Friday, February 12, 2016
*With its rolling, grassy hills and secluded, shady canyons, Briones is a secret wilderness surrounded by the towns of central Contra Costa County. Although the park is close to Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Martinez, there are peaks within it from which you can see only park and watershed lands for miles in every direction.
This trail hike takes Springhill Trail to Lafayette Ridge for the rolling climbs up to Russell Peak Trail. Loop around Mariposa Trail towards Happy Valley before returning on Russell Peak Trail to Lafayette Ridge. Descend Buckeye Ranch Trail back to the Springhill Staging Area. Enjoy the magnificent ridge top vistas!
Enter Briones Park at the Springhill Trailhead at the end of Springhill Rd in Lafayette. At the trail junction-go left onto Springhill Trail.
Springhill Trail begins with a super steep climb from the valley towards the ridge.
The trail cuts in and out of the shaded woodland as it continues upward to Lafayette Ridge.
At Lafayette Ridge Trail junction-turn right. The trail runs north along the open rolling ridge line for the next half plus mile.
From it’s high point at 1212′-Look around and enjoy the dynamic panoramic views of Mt Diablo, Las Trampas, East Bay Hills and the surrounding Diablo Valley!
At Buckeye Ranch Trail junction-go straight to stay on Lafayette Ridge.
At the Russell Peak/Briones Crest Trail junction-turn left onto Russell Peak Trail. The trail travels westward along a rolling ridge towards Russell Peak.
When you see the orange pipeline marker-go left onto the unsigned path to Russell Peak.
Enjoy the summit views from 1357′!
Turnaround and continue on Russell Peak Trail; it winds down from the peak to the next trail junction.
At Mariposa/Russell Peak Trail junction-go straight onto Mariposa Trail. The trail continues downhill through the woodland towards Happy Valley.
The trail comes to a T junction at Panoramic Dr-turn right and follow the paved road to Mariposa Trail.
At Mariposa Trail junction-turn right to continue on Mariposa. The trail levels out as it meanders through the dense woods and grassy hills along the south edge of the parkland.
Mariposa Trail gently traverses up along the hillside to the T junction at Russell Peak Trail.
Turn right onto Russell Peak Trail-the trail travels eastward along the edge of the park with panoramic views of the East Bay hills and ridges!
The trail cuts into the woodland before coming to a short steep climb.
At the top, the trail levels out for a short section to the unmarked path to the vista overlook at Janet’s memorial stone bench.
Enjoy the views!
Continue on Russell Peak Trail to the Mariposa Trail junction.
Turn left to stay on Russell Peak Trail-at this point, retrace your steps to Lafayette Ridge Trail.
At Lafayette Ridge Trail junction-turn right and retrace your steps back along the ridge to Buckeye Ranch Trail.
At Buckeye Ranch Trail-turn left onto Buckeye Ranch. The trail winds down from the ridge through the beautiful shaded woodland with a steep drop towards the cattle gate.
The trail continues downhill to the lower grassland area to Sunrise Trail junction.
Turn right at the junction to stay on Buckeye Ranch Trail. The flat trail takes you underneath a gorgeous canopy of trees along a seasonal creek.
Exit the trail gate for the return to the parking lot.
This is a challenging scenic hike along some of the less traveled trails around the south end of Briones Park. The steep climbs provides stunning panoramic views of Mt Diablo and Ygnacio Valley to the east, Las Trampas and Rocky Ridge to the south, San Pablo Ridge and Gudde Ridge to west and Briones Reservoir, Hills and Valley to the north! So lace up your boots and hit the trails!
5.4 Miles with 1550′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1334′
Time: 2.5 hrs with a couple of stops
Hike: Challenging with steep climbs and descents
Parking: Free parking at the Springhill Trailhead at the end of Springhill Rd in Lafayette
Pit toilet-NO WATER
Bring water & food/snacks-NO WATER along the trails
Weather: Sunny and warm with clear blue skies. Temps ranged from the high 50’s to the low 60’s with NW winds.