Sentinel column by Beverly Lane

East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors

For April 2018 edition

Spring is here (March 20 was the official start) and it’s the perfect time to explore the East Bay Regional Parks with the incentive and guidance of the 2019 Trails Challenge Program.

Now in its 27th year, Trails Challenge is a free, self-guided program encouraging visitors to seek out regional parks that may be new to them for healthy outdoor recreation. Cosponsors are the Park District, Regional Parks Foundation, and Kaiser Permanente.

The rules are simple. Download the Trails Challenge guidebook from the Park District web site at Or pick up a guide at participating visitor centers. Trails Challenge T-shirts are available, too, while supplies last.

The guidebook includes 20 detailed trail descriptions, available for all levels of fitness, from easy to challenging. There are trails open to hikers, bicyclists, dogs, and equestrians, and many are wheelchair accessible. To complete the challenge, hike five of the 20 trails – or 26.2 miles of trails. You can also submit your log, online or by mail, by December 1, 2019 and receive a commemorative pin, while supplies last.

Besides trail descriptions and maps, the guidebook contains tips on equipment, safety, hiking with kids and dogs, wildlife encounters, and more.

It’s a good idea to start out easy, before tackling more challenging routes. A couple of easier trails on the list are Sand Hill/Shady Slope/Short Ridge at Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve in Danville and Harrier Loop at Bay Point Regional Shoreline in Bay Point.

To take it up a step, check out Round Valley Regional Preserve south of Brentwood for a 6½-mile stroll. Among the most challenging trails are an 8-mile round trip at Crockett Hills Regional Park in Crockett, or a 7.8-mile loop at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve east of Mt. Diablo.

Remote and beautiful, Round Valley was a meeting place for Native Americans from several tribes. In more recent times it was ranched by the Murphy family, who sold the core property to the Park District to preserve it in open space. Some old farm machinery is a reminder of the park’s ranching past. There’s lots of wildlife, too, including birds of prey. Because the park is habitat for the rare and endangered San Joaquin kit fox, dogs are not allowed at Round Valley.

I plan to take up the Trails Challenge at Round Valley myself on Saturday, May 4, and anyone is welcome to join me. Meet me at 9:30 a.m. at the park’s staging area on Marsh Creek Road between Deer Valley Road and Walnut Boulevard. I’ll give a brief update on Park District activities; then we can set out to explore the park together.

April is also the height of the spring wildflower season. And this year may be one of the best. The Park District will celebrate it with the Spring Wildflower Festival from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 14 at Sunol–Ohlone Regional Wilderness.

Activities will include wildflower hikes, arts and crafts, and live entertainment. The festival is free; parking is $5 per vehicle.

Sunol is located at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol. For information call 510-544-3249.

But however and wherever you celebrate it, by all means enjoy the springtime and your East Bay Regional Parks.

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