Monday, June 8, 2015

Exploring Joaquin Miller Park

It's amazing to me how being outdoors can almost instantly re-energize you. With everything that has to get accomplished on the weekends, I often feel like I am running out of steam by mid-afternoon. And since an afternoon coffee is NOT an option for me if I plan on sleeping that night, I have started relying on time outdoors to give me that boost. Whether it's doing yard work, taking a walk to the park or going for a hike, the fresh air never fails to give me new life. It seems to have the same affect on the kids, who will often be on the verge of a meltdown at home, but are happily exploring a new hiking trail a short drive later.

There are so many great parks to explore in the Oakland/Berkeley hills, and Joaquin Miller Park is one that has been on my list for a while. We started our hike near the ranger station and then completed a short 1.5 mile loop. The trail head starts with a short, but immediate decline into the canyon, and then levels out to wide paths that run along Palo Seco Creek (which was dry when we visited). The landscape was lush with greenery and wild flowers and we even saw a Spittle Bug! This was particularly exciting because there is a whole page on this interesting bug in On Beyond Bugs, which we read to the kids.

Being the novice hiker that I am, I didn't take into account the topography when viewing the trail map and ended up choosing a route that had a steep climb for about a third of a mile, which equated to 400 feet of elevation gain. That might not sound so bad, but hiking up the equivalent of 40 flights of stairs with kids in tow might not have been the best choice. Thankfully, about half way in the kids decided to "rock climb" up the side of the mountain. Not only was it entertaining to watch as they grunted and huffed their way through their climbing adventure, it also gave our backs a much needed break!

At the top of the climb, we were rewarded with views of the canyon (along with some peaks of the Bay) and a beautiful Oak tree that the kids enjoyed climbing in.

There were also a number of fallen trees that made for exciting balance beams or obstacles to climb over.

From the top of the mountain, we walked along the Sequoia Bay view trail for a short distance before starting the steep descent down the Wild Rose trail. The kids LOVED this portion of the hike because their feet were slipping out from below them, causing uproars of laughter as they held on to our hands and scurried back to their feet.

Despite the unexpected climb at the beginning of the hike, we all had a great time exploring the park and I look forward to returning in the future. The Big Trees Trail (from the Sequoia Bayview Trailhead) and the Sinawik Trail Loop, both look like promising short hikes with a little less elevation gain.

Interested in exploring more easy hikes in the East Bay? You may also like our hike around Jewel Lake in Tilden and this beautiful hike among the Redwoods.

What are you favorite short hikes in the Bay Area?

Details: Joaquin Miller Park is located in the Oakland Hills just off of Highway 13. We parked at the Ranger Station and walked past the yellow road block to the trailhead. Take a left on the Sunset Trail, Right on Chapparal, Right on Sequoia Bayview, Right on Wild Rose, Right on Sunset Loop Trail, and that brings you back to the Sunset Trail where you will make a left and be back where you started. Parking is free. Side note: Google Pedometer is a great resource for mapping out which trails to take. It will give you a total distance AND changes in elevations (a feature I was not aware of until after this hike...ha!). I like to map it out first, and then use my phone to take a picture of the map with my route on it for when i'm on the hike and need to check which way to go.

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