You might have passed the trailhead for this hike many times without knowing it. The de Laveaga trail, an East Bay Mud trail, starts just at the corner of Moraga Way and the Orinda on ramp to Highway 24. You'll see a chain link fence with some East Bay Mud signs, and you can park right in the gravel area. There is a four hour time limit, which you should easily manage on this hike.
Trails Taken - de Laveaga Trail to Skyline Trail and back
Mileage - 2.7 miles each way. The way up feels like 5 miles, the way down feels like 1.
Trailhead - Corner of Moraga Way and Highway 24 in Orinda. No water, no bathrooms.
Notes and Impressions -
Initially, you'll have some tree cover, but the trail opens up to a wide meadow. At some point, probably a while ago, somebody spiked the trail with nails. Now there is a sign warning about it, although I didn't see any nails or any other type of malicious trail damage.
The trail climbs from the start to the end, with a few slight downhill segments in between. On the way up, you'll feel the burn in your legs, and if you climb fast enough, your heart will really get pumping. The trail offers views of Orinda and surrounding areas, and on clear days the greater bay area and beyond. What you'll also see on this trail is the new development being built just off Highway 24.
Mileage notes from trailhead:
.54 Views of Orinda, movie theater, Highway 24, full sun, no trees
.59 I can hear cars from 24, but I can also hear frogs
.65 All hill
.71 Lots of little boulders
.80 Trees on left getting me some shade from early morning sun...jacket comes off, hill is a major fat burner
.91 Lots of moths fluttering under oak and bay trees
.95 Whole family of wild turkeys on hillside warming themselves, but watching me
1.05 I can hear sizzle of power lines as I walk under them
1.18 Going through Oaks, and lots of birds flying between them
1.27 Slight downhill
1.27 View of Briones Reservoir
1.41 Pretty scenery, views of reservoirs, but I'm walking among power towers and I can see cell phone towers...path wide and wet, shrubs mixed with oak, wide fire road here
1.50 Trail a bit more level, can see reservoir, power plant and the distance covered in fog
1.54 Sign on Right says electric fence, so don't touch
1.67 Trail loops to left, don't go straight toward stable
1.81 Cattle gate
1.83 On Left are Eucalyptus stumps
1.92 Eucs have been thinned out
2.0 Hill on Right is covered in Eucs and trail goes downhill a bit
2.02 I startled a family of deer in Euc grove
2.10 Hawks circling valley to left
2.25 Lots of rocks on trail and on hillsides, lots of cow poop and rocks on trail
2.32 Quieter here, lots of oaks to left and hillside to right, dipping down but will climb soon
2.36 Cross a stream
2.42 Trail to left is a fire road, so go right
2.5 In to a clearing and trail curves down and to right through Euc trees
2.58 Hike up past Eucs on left, you can hear them rubbing and moaning against one another
2.70 Still climbing
2.86 At intersection of de Laveaga and East Bay Skyline trail, some Redwoods and Bay trees...Road right above me....turning around and heading back down
2.99 Heading down the hill...hike back is easy, just heading down
3.70 a few uphills here..you can see the hills the Caldecott Tunnel goes through
4.06 Hawk on electrical tower
4.20 Downhill easier, on left is San Pablo and Briones Reservoirs
4.44 Nice views of mt. diablo
4.74 Small birds hoovering and diving
4.81 Some steep spots and if wet will be a slippery downhill
5.07 Starting to hear the roar from 24 again
5.10 Butterfly sighting
de Laveaga to Skyline trail and back
Variety of birds, including Kestral, Finches, Jays, Hawks, Turkey Vultures and Wild Turkeys. The Turkeys were warming themselves in the sun on a ledge above the trail. They watched me warily as I passed, and went back to sunning themselves while one of their sentinels kept an eye on me until I went further along.
I also heard a frog chorus at .59 miles, which was competing with the noise from Highway 24.