Trail of the Week 21: the Forest Brown Trail (#32)

Inaccurate entrance

Inaccurate entrance [TJGehling]

At its origin on Schmidt Lane, the Forest Brown Trail is nearly everyone’s first exposure to the Hillside Natural Area. So it is a bit of a shame that the very large Memorial Grove sign at the trailhead gets the name wrong. The sign was erected by the now defunct El Cerrito Foundation, and the site is now maintained by the El Cerrito Garden Club. But the sign clearly says “Hillside Nature Area.”

Navellier and Schmidt

Navellier and Schmidt [TJGehling]

The question of the correct name of the park still comes up occasionally. So in the interest of nomenclatural stability, the Trail Trekkers wish to note the the official name of the park is Hillside Natural Area. It says so right there on a city web page. The same page that list the closest cross street as Schmidt and Navallier.

After the first turn

After the first turn [TJGehling]

Pedantic spelling issues aside, the actual trail begins at the lowest point in the park, and rises approximately 300 feet along its 1800 foot length. The first 200 feet are fairly flat, and in a northerly direction, but it then curves off east towards the old quarry. It hugs the edge of the quarry for the rest of its length, most of it very steep indeed.

The association with the quarry is the reason for the path’s name. Forest Brown was the last operator of the old Hutchinson quarry, and donated much of the land that became the Hillside Nature Natural Area. A chain-link fence separates the trail from the quarry, which now houses the El Cerrito Recycling Center.

He'd be our mascot if we knew his name

He’d be our mascot if we knew his name

As you would expect, the Forest Brown Trail leads to all three of the major north-south trails in the Hillside Preservation Natural Area. Right at the first turn, the Lower Trail (#33) heads off along the base of the hills. Unfortunately, some of this trail, which has been in use for decades, is actually on private land, and the current owner has posted the last segment. Farther up the hill the Live Oak Trail (#31) starts. This intersection is immortalized in our banner at the top of each page on Alas, neither the identity of the photographer, nor the dog, is known. And finally, the trail ends at the intersection with the Ridge Trail (#30) which in one direction runs along the top of the quarry and in the other heads north towards the Madera Open Space.

In what we must assume is a complete coincidence, the start of the Forest Brown Trail is the main entrance site for next week’s first annual Hillside Festival, a celebration of the Hillside Naturist Natural Area. There will be many hikes, talks and other activities. More information can be found on this very website, or you can download a brochure and map. We really hope that many of you can come, and maybe spread the word to your neighbors. It runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. this coming Saturday, May 17. Events will occur all over the park, but an information table will be at the Schmidt entrance, near the Memorial Grove / Hillside Nature Area sign just east of the intersection of Schmidt and either Navallier or Navellier.


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