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Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

April 10th, 2005

2.4 miles
500 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:30

Rating: 5/10

Directions: From Interstate 880, take Highway 24 towards the Caldecott Tunnel. Exit at Claremont. Continue past Ashby, then veer right to stay on Claremont Ave. Follow the brown signs for Tilden and Sibley. At the top, turn right onto Grizzly Peak Boulevard. At the T-intersection, turn left onto Skyline, and immediately turn left into the park.   View Driving Map

It was a wet winter, and we were itching to get out at the first sign of dry weather. We weren't the only ones, as the parking lot was full, and a dozen cars were already parked on the roadside next to the park.

Round Top is an ancient volcano. It was active about 10 million years ago, so you don't have much to worry about. However, be sure to pick up a map at the visitor's center, as it contains information on the volcanic aspects of the park. The information is numbered to match signposts along the trail.

We started off on the trail to the right of the visitor's center. The trail is really a road at first, climbing relatively steeply. This is one of the few parks that allows dogs, so we saw several of them at the beginning of the hike and throughout the day.

The trail levels out as it reaches the first intersection. You can go either way to do the loop hike; we chose the right fork. Shortly, we came to a sign pointing to a singletrack trail on the right. We took it into the forest. The trail was quite muddy but easy to follow. Be sure to avoid taking the trail to the Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, which veers downhill to the right.

Less than a tenth of a mile past the Huckleberry trail intersection, the trail reaches a wide dirt road. We turned right and continued along the Round Top Loop Trail. Eucalyptus trees become dominant here. There are signs of an old fire here -- I would guess 15 to 20 years ago, based on the height of the trees, but I could be off. The eucalyptus trees are tall, while there are bare snags reaching higher still. Also visible are what look like small pine trees, no more than 3 or 4 feet high.

Trail just north of the burned area

This area extends to a fence where it abruptly ends, the other side of which has rolling green hills which are used for cattle grazing. Just up the hill to the left is the summit of Round Top (1763 feet), topped with transmission towers of all shapes and sizes. To the right are views that open up to the mountain range topped by Mount Diablo.

The poppies were out in full force at this time. There were no huge displays, but there were appreciable amounts of bright orange poppies scattered throughout the green hillsides. There were quite a few people here either stopped to rest, or for lunch, as we decided on where to stop ourselves. As the wind whipped around us, we decided to head downhill a bit and stop just above the quarry.

Our lunch spot was close to the fenced lookout point above the quarry, signed with a big number 4. As we enjoyed the bright sunshine and views, lots of other hikers came and went, as well as several dogs. The views from here aren't as nice as from where we'd just been, but it's quite a bit less windy.

Labyrinth in the quarry

After lunch, we went to the viewpoint overlooking the quarry. At the bottom of the small quarry is a labyrinth, probably constructed by locals in the 1980s for reasons only known to the builders. Apparently, there are several labyrinths in the park, but the one in the quarry is the largest. We turned around and turned left, down the trail to the labyrinth. Along the trail I noticed both poppies and lupine. The labyrinth itself is just wide enough for one person to walk in. Parts of it were quite muddy so we had to "cheat" to reach the center.

Hikers in the labyrinth

A closer look at the labyrinth

After pondering the labyrinth, we headed back up the trail, then turned right to continue the Round Top Loop. Instead of immediately heading back to the trailhead, we continued straight onto the Volcanic Trail. After about three-tenths of a mile, we reached another, smaller quarry, and another, smaller labyrinth. We then turned around, noted the nice views of Mt. Diablo to the left, and then retraces our steps back to the Round Top Loop Trail. We then turned right onto the Round Top Loop Trail to head back to the trailhead.

The smaller labyrinth

The rolling green hills give way to brush and trees. After crossing a cattle gate, we turned right onto the middle trail, all of which head back to the parking lot. It was here that I noticed a rabbit bouncing into the bushes. The other main wildlife I had seen were a few raptors flying above while we ate lunch.

Very shortly we arrived back at the parking lot. This is a pretty short hike. Other than the labyrinths, there's not much out of the ordinary. There are some nice views and rolling green hills, but other parks are better in this regard (such as Las Trampas or Briones). However, if you're local to the area, or have a dog, then you'll want to check this park out. We saw plenty of both (locals and dogs).

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