Thursday, December 13, 2018
Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve occupies two major ridges located within a region of rolling hills and valleys south of Mt. Diablo. Elevations range from about 600 to 1,000 feet.*2
The Bay Miwok Tatcan tribe inhabited the Sycamore Valley when, in 1772, Fr. Juan Crespi with an expedition led by Captain Pedro Fages, noted the good quality of the land in the San Ramon Valley and considered it a good location for a Franciscan mission. The mission was ultimately located in present-day Fremont, and the San Ramon Valley was utilized as grazing land. By 1850 the first Anglo-Americans had arrived to farm the valley. Since the main road between Mission San Jose and the State Capitol in Benicia ran through the San Ramon Valley, businesses were encouraged to establish in the area. Throughout the last half of the 1800s, Sycamore Valley farmers established the area as a productive agricultural region.*2
The first American settler in the vicinity of today’s Preserve is recorded as Leonard Eddy in 1850. But in 1862 the Wood family began a farm and over five generations came to own and farm most of what is the Preserve today. By the end of the twentieth century, Sycamore Valley land use had converted to housing. Much of the hilly ridge lands, including the Preserve, was dedicated for open space preserves. The 328-acre southern portion of the Preserve known as the Sherburne Hills unit, located south of Camino Tassajara, was acquired by the Park District in 1989. In 1998 the District acquired 255 acres north of Camino Tassajara from the Town of Danville, and an additional 106 acres from Wood Ranch developers, bringing the Preserve’s northern Short Ridge Unit to 361 acres. Today, the total acreage of Sycamore Valley is approximately 696 acres.*2
This counterclockwise loop heads south from Sycamore Valley Park up to the Sherburne Hills followed by a hike up on Short Ridge into Sycamore Valley Open Space. The hike includes an additional short loop along the park boundary on Tatcan and Sand Hill Trails.
Begin this hike from Sycamore Valley Park in Danville. Head east along the edge of the basketball courtyard towards Sycamore Valley Elementary School, stay on the paved path onto Alta Vista Way.
Cross Camino Tassajara onto Woodside Dr, continue to the end of the road to the Haymaker Trailhead at Sycamore Valley Open Space. The trail leads across Sycamore Creek up to the cattle gate.
Turn right to stay on Haymaker Trail, the fire road winds around the hillside with expansive views of the open valley along and our local favorite Mt Diablo.
Haymaker continues up around the Sherburne Hills to the junction at Harvest Trail.
Go straight onto Harvest Trail, it continues along the top of the ridgeline with wonderful panoramic views!
Haymaker comes to a faint Y split, go right onto No Name Cattle Trail#1, the single track winds around the lower hillside with views of San Ramon Valley.
No Name Cattle Trail comes to a T junction, turn left onto the unmarked Harvest Trail. The fire road tilts up for a moderate climb back to the top of the ridge.
Enjoy the panoramas!
At the next junction, turn right to stay on Harvest Trail, it continues on the rolling ridgeline to the next trail junction.
Turn left to stay on Harvest, it drops downhill to the next Y split.
Turn left to stay on Harvest, it turns westward along the lower hillside to the cattle gate.
Enter through and continue on Harvest Trail to its trailhead at the end of Country Hills Ct.
Stay on Country Hills Ct to Wood Ranch Dr. Cross Camino Tassajara to stay on Wood Ranch Dr.
Make an immediate right turn onto No Name Trail#2, at the utility boxes behind the tennis courts; the multi-use trail goes along Sycamore Creek adjacent to the North Ridge subdivision to the next trail split. Go left and follow the paved trail towards the trail entrance at Tuscany Way.
Turn right at the doggie waste post onto Short Ridge Trail. It kicks up with a steep climb to the cattle gate into Sycamore Valley Open Space.
Turn left at the trail sign to stay on Short Ridge, it continues along the rolling ridgeline with generous views of Mt Diablo and the surrounding ridges and hills.
Continue on Short Ridge to the next trail junction.
Turn right onto Sand Hill Trail, it turns eastward through the canyon to the next junction.
Go right onto Tatcan Trail, it winds around the lower hillside dotted with grazing cattle. It continues along the park boundary to its end near Laurelwood Dr.
Climb over the gate onto Laurelwood Dr, follow the road towards Goldstone Ct.
Turn left onto the paved public accessible multi-use trail, it runs parallel to the park boundary fenceline to a Y split.
Go left and follow the paved road to the Sand Hill Trailhead. Enter thru, stay on Sand Hill to the Tatcan Trail junction. Return on Sand Hill up to Short Ridge Trail junction.
Turn right onto Short Ridge Trail, the gradual climb leads up to the ridgeline along the park boundary to Shady Slope junction.
Go straight to stay on Short Ridge. it continues along the gentle rolling ridge with gorgeous panoramas!
At the end of Short Ridge Trail, turn left onto No Name Cattle Trail #3, it drops downhill across the open pastureland meadows to the water trough.
Follow the single track uphill and through the scattered oaks to Shady Slope Trail junction.
Turn left onto Shady Slope, it drops downhill through the shaded canyon to its trailhead at Sycamore Valley Park.
Turn left and head eastward through the ball fields for the return to the parking lot.
Go local with this scenic hike, it explores the open ridges and hillsides above the residential subdivisions around Sycamore Valley with grand ridge top views!
The Sherburne Hills Unit is almost entirely grassland, and the Short Ridge Unit is mostly grassland with scattered oak savanna with trees consisting of valley oak, coast live oak, and buckeye. This habitat supports gopher snakes, racers, Northern Pacific rattlesnakes, acorn woodpeckers, scrub jays, black-tailed titmouse, Western bluebirds, Northern orioles, lazuli buntings, and loggerhead shrikes (which also occur in the southern unit). The mature woodlands of the northern unit support nesting red-tailed hawks and great-horned owls, and provide cover for California quail, wild turkeys, and gray fox.*2
The Preserve’s steep-sided gullies drain into Sycamore Creek. These intermittent drainages, along with several ponds located in the Preserve, provide limited wetland habitat for garter snakes, Pacific tree frogs, and red-legged frogs. The drainages also support raccoons, striped skunks, deer, coyotes, and bird species including ruby-crowned kinglets, chestnut-backed chickadees, vireos, warblers, red-winged blackbirds, and great blue herons. Raptors seen hunting in the Preserve include the northern harrier, Cooper’s hawk, and white-tailed kite.*2
8.53 Miles with 1452′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1013′
Time: 3.57 hrs with multiple stops
Hike: Moderate with sustained climbs
Parking: No fee at Sycamore Valley Park in Danville
Water & restrooms are available at the park. No facilities along the trails-plan accordingly
Weather: Sunny and cool with mild winds. Temps ranging from the low 50’s to the low 60’s with ENE winds
Directions: Route will be paved walkway behind the elementary school, Alta Vista Way, cross over Camino Tassajara, Woodside Road, Haymaker Trail, Harvest Trail, No Name Trail #1, back on Harvest Trail, Country Hills Ct., Wood Ranch Dr., cross back over Camino Tassajara, right on No Name Trail #2, ascend Short Ridge Trail stopping at the bench at the very top of the hill to rest/snack. The hike continues on Short Ridge Trail after the break; turns right down Sand Hill Trail, right on Tatcan Trail, climb over a gate, Laurelwood Drive, left on paved walkers trail, left on Sand Hill Trail back up to the ridge, right on Short Ridge Trail to its very end, No Name Trail #3, down Shady Slope Trail, out the gate and left across the ball fields back to the cars. Water/restrooms at the trailhead.*1