Snowdon Way is the last block of Snowdon Avenue as you head east towards the hills. Coming to Ganges, you could be forgiven for mistaking the way ahead of you for a private driveway. But, in fact, it is the northern most entrance to the Hillside Natural Area (HNA) and the beginning of a network of trails that can take you all the way across the HNA and eventually to Moeser Lane.We should probably deal with a minor issue right away and get it over with. On the PDF version of our trail list the road and associated trails use the spelling Snowden, with an “e”. The correct spelling, based on street signs, is Snowdon, with an “o”. You can find both spellings on maps, sometimes on the same map. Our own map uses the Snowden spelling. Google Maps uses Snowdon, but Google Earth uses both! The description of this trail also says that it is pedestrian only. This isn’t strictly true. For the first 300 ft or so you can drive in, but then you come to a gate. And there is little room to park, much less turn around, so we recommend parking out on Ganges. Snowdon Way functions as a fire road for the area, so it is better if it isn’t blocked. So, why the gate? Why even, the road? The answer is water. This last block of Snowdon was the access to, and in fact, the location of, an East Bay MUD tank reservoir. Called Navellier Reservoir, it was replaced by the reservoir off Potrero just below the Madera Open Space. Once the tank was removed, EBMUD had no further use for the property and so it was added to the northern section of the HNA. In January the city agreed to protect the entire Hillside Natural Area “in perpetuity,” as a step in their application for a National Park Service Land and Water Conservation Grant to help pay for Madera. This proclamation was a first step in federally protecting the HNA, which would stop any future building in the area. When they did this, they explicitly excluded the former tank location, with the expectation that the area could be used in the future for a club house, picnic area or bike park.
As we mentioned, Snowdon way is a gateway to the entire Hillside Natural Area. Right now the northern section has only two other “hike-ready” trails, Lower Snowdon (#15) and Motorcycle Hill (#17). Lower Snowdon begins just before the gate, and leads to the foot of the Motorcycle Hill Trail. Another trail, probably designed for bike use, will connect the former tank area to a point farther up Motorcycle Hill. The hope is that in the future this trail, and another, envisioned but not yet planned, will provide an alternate route for bikes up and down Motorcycle Hill.Snowdon Way was one end of Jenny Hammer’s The Breadth of It hike held earlier today (July 20). The > 4 mile round trip took us from the PG&E land on the HNA’s southern border all the way to Snowdon and back. We covered diverse terrain and went up and down (twice) nearly 500 feet in elevation during the hike. Mark Minor live tweeted the hike and some of his pictures on Twitter are linked here.