I had a wonderful hike on Saturday that surprised me with beautiful canopies and spectacular views of Mt. Diablo poking out from an ocean of fog. Even though it was 36 degrees at the start of the hike, the nice ascent of the Sunrise Trail will bring out the heat in you.
Location: Briones Regional Park. Trailhead is at the end of Springhill Road, in Lafayette, Ca.
Total Mileage: 4.73 miles
Total Ascent: 2968 feet
Total Descent: 2737 feet
Starting at a secluded trailhead at the end of Springhill Road, you'll pass through the first of many cattle gates you'll encounter. You'll see the first trail marker, which will point the way to the Buckeye Ranch Trail. You'll shortly pass through another cattle gate, which will take you on the beautiful, canopied section of this trail. The sun was streaming in through the trees when I went, and the only sound was the occasional Jay squawking about my disturbing their morning.
This was a nice, peaceful forested trail, loaded with moss covered Oaks and Bay trees There was a dry creek bed to my right, but during a normal winter that should be flowing nicely.
You'll soon come to a Y split. To your right you can access the Sunrise Trail. But, keep to your left, as the Buckeye Ranch Trail will loop you back, and you'll want to enjoy a little more of this canopy. There are quite a few trees and groves with a lot of personality. Keep an eye out for this old giant that probably lived over 200 years before it collapsed:
As you loop back, you'll go through one more gate. Make sure you close all the gates completely, because there were a few cows lounging around in this area. At one mile, you'll see the sign for the Sunrise Trail. Go straight here, and soon you'll be wandering through this little cluster of oaks:
I came across the remains of a cow here, with signs that some nocturnal visitors had already started feasting on it. Sunrise Trail is a climb, and this is where you'll start to feel your quadriceps tingling and your heart knock on your ribs. You'll climb out of this little valley to follow a ridge line up along some rolling hills. Look at the photo map to get some perspective. On the morning of my hike the fog was heavy, and at this point I could see it still hanging around in the valley below me.
Keep climbing, keep climbing, you've got a ways to go. But as you climb, keep turning around to check out the view.
At 2.65 miles, you'll come to the Briones Crest Trail. Take this trail through some nice oaks, and enjoy the shade for a while. It's a nice spot for a PBJ and an iced tea.
It seems like I always make a few bovine friends on these hikes, and this crew was pretty cordial:
At 3.53 miles, you'll take a left on to the Lafayette Ridge Trail. The curves of this trail looked like a giant anaconda resting in the California sun.
At 3.66 miles, take a left on to the Buckeye Ranch Trail. Follow this trail through a few more scenic groves, and you'll come to the Sunrise/Buckeye Ranch Trail split. This time, take a right to the Buckeye Ranch Trail and follow that back to the trailhead.