March 5, 2011

Sunol Regional Wilderness Hike

We took advantage of the break in wet weather and went to Sunol Regional Wilderness for a hike. This time we took some beginning hikers with us.  We have done a few hikes here in the past but we had not done the Flag Hill Trail. We parked by the Visitor Center and headed across the parking lot to the foobridge. After crossing the footbridge we headed left towards Flag Hill Trail. The dirt trail was narrow right from the beginning. After just over a quarter of a mile we hit a fork on the road, with the right leading to Shady Glen Trail, we continued towards the left. Right after this junction the trail began to climb. We didn't have to climb long before being rewarded with views of the park. We hit a few switchbacks as we continued to climb, and climb, and climb. There were a handful of shaded areas on the trail but the majority of trail was exposed.  We saw some beautiful California poppies growing along the side of the trail. We climbed nearly 1000 feet on the narrow trail for 1.26 miles before reaching Flag Hill. The trail was steep but even the beginning hikers who were with us managed well. The views of the park, Alameda Creek Watershed and Calaveras Reservoir were well worth all of the gain in elevation. We were lucky that it was such a clear day and with it being early in the year the hills were still beautiful shades of green. After some snapshots we took the short and popular detour for even more amazing views. There was a small group of people here as well. This area was rocky and along with a bench closeby it proved to be a good place to take a break. We refueled and headed back towards Flag Hill Trail. At this point we could choose to retrace our steps back down the trail to our car or take another trail back making the hike a loop. We opted to make the hike a loop. Instead of heading back down Flag Hill Trail we took the trail a little further before turning right onto High Valley Road and then another right onto Hayfield Road. Both of these trails were much wider than the trail we took on the way up. We got more good views and came fairly close to cattle at several points. Although a little longer, this route back was not as steep as Flag Hill Trail. We did come across a few people heading in the opposite direction. We also passed by the High Valley Camp which included several picnic tables. After about 2 miles on our mostly downhill trek, we made it back to the footbridge. We crossed it once more before heading to the Visitor Center to pick up our shirts for the 2011 EBPRD Trails Challenge and then onto our car. In total our hike was about 3.75 miles and took us about 2 hours and 20 minutes. The views were amazing thanks to the clear skies, it is a great spring hike.

View From Flag Hill