4.1 mile out and back on hills above Hiddenbrooke development. A Bay Area
Ridge Trail segment.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.1 mile out and back hike (4.9 miles if you start
at the park and ride lot) is on the moderate side of easy. Trailhead elevation
is about 600 feet, and the trail's highest point is about 1112 feet. The
hike is short, but the trail undulates considerably, and you'll face a total
elevation change of about 600 feet.
Full sun throughout.
Narrow dirt trails.
Spring is best.
From Interstate 80 in Napa County, just northeast of the Vallejo city limits,
exit American Canyon/Hiddenbrooke (exit 36). Head southwest toward the Hiddenbrooke
development, then park in the park and ride lot to the right of the entrance
gate (or continue on Hiddenbrooke Parkway to an informal 2 car pullout 0.4
mile up the road, at the start of the Ridge Trail segment).
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phones, stores, and restaurants south along 80 in Vallejo. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. Parking in a small park and ride area, and
in an informal 2 car pullout 0.4 mile up the road, at the start of the Ridge
Trail segment, where parking seems to be tolerated. No restrooms, drinking
water, maps, or designated handicapped parking. Only the initial 0.5 mile
paved sidewalk/connector along Hiddenbrooke Parkway, from the park and ride
lot to the trailhead, is suitable to wheelchairs. There is no direct public
transit to this trailhead.
Trail is open from 6 a.m. to dusk. No dogs. The single trail is multi-use.
The Official Story:
Bay Area Ridge Trail Hiddenbrooke page (with map)
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of the
Hiddenbrooke segment of the Ridge Trail.
Trail in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Hiddenbrooke Trail departs from
the parkway of a golf/housing development near
the I80 corridor, and heads south toward Benicia. The slim, multi-use
trail dead-ends on the slopes of the Sulphur Springs Mountains, a range
of gentle grassy hills still partly grazed by cattle. Eventually, Bay
Area Ridge Trail planners hope to connect Hiddenbrooke Trail south to
Benicia's Blue Rock Springs Park, and north to Lynch Canyon, but those
extensions are likely years away. Besides providing decent exercise along
a series of hills, Hiddenbrooke Trail offers sweeping views to most of
the bay area. On clear days, you should be able to see parts of Napa,
Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, Contra Costa, and Alameda counties, all
from humble elevations just over 1000 feet.
I admit that before my initial visit I was biased against the trail, originating
as it does on the outskirts of a golfing development. I'm not a golfing
fan, and development names based on natural features obliterated by construction
really stick in my craw. It turns out that it doesn't take long to climb
away from the development, and the views really make the trip worthwhile,
particularly if you live in nearby Vallejo or Benicia.
Start from the roadside pullout on Hiddenbrooke
Parkway (if parking is unavailable, or if the legality of parking
in the pullout seems uncertain, start at the park and ride lot near I
80, and walk 0.4 mile on the sidewalk). A small Ridge Trail symbol and
a sign stating the trail rules marks the trailhead. Multi-use Hiddenbrooke
Trail ascends a few feet, then runs at a level grade parallel to a fenceline.
Young planted coast live oaks and olive trees on the left buffer the street noise somewhat.
After about 200 feet, the trail turns right and starts uphill. Watch out
for a patch of poison oak on the right. The trail climbs easily through
grassland dotted with mustard and fennel. Hiddenbrooke Trail presents
the first short steep uphill segment, then crests at a hilltop. After
only a few minutes of hiking, there are already fine views, particularly
to the north and west. The trail begins a moderate descent, then climbs
across the hillside on a broad switchback. As it reaches the fenceline
again, you'll face a long straight moderate ascent which tapers off at
a hilltop. There's a v-shaped stile to squeeze through, then Hiddenbrooke
Trail travels through cattle range, in an area which appears to have been
quarried in the past. California-bay shaded rock outcrops stand off to
the right. In autumn after the season's
first rainstorms, grassland grazed down nearly to dirt quickly greens
up with next year's seedlings. Unfortunately, yellow star thistle, a pest
plant common in cattle rangeland, is spread through the grass along the
trail. At 1.00 mile the trail bends left and climbs easily across the
flanks of the ridge's tallest hill. There's a deep gash on the hillside
to the left. Hawks and harriers may be spotted soaring overhead, and when
I visited coyote scat was abundant through here. At 1.30 miles you'll
reach a signed junction with minor paths leading downhill. Turn right.
You may see deer as you ascend somewhat
steeply through grassland, on another straight uphill section. Purple
lupine brightens the hillside in summer. Hiddenbrooke Trail crests and
then immediately descends. The deep artificial green of Hiddenbrooke's golf
course, tucked in the valley below, stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding
grassland, dried brown from summer to late autumn. Mount Diablo looms
in the distance, to the southeast. It's not much of a surprise to see,
rounding a corner, that the trail rises again, but this time the grade
is easy. At 1.64 miles, you'll reach a signed T junction. Turn left.
Hiddenbrooke Trail descends, keeping a moderate
pace. Off the right side of the trail views stretch an amazing distance
-- on a November hike when the skies were somewhat hazy, I could see the
Golden Gate Bridge and Sutro Tower in San Francisco. At 1.87 miles, the
trail reaches a saddle and signed junction. This is the end of the Ridge
Trail segment, but you can extend your hike a little by continuing east
(left) to a viewpoint, then backtracking to here. Retrace your steps
to the previous junction.
If you've had enough of climbing you can
turn right here and head back, but the ascent to the hilltop is an easy
one. Enjoy views southwest to the marshes of San Pablo Bay and Mount Tamalpais
on the way up. At 2.30 miles you'll reach the hilltop. An old boxcar is
a bit creepy. Note the windswept California bays on the west side of the
summit. You may see military planes taking off and landing at nearby Travis
Air Force base. When you're ready, retrace your steps back downhill
to the previous junction, then turn left and backtrack to the trailhead.
Total distance: 4.23 miles
Last hiked: Monday, November 18, 2002