Walking in Oakland

As written for The Urbanist, a SPUR publication (#8 in the list)

Oakland’s Urban Gateway to the Redwoods and Beyond

In 2007, after opening a new location of La Farine Bakery in Oakland’s Dimond District, I moved into the neighborhood. With I-580, a major AC Transit bus transfer hub, and an easy connection to BART just a block away, I quickly learned how accessible my new community was. But soon, I realized even grander access – Oakland’s Dimond neighborhood connects through parkland to the Bay Area Ridge Trail and over 500 miles of trails that span the entire East Bay.

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Dimond Park

Dimond Park, at only 200 feet elevation, was at the end of my street and just two blocks from the bakery. Tucked between the Dimond, Glenview, and Oakmore neighborhoods, it is comprised of 14 acres of urban park including playgrounds, picnic areas, grassy fields, tennis courts, a swimming pool, and an active recreation center. Its paved paths wind through the park amenities, along Sausal Creek, and through towering redwoods and majestic oaks.

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El Centro trailhead in Dimond Canyon Park

At the top of Dimond Park, crossing sleepy El Centro Ave, you’ll enter Dimond Canyon Park. You may have noticed this wooded canyon below the top stretch of Park Blvd, but what you may not know is that it’s home to ninety acres of gorgeous wildland park and trails. Dimond Canyon, Old Cañon, and Bridgeview Trails connect and wind through the oak, laurel, and redwood forests along Sausal Creek. At the top, almost two miles from Dimond Park, you’ll reach Monterey Blvd, where a pedestrian tunnel under Hwy 13 invites you to enter Joaquin Miller Park.

Palos Colorados Trail in Joaquin Miller Park

At the Palos Colorados trailhead, the lowest entrance to Joaquin Miller Park, you’ll experience one of the Bay Area’s most beautiful trails. The thick canopy and year-round creek make you soon forget you’re in the middle of a city. Bringing you to the heart of Joaquin Miller Park’s 550 acres and expansive trail system, you’re now connected to the Piedmont Pines, Woodminster, and Joaquin Miller neighborhoods, with the opportunity to choose from a dozen different routes that connect to the Bay Area Ridge Trail. While some areas of Joaquin Miller Park are developed – it’s home to a Ranger Station, Community Center, picnic areas, fenced dog runs, and the historic Woodminster Theater – most of Joaquin Miller Park is natural and wooded, with an exceptionally well-maintained trail system, thanks to collaborations between the City of Oakland and volunteers. You’ll find redwood groves, chaparral, year-round streams, and expansive views of the entire Bay Area.

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Junction atop lower Palos Colorados Trail in Joaquin Miller Park

Crossing Oakland’s Skyline Blvd at more than 1500 feet elevation and almost five miles from Dimond Park, you’ll reach Redwood Regional Park and the Bay Area Ridge Trail. You now once again have many options: take the 339 bus line from Chabot Space & Science Center (just a ten-minute ride) back to Dimond, loop around for a round-trip hike of nine miles that will bring you back down the hill, or keep going towards Tilden Park, Moraga, San Ramon, or Hayward…the list goes on.

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Sunset Trail in Joaquin Miller Park

This urban connection to the East Bay’s vast network of parks, trails, and open space is incredible. You literally could hike for days and days, and never touch the same piece of ground twice.

Stan Dodson, Oakland resident and manager of La Farine Bakery in Oakland’s Dimond District, has worked as a volunteer to promote and maintain Oakland’s wildland trails since 2008. Learn more at OaklandTrails.org

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Trail map courtesy of Friends of Sausal Creek


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Creeks and Waterfalls in Joaquin Miller Park

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Here are my favorite spots in Joaquin Miller Park (some seasonal, some year-round, and all more spectacular after a day or two of rain):

Palos Colorados Trail – Palo Seco Creek runs the length of lower Palos Colorados Trail. It’s a year-round creek, but with any rain it swells quickly, funneling all the smaller creeks in Joaquin Miller Park before joining Sausal Creek. The site and sound of water rushing through this deep, wooded canyon makes for a unique and awesome Oakland experience. The middle section, as pointed to on the map above, offers the best view of waterfalls. *Sections of this trail are steep and narrow, and can be slippery in all conditions. Only experienced hikers should use this trail.

Fern Ravine Trail (seasonal waterfall) – Whether you make your way up from Sunset Loop Trail, or reach the top via Sequoia-Bayview Trail, you’ll get a great view of a long, cascading waterfall from the upper third of this trail section. *This trail is steep and narrow, and requires intermediate to advanced hiking skills.

Cinderella Creek from Sunset Trail – This creek is easily viewed from Sunset Trail, a wide and relatively flat trail that traverses the mid section of the park. Once you reach the creek intersection, a few steps up along the wide banks will treat you to a natural section of creek under a wooded canopy.

Sinawik Trail (semi-seasonal creek) – This is an easy to moderate hiking trail that bends through mixed redwood forest along Palo Seco Creek. Loop back on the middle section of Palos Colorados Trail. You’ll get close to the creek while using these trails.

Steps for Hiking Trails

fern ravine steps #1

Special thanks to the Baird Family for their help on Fern Ravine Trail! –July, 2016

Oakland Public Works and the Oakland Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission have approved our plan to replace and add almost 30 new steps in Joaquin Miller Park. This work will be performed on lower Palos Colorados and Fern Ravine Trails, both hiking-only trails. To protect the watershed, we will not be installing wood treated with chemicals – only pure, ethically harvested redwood timbers will be used for this project. Please click on the donate button to fund one or more steps with a tax deductible contribution (all funds are processed through our 501c3 fiscal sponsor, the Oakland Parks & Recreation Foundation).

One New Step $40

Phase 1 of 4