Joaquin Miller: Lower-Upper Palos Colorados-Sunset-Castle Park-Sequoia Bayview-Sinawik Trail Hike

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

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Joaquin Miller Park is named for one of the late 19th century’s more colorful figures, Cincinnatus Hiner (“Joaquin”) Miller. Joaquin Miller Park covers more than 500 acres. Its trails connect downhill to Oakland’s Dimond Canyon Park, and uphill to Roberts and Redwood East Bay Regional Parks, and the Bay Area Ridge Trail. (

This hike goes under the gorgeous canopy of trees from the bottom of the canyon on Palos Colorados along the Palo Seco Creek at Joaquin Miller Park. Make your way up to the north end of the park on Castle Park Trail before winding through the beautiful redwoods and dense woodlands on the Sequoia Bayview Trail. Descend back into the canyon on Upper Palos Colorados to Sunset and Sinawik before returning along Palo Seco creek to the Joquin Miller Ct trailhead.

Begin from the Lower Palos Colorados Trailhead at the end of Joaquin Miller Ct off Mountain Blvd in Oakland. You’ll be rewarded with lovely views of the gurgling Palo Seco Creek as well as occasional small waterfalls in season. But it’s not for the casual hiker, as this scenic route follows a steep, narrow trail with some sharp drop offs as it climbs from the bottom of a canyon to join the Sunset Trail. (

The trail cuts through the lush riparian landscape under the gorgeous canopy of trees along the Palo Seco Creek. As you hike further into the canyon, the noise pollution lessens and you’re able to hear the wonderful sounds of birds chirping!

The narrow trail leads to a steep staircase climb that winds up from the canyon floor into the beautiful dense forest with small redwoods and overhanging bent bay laurel trees.

At a high point, the narrow trail follows the creek bed on gentle rolling terrain up to the trail wooden trail fence.

Turn right and go around the redwoods to the Sinawik/Palos Colorados Trail junction: go left to stay on Palos Colorados Trail. The narrow trail continues under the canopy of trees along the creek through the lush ivy ground cover and ferns before coming to a T junction at Sunset Trail.

At the Sunset Trail junction: turn left and head west on the flat broad trail.

From the Chaparral Trail junction: go straight to stay on Sunset; the trail gently winds its way up to the next trail junction.

At the Cinderella trail junction: turn left to stay on Sunset, the trail continues westward towards Castle Dr.

From the Castle Park trail junction: turn right onto Castle Park Trail. The trail tilts up for a short 0.37 steep climb to the crest of the hill with an elevation gain of 353 feet-that’s with an average grade of 18%!

The trail winds up to the eucalyptus stands before emerging from the green cover of pines and redwoods at the north end of the park at Castle Dr.

At the Castle Park Trail junction: turn right and enter through the gate to stay on Castle Park. The trail continues on a gentle climb up to a high point before coming to a T at the Skyline Blvd trail junction.

Turn right to stay on Castle Park; the trail winds up around the woodland to another high point to the lone bench underneath the evergreen trees.

At the Bayview Trail junction: go straight on the level trail to stay on Castle Park.

From the Horse Arena junction: turn right to go towards Sequoia Horse Arena.

At the Cinderella/Sequoia Bayview Trail junction: go straight to Sequoia Bayview. The trail leads you to the open picnic areas adjacent to the arena-turn right onto the paved road and follow the arrow to the Sequoia Arena Loop Trail. Go through the parking area with the water fountain and Porta-potties to the yellow trail gate.

Enter through the gate and turn right onto Sequoia Bayview Trail-stay on the trail for the next 1.6 miles. Probably the most popular route in the park, the Sequoia-Bayview Trail is mostly flat and wide. It winds in and out of canopied trees in dappled sunlight, making several 180-degree turns around the canyon below before suddenly opening up to two vistas with gorgeous views of downtown Oakland, the Bay and the San Francisco skyline. (  Sequoia Bayview Trail to Horse Arena junction:

Sequoia Bayview Trail from Horse Arena junction to Chaparral Trail junction and 2nd Horse Arena junction:

Sequoia Bayview Trail from Horse Arena junction to Wild Rose Trail junction:

Sequoia Bayview Trail from Wild Rose to Fern Ravine Trail junction:

Sequoia Bayview Trail from Fern Ravine to Big Trees Trail junction:

Sequoia Bayview Trail from Big Trees to Sunset trail junction: this section of the trail emerges out from the forest with a glimpse of the SF Bay!

Sequoia Bayview Trail from Sunset junction to unsigned Upper Palos Colorados Trail.

At the unsigned trail split-mile 4.08: go right onto the unsigned Upper Palos Colorados Trail at the wooden fence rails. The trail meanders down hill through the dense forest along a section with exposed tree roots-watch your footing! After descending along two switchbacks, you will come to a unsigned trail split-go straight through the redwoods. You’re heading in the right direction when you come upon some trail posts with hanging cables; the trail goes down into the canyon to Sunset Trail.

At the Sunset Trail junction: turn right, cross over Palo Seco Creek and turn left onto Sunset Trail. The flat trail leads to a nice shaded picnic area-it’s a great place to take a short break.

Continue west on Sunset Trail; go pass the Ranger Station junctions and travel along the open meadow and picnic areas near the main park entrance to the Sinawik Trail junction.

At Sinawik Trail junction: turn left and cross over Palo Seco Creek on the low concrete bridge to the Sinawik Loop/Sunset Trail junction-go left to Sinawik Trail. The trail comes to a split with a tree at its dead center-go right onto lower Sinawik Trail.

The Sinawik Trail follows the curvatures of Palo Seco Creek through the lush ivy covered hillside and redwood forest to next trail junction.

At the Palos Colorados Trail junction: turn right and cross the little wooden bridge onto Palos Colorados.

At the Sinawik Cabin junction: take a slight detour for an out and back hike up the steps to the ruins of the old Sinawik Cabin. All that’s left standing is the concrete foundation walls of the cabin. Future FOJMP projects include restoring the Sinawik Cabin site. Reverse your steps back down onto Palos Colorado.

Turn right onto Palos Colorados and return through the splendid lush canyon and creek area to the Joaquin Miller Ct trailhead.

Joaquin Miller Park is a beautiful place to hike! You’ll love the quiet calm of the redwoods and the gorgeous lush riparian habitat along Palo Seco Creek-you feel like you’re hundreds of miles away but in fact you’re in the middle of an urban park! How fabulous is that? Not up for a long hike, it’s simple enough to do the flat out & back walk through the cool dark canyon and forest on the Sequoia-Bayview Trail. Come out and explore…

The trails are well-marked and the park is small enough that you won’t ever feel lost. Make sure to print out a trail map, try out this route or plan a loop of your own-you won’t be disappointed! I’ll be back next week to explore the other trails around JM Park.

6.2 Miles with 1065′ of elevation gain
Time: 3 hours with a stop
Hike: Easy-Moderate with a couple of steep climbs
Parking: No fee at the end of Joaquin Miller Ct off Mountain Blvd in Oakland. NO FACILITIES
Water & Porta-potties at trail gate near Sequoia Arena off Castle Park Trail & along the Sunset Trail near the open meadow off Fern Ravine Trail *check locations on trail map
Dog Friendly-On Leash Only
Bring plenty of water & food/snacks

Weather: Sunny & warm. Temps ranged from the high 60’s to high 70’s with SW winds.

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