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New trail takes you up for Bay views.

Unlike the rapid transit system with the same initials, the proposed Bay Area Ridge Trail will link all nine counties bordering San Francisco Bay. Like BART, the Ridge Trail won't get you to the airport, but it will lead you to soaring views of bay and ocean, of rolling hills and lush valleys.

Following a 400-mile course, the new trail system will traverse ridges and mountains around the bay through lands managed by 30 different federal, state, and local agencies. It's an ambitious regional response to the 1987 report of the President's Commission on Americans Outdoors, which urged communities to create greenbelts that provide urban residents with open spaces close to home.

Much of the route will make use of existing trails, such as the East Bay Regional Park District's 31 -mile Skyline Trail and several ridge-top trails on the Peninsula and in west Marin. Across the north and south ends of the bay, where there are fewer public lands, connecting trail segments will be more difficult.

Coordinated by the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, a coalition of public agencies, nonprofit organizations, and citizen volunteers, the project is targeted for completion in 1992. An ultimate goal is to have complete routes for hikers, equestrians, and bicyclists-using separate pathways where necessary.

For information on events such as guided hikes or rides on the proposed trail, to volunteer for trail-building or fundraising, or to provide technical assistance, call the trail's project director at (415) 543-4291.

A Ridge Trail preview: four hikes around the bay

You can sample four currently accessible segments of the proposed trail-in San Mateo, Marin, Napa, and Alameda counties. Each makes a good day-hike. Equestrians are welcome on trails in Marin, Napa, and Alameda; only Napa and Marin allow mountain bikers.

San Mateo County. Skyline Trail from Huddart to Wunderlich. It doesn't matter which direction you go on this 5-mile stretch of Skyline Trail, since it's mostly level. Plan to leave a car at each of two trailheads about 3 miles apart on Skyline Boulevard (State Highway 35).

Parking for the south trailhead is along the widened east shoulder of the road, just north of where private Bear Gulch Road joins Skyline from the east (3 miles northwest of State 84). You can reach the north trailhead from a small parking area for Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve on the west side of Skyline Boulevard, 61/2 miles south of State 92.

From the northern trailhead, cross Skyline Boulevard and enter San Mateo County's Huddart Park. A short connector takes you to Skyline Trail. Heading south, the trail passes second-growth redwoods. You soon leave the park and drop into a deeply shaded canyon. The trail crosses Kings Mountain Road and a small creek at the bottom of the canyon, then climbs steeply up the other side. It quickly levels off, however, and stays level most of the way.

Following a contour in and out of the folds of the ridge's flank, the trail traverses an easement in the California Water Service's Bear Gulch Watershed. (Fortunately, the stake-and-wire fences on both sides of the trail are rarely obtrusive.) You pass through several more pockets of second-growth redwoods, but more impressive are a few massive Douglas firs growing beside the trail. Occasional openings in the foliage reveal views of San Francisco Bay.

Switchbacks divert you around a subdivision as you approach Wunderlich Park, another county property. The hike ends with a short uphill climb that brings you back to Skyline Boulevard at the Bear Gulch Road junction.

Marin County. Bolinas Ridge. Mountain bikers, equestrians, and stalwart hikers can all use this 10-mile loop in west Marin. Almost half of the route follows a segment of the Ridge Trail up to and along the top of Bolinas Ridge, in Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Park in Samuel P Taylor State Park, 14 miles west of U.S. 101 on Sir Francis Drake Boulevard ($4 day-use fee on weekends, $3 weekdays). A paved path leads north from the picnic area through the woods along Lagunitas Creek. After about 2 miles, you'll come to two poles planted in the path; go through the cattle gate to your left (close it behind you), and make the steep 1-mile climb to the top of the ridge. Turning left on Bolinas Ridge Trail, you walk through rolling pastures (with more gates) for about 3-1/2 miles.

Turn left at a sign marked "Shafter Bridge 1.9 miles" and wind downhill to the bridge (over Lagunitas Creek), at the park's south boundary. A path leads down under the bridge, where you ford the shallow creek; follow the path on the opposite side to a wider trail on an old narrowgauge railroad bed. This returns you, under a canopy of oaks and madrones, to the picnic area.

Napa County: Skyline Wilderness Park. This attractive natural area just south of the Napa city limits is a true rarity: a park completely operated by private volunteers. Though the state holds title to the property, 850 acres of hills and meadows once used for agriculture by neighboring Napa State Hospital are now leased by the Skyline Park Citizens Association.

Admission to the park (open 9 to 6 daily) is $3 per vehicle. A trail map offered at the entrance kiosk shows the 4-1/2-mile Skyline Trail, now a part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. You begin by passing between two small lakes still maintained by the state hospital. Then a series of switchbacks takes you up an oak-dotted hillside. Looking back, you'll see a basalt quarry; a more appealing view of the Napa Valley presents itself to the north.

For much of the route, the trail hugs the park's boundary, marked by a picturesque stone wall. After topping a summit, you drop to a lush meadow, where you can look out over San Pablo Bay toward Mount Tamalpais. Another downhill stretch ends at a ranch road; from here continue to little Lake Marie. Swimming is not allowed, but anglers who pack in tackle might hook a bluegill or bass.

To make a loop hike, take Lake Marie Road 2-1/2 miles back to the parking area. (Marie Creek Trail, shown on the map as an alternative to the road, is narrow and requires constant attention to tricky footing over rock.)

From State Highway 29 in Napa, drive east 2-1/2 miles on Imola Avenue to the park entrance, on your right.

Alameda County: a new leg of the Chabot-to-Garin Trail. The 800-foot elevation gain from either end of this two-car shuttle hike entails some huffing and puffing, but rewards you with top-of-the-world views of the Bay Area and beyond. Much of this newly accessible 7-mile trail is on East Bay Municipal Utility District property, and you'll need an EBMUD permit; call (415) 835-3000 for details.

Both trailheads for the shuttle are a short distance north of Castro Valley. One is EBMUD's signed Chabot staging area; to get there from 1-580, exit on Redwood Road and drive north 3-1/2 miles. The other is in Cull Canyon Regional Recreation Area. Return south on Redwood Road to Castro Valley Boulevard, turn left, then go left again on Crow Canyon Road. A final left onto Cull Canyon Road takes you along a reservoir; park in the lot at the far end.

From the Cull Canyon parking area, begin your walk by going through a giant culvert that allows the trail and Cull Creek to pass under a roadway. You stay low in the wooded canyon for about 1-1/2 miles, as the trail follows the creek upstream. Near the park's north boundary, you climb steeply out of the canyon to the edge of a new subdivision.

From here, fire roads cross private property (stay on the trail) as they head north along open ridges. At the highest point, near Dinosaur Peak (its rocky outcrops resemble a stegosaurus's spiky plates), you can see for miles in every direction. Descending into the San Leandro Creek watershed, pick up a hiking trail that takes you south, past a tree farm, to the car at Chabot.
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Title Annotation:Bay Area Ridge Trail and Skyline Trail, California
Date:Jun 1, 1989
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