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Discovering the 550-Mile Bay Area Ridge Trail

Discovering the 550-Mile Bay Area Ridge Trail

I first heard about the Bay Area Ridge Trail every week after returning to California from my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Misplaced in that submit thru-hike daze and looking for concrete issues I knew I ought to be doing (and received me out of the home) I went to REI to purchase pack wash so my pack would cease smothering my room with that thru-hiker musk. After testing, I observed an enormous banner subsequent to the exit, promoting issues I ignored in favor of gazing an enormous, wall-sized map of one thing referred to as the Bay Area Ridge Trail. I stared at the map of the 550-mile loop round the bay that I had one way or the other missed the existence of, regardless of the first part of it opening earlier than I used to be born.

How had I missed this path in my very own yard? At no level was it ever greater than 100 miles away from the place I used to be dwelling in the south bay. It handed proper subsequent to my previous job in San Francisco. It included all the parks and trails I had spent the months main as much as my thru-hike wandering round on. It was prefer it was a thru-hike made for me. I half questioned if I had someway thought it into existence.

In all my pleasure, I walked out of the retailer with out truly noticing the path was removed from full. At present solely 375 of the path’s 550 miles are open to the public.

Map courtesy of the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council

However, the path continues to be supremely thrilling to me and the San Francisco Bay Area as an entire. Regardless of the Bay Area being extremely occupied, a number of land inside it’s protected and put aside for leisure use. And other people round right here do use it. Rather a lot.

I really like climbing round the Bay Area. I’m positive lots of people outdoors the state are usually not fast to think about the bay as any sort of outside vacation spot with the Sierras looming to the east. And true, it’s fairly uncommon to have a view round right here that doesn’t embrace some cityscape and a bridge or two. The mountains don’t develop particularly tall or majestic. Nowhere is lonely or wild or uninhabited. However the Bay Area nonetheless has a lot to supply. There’s a lot eco-diversity and you may go from sandy seashores to dense redwood forests to rolling treeless hills in a half a day’s hike. The climate is ideal yr round. And better of all, the outside is ALWAYS accessible to anybody round right here. Once I lived in San Francisco, car-less and in certainly one of the most densely populated cities in the United States, I might nonetheless go from my work in the Presidio (a nationwide park) and jog throughout the Golden Gate Bridge to the Marin Headlands if I used to be so inclined.

The Bay Area Ridge Trail showcases every thing that’s nice about Bay Area mountaineering, and I’ve been singing its praises since I noticed that signal at REI a yr in the past. And I’m going to sings its praises right here. Earlier than I achieve this, I assumed I’d save individuals a while and point out that the employees of the Ridge Trail features a canine named Lenny. That ought to be all most individuals want to listen to, and I do generally tend to prattle on.

The place Does it Go?

Like several loop path, beginning and ending factors may be wherever a thru-hiker needs. The path’s southern tip sits under farmland in Gilroy, recognized for its pervasive (and scrumptious) garlic aroma. Going clockwise, it travels north alongside the Santa Cruz mountains and up the peninsula, slicing subsequent to the coast earlier than taking a pointy proper upon reaching San Francisco so you’ll be able to go over Twin Peaks. It crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and continues north in Marin, aspect stepping Mt. Tam and circling round Napa. It then turns south again in the direction of the bay, crossing the Carquinez Strait and thru the mountains that overlook Richmond and Oakland earlier than persevering with down the East Bay, over Mission Peak and previous San Jose to the farmland it started in. It passes via a lot of Bay Area landmarks together with the previous military base in the Presidio, Jack London’s grave and a few of the space’s most iconic redwood forests.

Additionally, Lenny’s official job title is Snack Monitor.

The place Can You Keep?

I all the time assumed the path’s largest draw back was its severely restricted tenting choices. Dispersed tenting is never allowed in county and state parks round right here, with all backpackers staying in designated backpacking camps when out in the backcountry. There are campgrounds, however extra in some areas than others and never conveniently positioned a days hike every alongside the route. As you journey up the peninsula, campgrounds of any type turn out to be rarer and rarer as civilization creeps in. Ultimately thru-hikers are actually strolling via the streets of San Francisco—establishing camp anyplace round there’s a good strategy to get your tent confiscated. Whereas these stretches are hikeable in a day (San Francisco is just 7 miles lengthy), I took that to imply the path couldn’t be historically thru-hiked, given thru-hikers lack of ability to be in any outlined place at any outlined time. I reached out to the path’s organizers to see if there have been any plans so as to add further tenting, and was delighted to study the eventual aim was to implement a hut to hut system- a well-known system to Appalachian Trail thru-hikers.  In response to Eileen Morris, the path’s improvement director, “The hut-to-hut vision is inspired by the White Mountain/Vermont/European hut systems. I assume California will put its own flair on it, so it remains to be seen if it will mirror that exactly.”

