Hike 5: Redwood Regional Park | Oakland, CA
Hikers: Alta and Nat (humans) | Pe’ahi, Nalu, Leilani and Willow (dogs)
Start Time: 2:00 pm at entrance adjacent to Richard C. Trudeau Conference Center off of Skyline Blvd.
Redwood Regional Park is located off Redwood Road just a few miles over the ridge from downtown Oakland. A beautiful and hidden Redwood forest, it is a favorite of nature enthusiasts of a wide range. The park’s 1,830 acres are home to not only beautiful coastal redwoods, but evergreens, chaparral, and grasslands. Rare species such as the golden eagle and Alameda striped racer as well as deer, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels are often seen around these woods.
Leash Laws: Dogs are permitted on most trails and can be off leash but under reliable voice control and good trail manners on most trails. Please keep your dogs leashed on parking lots and traffic prone areas. Exceptions and additional information on leash laws can be found HERE.
Trail Difficulty: This park is welcoming to all levels of hiking, from beginners (easy to moderate) to experienced looking for a challenge. Our trail had a couple of hills, but not too strenuous.
Other information: The park opens between 5:00am and 10:00pm. If you park at the park’s main parking lot, there is a parking fee of $5 per vehicle; $4 per trailered vehicle. Though I did not see this on the trail, the park’s website does mention a dog fee, probably collected at the main entrance. From the park’s page: “$2 per dog. No fee charged for guide/service dogs. Fees are collected on weekends and major holidays April through October and only at the Redwood Gate entrance.”
This particular hike is special to me, because it delivered what I ultimately set out to do with 365 Dog Hikes: discover a new trail to photograph and write about and hike alongside a fellow dog-hiker. Before this day, Alta and I had never met, we had been following each other on Instagram and had at least three things in common: a love of dogs, hiking and photography. After a few back-and-forth emails, we scheduled our Oakland hike, an old favorite of theirs because of its off-leash friendly trails, which are a tremendous luxury around here.
Before I hike with someone new, I ask whether I can bring Willow along (if it’s a local hike). Willow loves other dogs, has beautiful body language and if you ask her, “the more dogs, the merrier!” However, not all dogs are keen on making new friends, so I always ask. Willow is very shy around new people, but VERY good at befriending someone at her own pace. She is a fabulous judge of character, and having other dogs around helps her confidence to speed the friend-making process. Knowing all this, Alta and her pack were looking forward to hike with us both. When I meet new dogs, I let them do the meeting. I do this by ignoring them, removing the pressure and letting them approach when they are ready. I don’t pet them right away either, in so many words, I ask them if they would like such attentions. I ask their person if they can have a treat and give them one if the mood strikes. My hiking partner is likewise recommended to ignore miss Willow the wallflower and give her attention if she asks for it.
Alta and her pack, consisting of two Australian Cattle Dogs, Nalu and Leilani and Pe’ahi, an ACD mix, met us one afternoon at a small parking lot adjacent to the Richard C. Trudeau Conference Center off of Skyline Blvd. There’s a short walk to the trailhead from there. This is not the main entrance to the park, but it drops you right onto Dunn Trail. After our greeting, we started walking right away. Alta’s pack was very warm towards Willow and after a brief sniff of each other, all four dogs were excited to get going.
I am a hugger, by the way. So if you meet me for the first time, after a series of email correspondence and heart-to-heart nerd-outs about dogs and hiking, expect a hug. I don’t give them out freely. My hugs are genuine. Just thought I’d mention that. 😉
Dunn trail curves around the mountain side and immediately showed me how popular this trail is for all ages of dog lovers. This trail has some heavier traffic at certain times of the day and weekends, and you’ll see many off-leash dogs. Little Leilani can be a little insecure around other dogs that overwhelm her space too much, and this can be quite common, so the best thing to do, is set a pace and keep moving. Alta never left Leilani alone to deal with other dogs, and Nalu, Willow and Pe’ahi often ran interference for her, happy to sniff some butts along the way.
I was so pleasantly surprised however, that our four dogs hit it off so well and so fast. Willow was the dorky tall girl in this group, but somehow, she and little Leilani ended up enjoying most of the hike trotting side by side, exploring and playing and at one point playing tug with a fantastic stick they found.
