Oakland Hills Gem
Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve is centered around the deep San Leandro Creek drainage flowing south from Round Top mountain, and features a rich variety of native and non-native flora. I chose to start this hike at Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve because there is much more parking than at the three other access points to Huckleberry. A nice hike focusing on Sibley can be found at this link.
The hike starts by heading uphill/east from the parking area and visitors center, and you have 3 choices. The southernmost route is a road, and there are 2 short trails that head uphill north of that road. The northernmost route is the most interesting. The northernmost route winds through a young eucalyptus forest for .24 mile until it joins with the Skyline Trail which is the middle route up from the visitors center. The Skyline Trail (part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail system) turns due south just below a water tank, crosses the road after .18 mile and descends into the depth of the San Leandro Creek drainage.
By now it should be obvious that the local flora is indeed quite interesting. Monterey pines soar skyward in dense stands that are interspersed with chamise chaparral and open grassland in the upper reaches. California bay laurel is the dominant tree deeper in the canyon. The Skyline Trail drops over 500 feet to the canyon bottom through a dense, dark bay forest and takes you into Huckleberry. The entire canyon smells like the bay leaves that your mother used to drop into her homemade chili.
After crossing San Leandro Creek .81 mile down from the road you immediately start ascending the west side of the canyon. There is an access point for Huckleberry .22 mile south of the crossing off of Pinehurst Road. Turn right to remain on the Skyline Trail, and there's another junction .12 mile up from the creek. You've now reached the Huckleberry Path. You can turn left to continue on Skyline as it runs concurrently with Huckleberry Path or right to head .32 mile up to the Huckleberry Staging Area off of Skyline Blvd. I went right, and there's a picnic bench at the staging area that's a nice spot for a break. There is a vault toilet here as well.
The Huckleberry Path forms a loop from the staging area, and you want to take the upper portion to continue the hike. This stretch is pleasant and flat as it winds its way through the dense bay forest, and has intermittent views of Round Top to the north on the other side of San Leandro Creek. You reach another junction with the Skyline Trail approximately 3/4 mile from the staging area. Turn left to return to the junction just above San Leandro Creek or right to head into Redwood Regional Park. Returning to the trailhead from this point leads to a 5-mile hike, but Redwood Regional Park is worth checking out, and is an easy way to add mileage to your trip. The return trip is highlighted by a steep climb out of the canyon back to the road along the south flank of Round Top.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.