After winter storms, East Bay Parks 30th annual Trails Challenge begins

After winter storms, East Bay Parks 30th annual Trails Challenge begins

After winter storms, East Bay Parks 30th annual Trails Challenge begins
Muddy trails after recent heavy rains can make trails hazardous. Keep an eye out for watch for rockslides and fallen trees. (Tamara Steiner photo)

SAN FRANCISCO EAST BAY AREA, CA (Jan. 8, 2023) — Because of the series of heavy storms that have battered the region in recent days, this is a good time to emphasize winter season safety measures for park visitors.

All of the East Bay Regional Parks were closed on Jan. 4 and 5 in expectation of hazards resulting from an atmospheric river storm. This could happen again if circumstances require it to protect the public.

Here are some safety tips for winter activity in the parks:

  • Check the weather before you go. And go with a friend, so someone can seek help if there’s an emergency. If you go alone, be sure to tell a responsible person where you are going and when you will be back. Then inform them when you have returned. In an emergency, call 911 or (510) 881-1121, 24 hours a day.
  • Be prepared for changeable weather. Dress in layers, carry extra warm clothing, and wear sturdy footgear. It’s better to carry clothing you may not need than it is to need clothing you do not have.
  • Bring a map and stay on the official trails. Don’t take shortcuts on unmarked paths. Maps can be downloaded from the park district website,
  • While you are on the trails, watch for rockslides, fallen trees and any other hazards. The rangers try to keep on top of the situation, but there are many trails and there’s likely to be considerable storm damage. Abide by any signs warning of closure or dangers, and cooperate with instructions from park district staff.
  • Take a snack for an energy boost. A thermos full of a hot beverage works well, too.
  • Trails will likely be muddy. Leave a pair of dry shoes in the car, along with a cardboard box for those muddy boots.
  • For up-to-date information on park hazards and closures, click on “Visit a Park” at the top of the home page, then click again on “Alerts & Closures.”

Trails Challenge

With the New Year comes the 30th annual outing of the East Bay Regional Park District’s always-popular Trails Challenge program. It’s free of charge, fun for all ages and levels of ability, and easy to join.

The goal is to complete any five Trails Challenge trails or 26.2 miles (same distance as a marathon) of non-challenge trails. Record the trail names and distances, and submit your log to by Dec. 1, 2023. You’ll be rewarded with a 2023 Trails Challenge pin, while supplies last.

The program is a great way to become reacquainted with familiar regional parks, or explore new ones. It’s also an incentive for enjoyable and healthy outdoor exercise.

You can download the Trails Challenge guidebook at It contains a list of 20 trails, graded as easy, moderate or challenging. There are trails open to hikers, bicyclists, dogs and equestrians. Trails Challenge 2023 also offers increased accessibility, with trails that are usable by people with mobility limitations.

Easy to challenging

Here are some examples. There are easy hikes listed for Bay Point Regional Shoreline in Bay Point and Oyster Bay Regional Shoreline in San Leandro.

For a moderate hike, there’s a trail at Sunol Regional Wilderness in southern Alameda County, and one at Lake Chabot near Castro Valley.

Challenging hikes include trails at Morgan Territory north of Livermore and Wildcat Canyon in Richmond.

Besides the detailed trail descriptions, the Trails Challenge guidebook contains useful information about trail safety, etiquette, and essential equipment.

The 30th Anniversary Trails Challenge program is made possible by support from Kaiser Permanente and the Regional Parks Foundation.

Sunol Wilderness

The cultural history of the Ohlone Peoples is the theme of a program from 1 to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 in the visitor center at Sunol Wilderness Regional Preserve with naturalist Kristina Parkison.

Drop by the Ohlone cultures informational table to learn about the rich culture and thriving present-day lifestyle of the first people who lived in what is now the park.

Sunol Regional Wilderness is at the end of Geary Road off Calaveras Road, about five miles south of I-680 and the town of Sunol. There’s a parking fee of $5 per vehicle; the program is free of charge. For information, call 510-544-3249.

Funky Fungi

With the rains come mushrooms and other fungi. Learn more during a naturalist-led “Funky Fungi” program from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 at Ardenwood Historic Farm in Fremont.

Find out why mushrooms grow in circles, why mushroom rings have been historically associated with fairies, and other mushroom lore. Then make your own fairy craft.

The program is free of charge and registration is not required. Ardenwood admission fees apply.

Ardenwood is at 34600 Ardenwood Boulevard, just north of Highway 84. For information, call 510-544-2797.

Old Skool Skillz

“Old Skool Skillz” is the title of a program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Environmental Education Center in Tilden Nature Area near Berkeley with naturalist Anthony Fisher.

Make an elderberry flute and gain appreciation for the accomplishments of the first people to inhabit the lands of the East Bay and beyond.

The center is at the north end of Tilden’s Central Park Drive, accessible via Canon Drive from Grizzly Peak Boulevard in Berkeley. For information, call 510-544-2233.

Delta Ecology

Topics related to the ecology of the Delta will be explored during a hands-on, naturalist-led “Afternoon Adventure” program from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 15 at Big Break Regional Shoreline near Oakley. The program is free and registration is not necessary.

Big Break is at 69 Big Break Road off Oakley’s Main Street. For information, call 510-544-3050.

It’s a good idea to check the park district website before heading out, to be sure your park is open. And stay safe when out enjoying the parks. For a full list of activities and programs planned in the regional parks, visit

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at