Leona Canyon Regional Open Space Preserve,
East Bay Regional Park District,
Alameda County
In brief:
2.7 mile out and back on trails squeezed between steep canyons and housing developments, near Merritt College.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.7 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 470 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 400 feet. The out-and-back hike descends slightly, gradually climbs to about 870 feet, then returns to the trailhead.

Slightly more sun than shade.

Trail traffic:

Trail surface:
Dirt fire road.

Hiking time:
1 mile.

Any time is nice.

Getting there:
From Interstate 580 in Alameda County, exit Keller Avenue (exit 27b). Drive uphill (east) on Keller about 0.8 mile, then turn left onto Campus Drive. Almost immediately, turn right onto a housing development on Canyon Oaks. Turn left and drive less than 0.1 mile to the signed trailhead on the left side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3746'31.38"N
122 8'45.24"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
There are a few stores and restaurants along Keller, with more services north or south off Interstate 580 in Oakland or San Leandro. No camping.

Trailhead details:
No parking or entrance fees. 22 spots in a paved lot (no parking in adjacent development). No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not suitable for wheelchairs. No restrooms, pay phone, or drinking water. There's an information signboard a short distance from the parking lot, on the side of the trail, but there were no maps to the preserve on my visit. This park is accessible by public transit. Visit the Transit Info website for details.

Trails are open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists. Dogs are permitted.

The Official Story:
EBRPD's Leona Canyon page

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from EBRPD

Leona Canyon in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Leona Canyon Open Space Preserve is an anomaly within the East Bay Regional Park District. TrailheadThe preserve lacks nearly all the amenities of a park, and you'll find no restrooms, drinking water, nor any of the extras flaunted by other local EBRPD properties. This small open space preserve, solely comprised of a canyon and its sloping hillsides, is perfect for low-impact use such as jogging, strolling, or dogwalking. Horses and bicycles are permitted, but are uncommon.
      Leona Canyon is big and steep enough for daily virtuous exercise, and with a giant X trail configuration, the preserve provides variety for walks and runs. Leona Canyon Trail is easy, gaining slightly over 450 feet in elevation in 1.3 miles,while Artemesia and Pyrite Trails begin in the belly of the canyon and climb east and west, respectively, Start topping out at over 900 feet. You'll have to be content with a short hike here, for although Anthony Chabot Regional Park lies just over the ridgeline to the east, private property intervenes.
     The best views in the preserve are from the northwest end of Leona Canyon Trail at the edge of Merritt College. At this, the trail's high point, there are nice views back down the canyon, including its steep walls.
     Unless you live off an end of either Pyrite or Artemesia Trails, you'll start a visit to Leona Canyon at the trailhead near a housing development on Canyon Oaks -- there is no other designated parking. In the canyon
     Start at the gated fire road and begin walking downhill on wide multi-use Leona Canyon Trail. Near the information signboard the trail begins a slight climb. Disregard two broad paths running along the perimeter of a small pond on the left and continue on the fire road, which is lined with coyote brush, poison oak, broom, and young coast live oaks. A steep hillside, dotted with boulders, ascends to a ridge on the right. Leona Canyon Trail descends a bit, and draws near a creek at the mouth of the canyon. California bay, buckeye, coast live oak, willow, and some giant alders close their canopy over the trail. AscendingYou might see blackberry, poison oak, dogwood, ferns, snowberry, hazelnut, and coffeeberry in the understory. The trail makes its way through a canyon along the creek, wandering from open sunny areas to dark woods, at a slight uphill grade. At 0.68 mile Artemesia Trail heads uphill on the right, from a signed junction. Continue straight. Pyrite Trail then departs to the left from a signed junction at 0.70 mile. Again, continue straight on Leona Canyon Trail.
     The trail rises a bit more steeply, but the grade is still easy. The year-round running creek nourishes a woodland of coast live oak, California bay, poison oak, poison hemlock, hazelnut, snowberry, and buckeye.Returning down the canyon At about 0.77 mile there's a bench on the right side of the trail. Just after, the grade picks up noticeably, and you'll begin to climb out of the canyon. Emerging from the woods bush lupine, toyon, coyote brush, monkeyflower, sagebrush, coffeeberry, and lots of broom coat the sharply sloping hillside on the right, while the left flank near the creek is still somewhat forested. After a long steadily moderate climb, the trail levels out and then ends at 1.35 miles, at a gate and the edge of a Merritt College parking lot. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 2.70 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, July 25, 2002