One of the most beautiful things I got to enjoy on this hike was getting to see Alta and her dogs so attuned to one another. They never strayed far from her, always checking in and looking back if they were more than a few feet away. Pe’ahi is the oldest, but his age was nowhere to be found, he had joy and youth in every step.
On our way to Graham Trail, we came across an old redwood stump, and where there’s a stump, there’s a perch opportunity, and where there’s a perch opportunity, there is a photograph to be taken. The dogs patiently obliged. Alta and I laughed at the difference in size between Willow and her new buddies. Behind the stump, there is a lovely picnic area and an open field.
Rows of trees stretched out before us, with an easy pace, soft dirt underfoot and that gorgeous redwood scent. It wasn’t particularly warm on that day, but I will bet it is a lovely trail to take when you are looking for shade. We had some fun doing recalls here, since we could see far ahead and behind us. Please note, there are a lot of mountain cycling enthusiasts on this trail, so keep your eyes and ears open and leash or treats at the ready to call your dog to your side and out of harm’s way.
We continued along the West Ridge trail, where the dogs enjoyed sniffing and playing in the grasslands and bushes. This is at a slight down incline, and cyclists tend to fly down the hill, so always keep an eye and ear out for them.
On a little break to water everyone, the dogs enjoyed a few zooms and general nosing around while some of us were trying to take pictures 🙂 It was such a lovely day, and how well these dogs mashed was so joyful to watch. I have never seen Willow so keen on making friends so fast as she did with Alta. Even though she is comfortable around someone new after a few miles, she rarely asks for attention and allows herself to be rubbed and scratched… well, in this case, Willow felt so comfortable and at ease with Alta and her pack that she constantly nosed her for rubs and attention, stretching her neck and face up towards the sky just as Alta hit all the favorite spots. Alta is a dog person; a really good one; Willow says so.
Nalu demonstrated his mad skills at jumping into his mom’s arms to be rewarded with his favorite thing on earth: a mom hug. It is rare that dogs like to be hugged, let alone love it and ask for it. But when you witness Nalu’s temperament and his fierce bond with Alta, you see the level of trust and how much he truly enjoys her contact. It was a wonderful thing to be in the presence of.
Even though they are all Cattle Dogs, brilliant, smart and busy working dogs, each of the three were so unique in their personalities. I found their squinty eyes irresistible.
Back to our hike… We continued along the West Ridge trail and hopped on Tate trail for a short time on a downhill slope for some photographs, then turned around and back up with West Ridge. We cut through Baccharis trail on the way back for a change of scenery. By this point, dusk was upon us, so we had to hustle a little bit. My, how time flies when you are having fun!
Baccharis trail meets back up with West Ridge, where we followed the same trails we walked on the way in. We talked about so many things during our time together. Alta credits her dogs with so many wonderful things in her life. It was amazing, to suddenly find yourself with someone you have so much in common with, all because of a shared love for dogs and hiking.
I forgot I was in Oakland, minutes away from a buzzing city. As night fell, the air grew chilly but we were warm from movement and giddiness. I decided to leash Willow back up because other than her red harness and wolfish yellow eyes, the rest of her was invisible in the darkness! Even at this dark hour, the park, especially Graham and Dunn trails were still heavy with foot traffic. Night creatures started calling out, making me wish we could stay and camp out by a cozy fire and a hot meal. I can’t thank Alta enough for sharing this trail with us, for sharing her pack and her stories and for being so kind and amazing to Willow. If you’d like to follow Nalu and friends, make sure to visit them on Instagram.
Every time we hike with someone, we’ll ask these same questions and share their answers with you. I hope to highlight the things we all share as hiking enthusiasts, while learning from one another and creating a caring community of like-minded people.
In Alta’s Words:
Who are you/ who’s your canine hiking buddy? (names/ dog’s age / breed(s))
My hiking buddies are Pe’ahi, Nalu, and Leilani. Pe’ahi is an ACD mix and is going to be 11 in May. Nalu and Leilani are full Australian Cattle Dog and are brother and sister from different litters. Nalu will be 3 in May and Leilani is going to be 1 sometime in late November, early December.
When and how did you get started hiking together?
I’ve been hiking with Pe’ahi since he was about 6 months. We’ve always been active and he was my running companion for 7 years. But I knew when I got him that I couldn’t run him twice a day or 7 days a week, so I had to get in touch with the joys of walking/hiking. As a runner, it was hard for me to slow down and appreciate that you could take your time getting somewhere; I was so used to exercise meaning only running. But Pe’ahi taught me to slow down, to enjoy the stroll and the things that I missed seeing when running. Sunday has always been my day off from running, so I dedicate that day to long walks or hikes. We’ve lived by the beach for years so sometimes hiking means long walks on the beach, sometimes it means taking the railroad tracks (which are most often empty) as far as we can, and for about three years that has meant trying to find new dog friendly hiking spots in and around the Santa Cruz area.
Why do you like hiking with your dog/ what do (both) get out of it?
I like hiking with my dogs because they are my best friends! And a hike just isn’t the same if you can’t experience it with your friends. In fact, I’ve almost completely stopped hiking places if I can’t take them along. The leash laws in Santa Cruz are pretty strict, and while we do have a dog park nearby, hikes allow the dogs with extended periods to run and romp wherever they’d like. Having working dogs, it’s important to keep them active, both physically and mentally. And hiking gives them an opportunity to explore an area that they are not familiar with, to smell new smells, to climb, to run, to wrestle, to bark (which is a no no in the house). Hiking gives them the opportunity to figure out a new world and expand their knowledge of their environment. And nothing makes me happier than a car full of tired pooches after a good long romp.
What’s your favorite trail to hike and why?
I’d have to say our favorite train is Garland Ranch Regional Park in Carmel Valley. It’s a huge open space with miles of completely dog off leach friendly trails. Many of the trails closer to home have an unspoken off leash policy, but I always get a tad nervous we’re going to get in trouble if someone gets upset. At Garland, I don’t have to worry about any of that and the dogs get to just be dogs! There are several trails to take, but the ones I like best lead you up the mountain, and at the top you have a glorious 360° view of the Carmel Valley and Monterey Coast. There is also a river at the bottom of the trail and several watering holes that the dogs love to jump in to cool down along the way.
Do you and your dog have any rituals while hiking? (i.e. we always pack a lunch, we sit at the top for a while etc.)
I’d say picture taking is our only ritual. They have turned in to quite the little posers so I make sure to document our journeys. And if there is any sort of tree stump, then we have to take a photo and use #chumpsonstumps on our nerdy Instagram feed. We will usually take a nice little break at the top as well to grab a snack and some water. Other than that, I just try to let them have as much fun as possible while we are out there.
What is the one thing you would advise other dog hikers?
Hmmm, that’s a good question. I think there are two things I’d advise; make sure to take plenty of supplies for the hike you are planning, and be respectful of the trail and other hikers. I’m not always the best at planning, and have a tendency to get carried away when I’m walking and end up being gone for 4 hours when I was planning 2, but I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’m also not a big fan of carrying a bunch of stuff when I hike, but I’ve learned from experience to always pack plenty of water for the pups. And I’m trying to get better about packing snacks for myself, just in case.
I also try to remember to be alert while also enjoying the trail. I’ll admit I get frustrated that dog use on trails has become so limited and that off leash areas are especially difficult to find. So I try to be a responsible and responsive dog owner when on the trail. To share the space equally with others who might be enjoying a hike. I like my pack to run around and get their energy out, but I also try to keep an eye out for any approaching dogs, hikers, or bikers and make sure that they don’t charge or take up the whole trail. It sets a good tone and shows that we can all be share space equally.
See you next time hikers! Hope to see you on the trail. Be safe and be kind to others and help keep our trails enjoyable and protected.
Nat + Willow
Directions to Redwood Regional Park:
For main park entrance at 7867 Redwood Road: use this Google Map location
For the Skyline Gate entrance off Skyline Boulevard: use this Google Map location
For access to the trail head featured in this post: use this Google Map location
BernadetteMay 29, 2015
Did a hike here today with my Boston Terrier. We had a great time. Thanks for the info!
email@example.comMay 30, 2015
Yay! So happy to hear that Bernadette! 😀