Hike 6: Anthony Chabot Regional Park | Castro Valley, CA
Hikers: Jesse and Nat (humans) | Pancake and Willow (dogs)
Start Time: 7:30 am at Clyde Woolridge staging area entrance on the left near the intersection of Skyline Blvd and Grass Valley Road.
Anthony Chabot Regional Park is a beautiful 3,314-acre varied parkland with year-round public campgrounds, a marksmanship range, and 70 miles of hiking and riding trails to enjoy. Hiking trails through grasslands, chaparral, and shady eucalyptus groves for a constantly changing landscape or hike along the shores of Lake Chabot. If you take our trail pictured here (Goldenrod), you will come across an equestrian center, so make sure your dogs don’t bug the horses.
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, through shaded narrow paths but not too strenuous.
Other information: The park opens between 5:00am and 10:00pm. There is no parking fee and a few ways to access the park, (see To Reach the Park on link) we entered through the Clyde Woolridge staging area. Though I did not see this on the trail, the park’s website does mention a dog fee, but I didn’t see where it was collected. From the park’s page: “$2 per dog. No fee charged for guide/service dogs.”
Jesse Freidin is not only one of the best dog photographers out in the world today, he and his Boston Terrier Pancake have been dear good friends to us for a few years now. Jesse’s were actually the first pair of ears to hear about this crazy idea for a project with no deadline I had in mind called 365 Dog Hikes. He has been an amazingly genuine and supportive colleague and somebody I am so proud and lucky to call “friend”. Needless to say, I was very excited to hike with him and my favorite Boston.
Jesse has also been one of the few men who have charmed miss Willow the Wild, she tends to be a little more wary of guys unfortunately, but in the last few years, if the guy is willing and patient, Willow does establish a friendship at her pace. Jesse became “uncle Jesse” early on in Willow’s life with us, and she has enjoyed in Pancake a more compact little friendship.
We started our hike from the Clyde Woolridge staging area, on Thanksgiving morning. It was a gorgeous November day, chilly but sunny. The Chabot parkland can get hot in the summer and nasty buggers like poison oak, ticks and fox tails can abound. But none of those were visible at this time of year. For this hike, we pretty much stuck to the Goldenrod Trail down and up.
Goldenrod Trail takes you up past a Eucalyptus grove where we stopped for a couple of photo ops. I love hiking with Jesse, because at any point, you could trust one of us to yell “light!” and promptly pose the dogs for a photograph. Pancake is to Jesse what Willow and Corbin (our Labradork) are to me: muses, constant companions, hiking buddies, best friends, family.
Since this is an off-leash friendly trail, be aware of your surroundings and trail manners. You are likely to run into at least one dog or dog walker with a group of dogs. Both Willow and Pancake are solid dogs comfortable around other off-leash dogs, but regardless, we were always careful and polite and made sure our dogs were too. Never leave your dog to fend for herself with other dogs. Read their body language to determine whether they are comfortable or need you to step in. Best practice however, is to be nice and encourage your dog to keep moving forward. Willow met a handsome white German Shepherd here (Yin and Yang?) and she put on her “flirt” tail for him. After a brief sniff of each other in a circle, we went on our way.
Through a slight uphill climb, we started to enjoy the shade of oak trees. Little spots of sunlight seemed to appeal to Pancake, he’d chase them and hang out basking in the sunlight while we caught up to him. Willow did whatever Pancake thought was cool, and they of course hammed it up for Jesse as much as possible.
Pay attention to the trees on this portion of the trail, they are fantastic and even though they grew on a steep slanted hill, their trunks and branches stretch out to the sky like an octopus. This one under which Pancake is sitting was one of my favorites.
As you probably already guessed, Pancake is a bit of a ham. This accidental photo had us cracking up for miles. Can you spot Pancake in the photograph above?
We reached an intersection on the trail and we went downhill into a fairyland of green moss and narrow paths. Watch your step, it is not very steep, but dry leaves and dry, loose gravel don’t pair well with shoes without good traction.
The dogs had a blast trotting up and down this portion of the trail, zooming ahead for a bit and then zooming back to us, gigantor and little dog, they looked like the oddest but cutest couple.
This area can get poison oaky and is tick-friendly, so make sure you are careful when you touch your dog (in case she has brushed against some) and carry your tick spoon with you just in case. There is a picnic area up ahead where you can relax and do a tick check while you get some water and snacks.
Follow the trail all the way down. You will have to cross this narrow bridge. Willow is curiously weary of wooden bridges, but once she saw Pancake trot across it, she gained confidence and had no problem crossing it. Seeing ahead on this portion of the trail can be tough, so keep your dogs close to you in case there are any other hikers, horses or other dogs coming your way.