Additionally, Lenny works on a part-time schedule.

Who Will You Meet?

Bay Area trails are fairly nicely utilized by a reasonably numerous group of recreationists (this isn’t a phrase however I’m operating with it as a result of it must be). Whereas a few of the extra distant sections are traversed virtually solely by backpackers, numerous trails are open to cyclists and equestrians. I’ve spent the final couple of weekends day mountaineering already open path and located sections calmly utilized by native hikers (Windy Hill Protect), sections utterly overrun by hikers of various talents (Mission Peak), and sections used primarily by critical hikers and path runners  (Mt. Tam State Park). Areas which might be troublesome for day hikers to entry are far much less crowded. I requested individuals I handed if that they had heard of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and located that the extra crowded the path was, the much less doubtless hikers have been to concentrate on the 550-mile loop they have been fairly actually standing on—though having stood on it many occasions myself with out realizing it, I can’t precisely decide. There was not an individual who had heard of it that stated they don’t use it recurrently in some capability.

Additionally, Lenny is an “unwavering proponent of dog-friendly trails.”

What Else Can You Do?

What this path lacks in remoted wilderness it’s going to make up for in all types of different random cool stuff individuals journey hundreds of miles and pay hundreds of dollars to see. You get to stroll by means of Golden Gate Park and over the Golden Gate Bridge! You possibly can go wine tasting in Napa! (Please do—I really like the concept of hiker trash sipping Pinot Noir whereas their packs sit in a heap outdoors.) Go to Muir Woods or the Santa Cruz Seashore Boardwalk! You may go to the Tech Museum or snoop round LucasFilm (which is to say you possibly can go take a look at the outdoors. Individuals do it!) The path can simply be your one-stop-shop for all of your Bay Area vacationer lure wants.

The Bay Area could be very costly for those who’re not thrifty, however each San Francisco and Oakland are worldwide journey locations and have fairly a number of comparatively cheap hostels every. They’re conveniently equidistant to one another in path miles, permitting for no less than a pair days to cease and see the man-made websites.

Additionally, Lenny has “13 years of experience in wilderness and urban trail trotting and running.”

So When?

If I’ve completely bought you on this and now your solely query is when are all 550 miles open of their full thru-hikeable glory, the reply is properly, not for awhile. The path’s first phase was devoted in 1989 and by 1995, 200 mile of path had been accomplished. They’ve continued to open new sections in the years since, together with Mount Umunhum in September 2017, a summit beforehand inaccessible to the public. However progress has slowed as a lot of the remaining path is on personal property and would require overcoming numerous logistical and bureaucratic hurdles. The Northernmost part of the path was severely affected by the Napa fires final yr, closing large sections of already accomplished path which were slowly restored and repaired over the final 12 months. So there’s nonetheless some work to do.

Till then, large sections of the path are open to the public and the public is utilizing them. Since studying about the path final yr, I’ve lastly began noticing the Ridge Trail emblem on the signposts of all the trails I really like and hike every day.

Numerous the language used to explain lengthy trails is usually (for my part) excessively lofty. A lot of the press and publicity surrounding this path talks of “connecting communities” and ” giving an outlet to nature” in a really tech-centered area. Whereas I really like nothing greater than to roll my eyes at unnecessarily sugary descriptions, a whole lot of it rings true to me. Regardless of dwelling in several sections of the Bay Area my complete life, discovering new sections of trails to attach and put my very own footprints on has let me cowl floor in the Bay Area I’d by no means coated, or simply hadn’t given a lot thought to. I’ve all the time believed that the greatest option to get to know a brand new place is to get out and hike it. Seems that may be true in a spot you thought you already knew too.

For extra on the Bay Area Ridge Trail, Danielle Ofarrell hiked a 70-mile part of the path after her PCT thru-hike and wrote about it for The Trek right here.

The Bay Area Ridge Trail web site is right here and consists of detailed maps and planning instruments for journeys on the already open sections of path.

In case you’re occupied with serving to alongside an enormous enterprise of path creation and preservation, you possibly can donate to the Ridge Trail right here. Should you’re a Bay Area native, yow will discover methods to volunteer in your native trails right here.

Additionally, right here’s Lenny.

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