If you’ve been following this series, than you’ve probably realized that by the time we complete the entire East Bay Skyline National Recreational Trail, we will have hiked not just the 31 miles of the official trail, we’ll have hiked twice that! That’s because we are hiking the trail in sections and we’re doing each section as a loop (preferred) or an out-and-back. That’s eliminates the need to have two vehicles to do the trail (shuttling cars is a nuisance and wastes time and energy.)
To review, part 1 of this series was from Wildcat Canyon into Tilden and provided some strenuous climbs on the way into the park. Part 2, starting on the Nimitz Trail in Tilden, was an easy hike if completed as an in and out, but had a moderately steep climb out of the canyon if you completed it as a loop. (Click sections: part 1 and part 2 to get the details of where we have been.)
In this, the third hike, we combine a beautiful hike in the Berkeley hills with a good workout. Because this hike links two trailheads in Tilden Park — one at Inspiration Point and the other near the popular steam trains, you can start your circuit from either end. As described, we will do the first half on an alternate route, and the second half following the Skyline Trail.
First half: Google for your choice of directions to Tilden Steam Trains, where there are three parking lots. The first one is reserved for train users. Find the one north and farthest east of the trains lot. Start the hike at the far end of the lot on the narrow dirt trail signed Volmer Peak Trail. In .10 miles the trail splits, take the right fork for another .27 miles and then take the left fork onto Lupine Trail.
At first your path was relatively level with glimpses of the Golden Gate Live Steamers and the Tilden steam trains (if they’re running). You’ll pass above the fire department buildings belonging to East Bay Regional Parks. Soon you’ll have terrific views of San Francisco Bay. When you continue on Lupine, you’ll be on a steep downhill track. If you brought hiking poles, you’ll be happy right about now. Proceed carefully, plant your feet firmly, and avoid the small loose rocks.
Lupine will take you all the way down to South Park Road. Turn right on the roadway and follow it briefly until you reach Big Springs Trail. You’ll follow this wider, more moderate trail for almost a mile. Reaching Seaview Trail at a “T”, turn left downhill briefly (.18). At the next “T” turn right and uphill. This short (.19) stretch does a hairpin turn and then reaches Wildcat Canyon Road. Cross the road, pick up the trail again bearing right, while climbing .27 mile until you reach the Inspiration Point parking lot.
Return trip: Retrace your steps by heading downhill on the Curran Trail, turning up and left to cross Wildcat Canyon Road and the short climb up to Seaview Trail. Continue up the on Sea View, bypassing Big Springs Trail this time. By now you have noticed that the trail signs sometimes say Bay Area Ridge Trail, sometimes Seaview, and least often Skyline. No matter which it is labeled, this trail provides panoramic views – sometimes toward the bay, sometimes toward San Pablo and Briones reservoirs, sometimes Mt. Diablo – as you ascend (generally) moderately.
When Seaview levels out, you’ll also notice that some of the views along this wide dirt track are obscured by the earthen banks alongside. Take a couple of the informal paths climbing the banks to get the benefit of the views; you’ll even find a bench or two.
Continue on Seaview until approximately 2 miles along you’ll look for another intersection with Volmer Peak Trail on your right. Turn onto it (which avoids the peak), turn left and follow Lupine very briefly, then the right fork onto Vollmer Peak Trail again. You should be in familiar territory by now and hearing the whistle of the steam trains. Congratulations on completing your hike!
- Loop as described (predominately on Lupine, Big Springs and Seaview), approx. 5.75 miles, but the more strenuous option.
- Out-and-back on the Skyline National Trail, approx. 5.92 miles.
- Privies at both trailheads. There are flush toilets and drinking water available near the steam train concession.
- Hiking poles recommended.
- Map, click here: