Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Views along Skyline Blvd if you approach Sibley from Berkeley.
I continue to be blown away by all of the amazing hiking options in Oakland, and Sibley is no exception. Located off Skyline Blvd, high along the ridgeline of the Oakland Hills, this is a great park to enjoy with the family (dogs included). What sets Sibley apart from some of it's neighboring parks (Redwood Regional, Tilden, Joaquin Miller Park) is that it is home to a 10 million year old volcano. Over the life of the volcano, massive tectonic forces have tilted the volcano on it's side giving an unusual glimpse of the geology of the underlying rock. Additionally, there was substantial quarrying in the north half of the preserve that further revealed cross sections of the bedrock geology. 

If you're lucky, you will also get to enjoy a chorus of cows moo'ing (this was particularly exciting for the girls on our first visit to the park).
While getting to explore an extinct volcano is certainly a treat, one of the more celebrated aspects of the park are the labyrinths. If you search online for directions to the labyrinths you will find multiple accounts of where they are along with some very confusing directions. The most direct route to the most famous of the labyrinths, the Mazzariello Labyrinth, is to take the Round Top Loop Trail in a clockwise direction until you get to the overlook for Marker #2 (shown as Quarry Pit 2 on the map below). Start on the paved service road to the right of the visitors center/bathrooms. When you reach the junction of several trails, you will see a hill that goes up to the water tower (don't go up there like we did) at which point you should veer left and walk through the cattle gate. At the next trail junction you will see a sign that points to Marker #2.

From the Sibley Staging Area, start your hike along the paved service road to the right of the visitors center.

The best views of the Mazzariello labyrinth are from the northwest corner above the quarry, which you can access by walking along a small footpath that takes you to a higher vantage point of the quarry. On our first visit, this is where we turned around and called it a day (it was a late December morning and a very very cold 40 degrees out!). If you continue along that path, however, you will find yourself at another set of three labyrinths. Since we didn't take time to walk down to the bottom of the quarry for the first labyrinth, this was a fun chance to see the rock formations up close.

An added bonus is that the additional elevation of the second set of labyrinths gives way to some spectacular views of the Bay Area.

We continued along past the second set of labyrinths until the trail met up with the Volcanic Trail, which you can then use to cut back to the Round Top Trail Loop. Our first trip to the park was a simple out and back hike along the first portion of the Round Top Trail Loop. On our second visit, we did the entire Round Top Trail Loop, which takes you along a somewhat rocky dirt path through eucalyptus groves before it meets up with the trail you started on. This adds about a half mile to the hike and this portion of the trail can be particularly muddy if you are visiting shortly after heavy rains. Even if you aren't planning on doing the entire loop, it's worth climbing to the top of the hill that you will see just south of Overlook #2. The views of San Pablo Reservoir and the windmills in the distance are pretty amazing.

The windmills of the Altamont Pass can be seen in the distance on a clear day.

Have you hiked Sibley? Any trail recommendations?

Details: Sibley is located in the Oakland Hills off of Skyline Blvd. There is a small parking lot as well as street parking along the main road. During our visits during the winter there has been a bit of a temperature drop as we climbed the mountain, so bring layers. 


  1. Beautiful pictures. The labyrinth looks cool from far away, but I fear that close up it will be disappointing because it's so small.

    1. I would agree that the labryinth's have the potential for being a bit underwhelming. If you're with younger kids, I think half the fun is just finding them. It's a beautiful hike though and a nice escape into nature.