Trail of the Week 23: Rifle Range Road Trail (#21)

Havey Canyon Trail [TJ Gehling]

Havey Canyon Trail [TJ Gehling]

We return again to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, the home of coyote, cattle and, well, canyons. While the park is dominated by the canyon formed by Wildcat Creek, other, smaller canyons wait for you there. One such is Havey Canyon, which starts just beyond the end of this week’s trail, the Rifle Range Road Trail. Rifle Range Road trail is a favorite route for El Cerrito hikers, bikers and dog walkers, but it has two characteristics that set it apart from other trails on our list. One, it is an officially listed trail on EBRP maps, and two, it is completely in Richmond. So why do we list it as one of our own?

A method for finding borders - look at the paving. ()The city limit sign is lost in that tree)  [TJ Gehling]

A method for finding borders – look at the paving. (The city limit sign is under that tree) [TJ Gehling]

Probably the best reason is is the one already mentioned – it is well used as the way to get from El Cerrito to Wildcat and far, far easier that its alternative. But another good reason is that although the trail starts and ends in Richmond, anyone trying to reach it from the top has to come out of El Cerrito. Only the last few hundred feet of Rifle Range Road are in Richmond. Most of it, including all of the public streets it intersects, are in El Cerrito. And given that the Richmond city limits sign is lost behind a bushy tree, if it weren’t for the change in street paving you mightn’t know there was a border at all.

The trail begins [TJ Gehling]

The trail begins [TJ Gehling]

The actual trail head is next to the start of Vista Heights Road, a private, dead-end road that runs behind the Mira Vista golf course. The trail is gated, since cows graze in the park and could make a break for freedom if you fail to latch the gate. Be sure to read the signs explaining how to deal with any cows you may meet on your journey. The first 500 feet descend steeply in the a northwesterly direction before the trail makes a turn eastward for the final half-mile down to Wildcat Creek.

IMG_2195On the way down, look out for possible side branches both north and south. After you’ve gone about half way along the eastern segment, look for a large gully. Just up hill from there is a sketchy trail that heads south, up towards some walls that frame a culvert were a creek-let emerges from the hill. This trail doesn’t seem to go much beyond there, and as it is with every small trail in the canyon, look out for poison oak. A little farther down the main trail a small trail branches off north. This trail appears on some maps and crosses Wildcat Creek at a ford before continuing on to meet the Wildcat Creek Trail at the start of the Mezue Trail.

Wildcat Canyon

The route of the Mezue trail

Bridge over Wildcat Creek, and its eponymous trail beyond [TJ Gehling]

Bridge over Wildcat Creek, and its eponymous trail beyond [TJ Gehling]

But our route this time sticks with the Rifle range Road trail, first because it is the subject for today, but also because it crosses the creek on a bridge. No sliding down a bank and rock-hopping for us. Once we’ve crossed the bridge we are at the junction with Wildcat Creek Trail. From here we can head north, towards the Mezue Trail and other turnoffs before eventually reaching Alvarado Park. Alternatively, if you turn right you can continue on to Jewel Lake in Tilden Park, or, if you are inclined, turn off onto Conlon or Havey Canyon trails, the beginnings of each are just 200 feet southeast of the bridge.

As was mentioned above, the only El Cerrito alternative is the Terrace to Wildcat trail, which is steeper, less defined, and covered in poison oak. We might try to visit this trail on a hike this summer. But you wouldn’t want to do it both ways, and thanks to the Rifle range Road trail, you won’t have to.



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