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Notes on the Valley: Strawberry trails forever

'The Strawberry Canyon Fire Trails are a network of trails located in the Berkeley Hills. The history of these trails dates back to the early 1900s when UC Berkeley began to develop the area as a recreational site for its faculty and students.'
BLOGGER_Monith Ilavarasan
The "Notes on the Valley" blog is written by Monith Ilavarasan (pictured).

The lower trailhead of the Strawberry Canyon fire trail is easy to find. The road touches the south eastern edge of the Berkeley campus and then takes you through a row of fraternity houses until it snakes around the back of the Cal football stadium. A couple more minutes up Centennial Drive and you’re out of civilization into the great outdoors.

The entryway of the trail has two small dirt patches separated by a small ramp which contains a makeshift parking lot. Before 9:00 a.m. there are always a couple spots available. After 9:00 a.m. you have to pray that an early riser emerges from the shaded mist at the start of the trail to free up a spot.

I have an incredible amount of love for my partner. The thing I probably love the most is her ability to parallel park in the tightest of situations. Aside from her kindness, beauty, and sense of humor of course.

After a lazy Saturday morning we reached the trail head well after nine and had to call on this superpower. She wedged her car in between a massive truck and an old dodge caravan minivan that somehow made it up the hill.

Just after that ordeal we watched someone exit the trail and promptly pull out of a pristine parking spot. After shaking our heads for a bit we started the hike.

The Strawberry Canyon Fire Trails are a network of trails located in the Berkeley Hills. The history of these trails dates back to the early 1900s when UC Berkeley began to develop the area as a recreational site for its faculty and students.

In the 1920s, the university established a series of trails for hiking, running, and mountain biking that would become the backbone of what is now known as the Strawberry Canyon Fire Trails. These trails were used for recreation and exercise, but they also served a practical purpose as firebreaks to prevent the spread of wildfires.

According to the East Bay Regional Parks Department, fire is a natural process of the region's landscape, but uncontrolled wildfires have been a concern for city residents near Claremont Canyon. In the last century, four major wildfires have spread through the canyon, including the 1991 Oakland Hills Fire.

Efforts currently underway to protect Claremont Canyon from the threat of uncontrolled wildfire include creating roadside fuel breaks and reducing non-native vegetation. The maintenance of these fire trails are an important part of these efforts.

This trail has become one of our favorites to visit. It starts off nice and shaded for the first mile through an area called Hamilton Gulch. Periodically you catch the soothing scent of eucalyptus while walking past clusters of trees. These moments remind us to take a deep breath and appreciate the time we’re spending with each other outdoors.

After the initial shaded path there are a series of small hills that snake around to a beautiful vista point overlooking the Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve. From this vantage point you can see parts of the east bay and over the bay to San Francisco and Marin. The whole trail has a perfect blend of shade, hills, and destination views that make it perfect for any time after winter.

I’ll be making it out to the trail often over the course of the year. Next time I’ll rope in more friends and might just see you out there.

Editor's Note: The "Notes on the Valley" blog is written by Monith Ilavarasan, who grew up in Pleasanton. After a career in tech, he took a sabbatical to be a community organizer. He has continued to work in tech and shares his thoughts on the people, places and events that make up and shape the Tri-Valley.

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