Madrone Trail - Las Trampas Regional Wilderness

At the end of Hemme Avenue in Alamo is the Ringtail Cat Staging area. This trailhead offers access to the eastern part of Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. 

  • Location: Las Trampas Regional Wilderness
  • Route: Start at Ringtale Cat Trail, and follow to Madrone Trail. Return the same way. 
  • Mileage: 3.83 miles, with 931 feet elevation gain
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate, with some climbing
  • Trail Map:
  • Trailhead and Parking:

The trailhead has parking, but it's limited. There are maps, but no other facilities. Starting out at the trailhead, the trail I took was an out and back visit to the Madrone grove on the northeast part of the trail.

At the trailhead

One of the nice things about hiking in the fall is that the poison oak turns red, and becomes easier to identify. This trail has a lot of poison oak along the edges, so if you bring your dogs, make sure you wash them after the hike. They can pick up the oils on their coat and the oils can spread to you when you pet them.  

This trail is loaded with structurally beautiful trees, especially oaks. Many of these trees are well over one hundred years old. 

The initial part of the hike starts out with a reasonable climb. It will get your heart beating. I started the hike in the late afternoon. My goal was to photograph the trail and forest as the sun was setting. 

The hike starts out on Ringtail Cat Trail. At .32 miles, you'll come to a split. The trail to your right is a dead end that takes you to South Ave. Continue left and keep climbing on the Ringtail Cat trail. In many places along this hike, there are unmarked trails that branch off the main trail. Some seem to be bike trails, others are either steep climbs or switch backs. Stay on the main trail as it climbs to Madrone Trail.

The setting sun illuminates the leaves.

Continue the climb and keep to your right. The trail continues .95 miles from the previous split. The Oaks in this area are beautiful, and the sun was setting as I climbed higher. 

The setting sun lights up the background trees.

I passed several hikers with dogs, and when I reached the Madrone Trail, I saw a biker ride by with his dogs. There were a lot of cows in the area. East Bay Regional Parks allows grazing to keep grasses down and minimize the risk of fire. 

The cows will move out of your way.

A cow licks salt as the setting sun illuminates her.

As you hike, look to the hillsides around you to see some beautiful trees and groves. This is what the whole area looked like a few hundred years ago.

At about 1.27 miles, you'll come to the Madrone Trail. Bearing left can take you to the

Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site

. I continued right, heading Northwest on the Madrone Trail. The trail continues to climb, and you'll see some nice views of the valley below. 

The trail widens and continues, and you might see a few more cows as you make your way to the Madrone grove. 

Look for this beautiful Oak as you approach the Madrone Grove.

You'll reach the Madrone Grove at about 2 miles, and you'll see these trees scattered about in the forest. The light was good to capture their unique beauty. These trees are found only in the western US and Canada. From Wikipedia:

:Arbutus menziesii is an evergreen tree with rich orange-red bark that when mature naturally peels away in thin sheets, leaving a greenish, silvery appearance that has a satin sheen and smoothness. The exposed wood sometimes feels cool to the touch. In spring, it bears sprays of small bell-like flowers, and in autumn, red berries.Native Americans ate the berries, but because the berries have a high tannin content and are thus astringent, they more often chewed them or made them into a cider. They also used the berries to make necklaces and other decorations, and as bait for fishing. Bark and leaves were used to treat stomach aches, cramps, skin ailments, and sore throats. The bark was often made into a tea to be drunk for these medicinal purposes."

Madrone Tree

Madrone along the trail.

Another Madrone is lit beautifully by the setting sun.

The plaque says: This Madrone Grove is dedicated to Mary Rogers Smith, for her effort in preserving these hills and woods. We owe a debt of gratitude to people like Mary Smith. I didn't know her, but I'm very grateful for her efforts to protect and preserve this resource for all of us.

You'll see this memorial to Mary Smith at the 2 mile point.

I turned around at this point, since the sun was starting to fade. If you have time and energy, you can take a mighty loop hike that includes the Las Trampas Ridge Trail and the Corduroy Trail.

See the trail map

for more details.

Watching the setting sun light up the valley below was a great experience. 

Once the sun set, the temperature dropped quickly. The dull light and shadows accented the dramatic structure of the trees.

This last image was taken in near darkness. Hiking at dusk is interesting but potentially risky, so make sure you bring a flashlight. 

My total mileage was 3.83 miles. The climb up was certainly more challenging than the descent, and the elevation chart is below.

There were a lot of cows on this trail, and I know some people are wary of them. I've never had a bad experience with cows, but give them room and don't startle them. All they want is to eat and be left alone.

This is a beautiful and heart building hike that can lead to a variety of other trails and routes. Plan ahead, bring water, and enjoy the experience! 

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Madrone Trail Hike

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness


Route Information:

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