Watershed
  • Sweeney Ridge
  • Skyline College, Milagra Ridge, and Pacifica
  • Mussel Rock to Lake Merced

San Francisco

  • Lake Merced to Stern Grove
  • Stern Grove to the Presidio
  • San Francisco Presidio

Appendix 1: Information Sources and Contacts for Parks and Watersheds on the Bay Area Ridge Trail Route

Appendix 2: Transportation Agencies That Serve the Bay Area Ridge Trail Route


About the Authors

Customer Reviews