Goldenrod trail will spit you out into a beautiful and sunny meadow (Bort Meadow Group Camp) adjacent to Buckeye trail, with picnic tables and restrooms as well as drinking fountains and a map. We sat and chatted here, watering the dogs, refueling with some snacks and letting the dogs play and run around. We both noticed the magic that was the sunlight streaming through the trees, so naturally, we took the dogs over there for a few frames.
Thankfully, neither Willow nor Pancake saw it, but I did see a rabbit dash across the field. Make sure you reward your dogs for remaining close to you and be mindful of wildlife at all times.
After a brief break, we packed up and went back up the same way we came, considering we both had to get home and help with our respective Thanksgiving dinners! Anthony Chabot Regional Park, however begs to be explored at length. Next time.
You will break a bit of a set making your way back up the fairyland woods, but take it easy and enjoy the shade, and make sure your dogs are happy and their feet are doing well as you go.
I confess I do like retracing my steps, at least once, because often, the same trail has an entirely different view to offer you, the light has changed and the challenge is different too.
Before we reached the trail head, we of course had to perch our dogs on something for a last photograph. 🙂
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 Jesse’s Words:
Who are you/ who’s your canine hiking buddy? (names/ dog’s age / breed(s))
Pancake the dog, and 8.5 year old Boston Terrier.
When and how did you get started hiking together?
I grew up in New England hiking in the woods, so being outdoors with a pair of hiking boots has always been essential to me. The first ‘hike’ Pancake and I ever did was at Fort Funston in San Francisco. He was a puppy, and was just learning his manners off leash. The wide rolling paths at Fort Funston were just big enough to give him a bit of freedom, yet small enough to keep his focus. It was a great confidence building tool for both of us, and ever since then hiking together has been something we mutually enjoy. In fact, it’s easily both of our favorite things to do. Together.
Why do you like hiking with your dog/ what do (both) get out of it?
Hiking is an outdoor meditation for both Pancake and I. No matter what is happening, or how busy I might be with work stress etc, once I pick up my hiking boots and grab my day pack, Pancake and I immediately let everything go and focus on our self-care. Jumping out of the car together at a trail head allows us to both breathe a sigh a of relief. We connect, we give each other space, we stop and enjoy the views and sniff some fresh air. And we have some treats. It’s a healing experience for both him and I.
What’s your favorite trail to hike and why?
Lake Chabot Regional Park in Oakland, CA is one of my favorite go-to hikes. Goldenrod trail is actually a pretty easy hike, definitely a beginner level trail. But what I love about it is that the trails are wide and roll through the hills so gently, the views are wonderful, and at the end of the trail you are taken into a magical forest, cross a few old bridges, and are let out into a wide open field with one old picnic table. No one is ever around. It feels like a real journey away from the city, and it’s so easy to get to. It’s out quick escape when we only have a few hours, but need to get to nature.
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.)
Aside from working on recall via bits of Pancake’s favorite treats every so often, we don’t have a lot of rituals. After so many years of hiking, Pancake is usually ahead of me for most of the hike and has a wonderful habit of stopping and waiting for me if I get out of his sight. When I sit, he sits. When I drink water, he drinks water. I guess we’re in tandem the entire way and it feels just natural and easy. I don’t have to ask him to do anything– he just knows how to be. Except when he tries to eat coyote poop….
What is the one thing you would advise other dog hikers?
When it’s hiking season (the weather isn’t too hot etc), I always try to keep my hiking supplies in the back of my car so that we can hit the trails whenever we’re ready. Essentials are: hiking boots and good socks, dog treats (Pancake prefers the Zuke’s Peanut Butter Joint Formula bars, which I break into tiny pieces), water bottle for me, water bottle for the dog, collapsible water bowl, a towel in case of mud, a long line in case we’re somewhere with wildlife, natural flea/tick spray, and a little spare cash for running to the nearest Pet Food Express to get a bath if there was poison ivy near us. On top of that, please be aware of the animals and people around you. If your dog likes to be off leash (like mine), it is your responsibility to check that the trails allow off leash dogs. And if so, always carry your leash in your pocket and leash up when other dogs are on leash. Just show some respect, and have good manners.
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:
To reach Clyde Woolridge staging area, take Hwy 24 west to Oakland. Take Hwy 13 South to Hayward. Merge onto Hwy 580 east. Take the Keller Ave exit towards Mountain Blvd. Turn left on Keller Ave, then right on Skyline Blvd. The staging area is on the left near the intersection of Skyline Blvd and Grass Valley Road.