Bay Area Bucket List: Hiking at Las Trampas Regional Wilderness
Updated: May 2021
Last year I spotted a few photos on social media of nearby trails blanketed with California poppies. I had witnessed a super bloom of poppies while driving to Southern California in the past, but I had no idea that we could experience our own (smaller) bloom right here in our own backyard. I immediately contacted a friend that had posted photos to find out where she had gone hiking. Shortly thereafter, my family took the opportunity to experience the beauty of the California poppies for ourselves. I posted a few of the photographs I took on our hike. It was evident by the response I received after posting my own photos that many of you had never seen the gorgeous poppy bloom taking place in our East Bay hills as well. This spring I have returned twice more in hopes of seeing the hills covered in poppies once again. While the poppies are not as abundant, the mixture of orange, purple, yellow and white wildflowers was beautiful and you can’t beat the incredible Bay Area views. Pictured below is my view to right and left as I walked along the ridge portion of the hike.
Where to Go
We started our hike at the Bollinger Staging Area/Main Entrance of the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness.
Driving Directions: From I-580 in Castro Valley, take Crow Canyon Road north to Bollinger Canyon Road. Turn left (north) onto Bollinger Canyon Road and follow it into the park. From I-680 in San Ramon, take Crow Canyon Road west to Bollinger Canyon Road, turn right (north) and follow it into the park.
Bollinger Canyon Road ends at a staging area that contains parking, information, restrooms drinking water and trailheads.
Note: Restrooms are open, but there is not any water available right now. Click here to find out Park updates.
There are several different trailheads near the staging area that you can choose to hike on including the Rocky Ridge View Trail (2.7 mi.), the Cuesta Trail to Elderberry Loop (3.2 mi.), and the Elderberry to Questa Loop (4.6 mi.). Please be aware that there is quite an uphill climb to reach the ridge. This trail map provides you with the different options. My favorite route is to head south on the Elderberry Trail head from the staging area. Once I reach the spot where the Elderberry Trail connects to the Rocky Ridge View Trail, I head north. I continue along the Rocky Ridge View Trail and it eventually heads back downhill and deposits me back at the staging area. That particular path takes me around 2 hours to complete. We found the most lush fields of poppies on the eastern side of the ridge, towards the top, along the Rocky Ridge View Trail.
What to Bring
- a snack
- hand sanitizer
- small first aid kit
- a light or heavy layer depending on the temperature
- phone/camera (tripod)
Temperatures have ranged from the 70’s to the 80’s when I’ve visited Las Trampas Regional Wilderness in the spring. I would recommend wearing layers. I tend to work up a sweat on the uphill portion of the hike, but it can be cool and windy along the ridge. I found myself taking my lightweight jacket on and off throughout the hike. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water. This is my favorite water bottle because it holds 25 oz. and keeps liquids cold for hours on end. I also recommend tucking this portable tripod into your backpack. I have been using it for Zoom meetings and FaceTime calls, but it is also allows you to easily capture a photo of yourself or the entire family in this beautiful setting without resorting to selfies or relying on strangers. The tripod arrives with its own bluetooth remote control to make taking photos a cinch.
About the Poppies
The blooming season for California poppies tends to occur from mid-February through mid-May. It is dependent on the rainfall that occurs in winter and spring. The plant only flowers for approximately 4 weeks. In hotter climates they will die back in the early summer, but they can bloom for most of the summer in cooler, coastal climates. The flowers of the California poppy close each night and stay closed on cloudy days.
Even thought the poppies aren’t quite popping’ at the Las Trampas Regional Wilderness this spring, I still encourage you to add it to your own bucket lists of places to visit in the Bay Area. The trails offer exceptional views of wildflowers, Mt. Diablo and the San Francisco Bay. We were able to see all the way to San Francisco as we walked along the ridge. It’s also a great area for birdwatching and glimpsing local wildlife. Happy hiking my friends!
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