Building trails in Claremont Canyon, by Jon Kaufman

Through its stewardship program, the Claremont Canyon Conservancy has been building and maintaining fire trails in upper Claremont Canyon. Working with the landowners, in this case the University of California, our volunteers have improved the fire trail from Signpost 29 to Four Corners and named it the Summit House Trail (after the old inn that once stood at the top of the canyon). We’ve also built from scratch what we call the Willow Trail, which parallels Claremont Creek for a time then connects with the Summit House Trail further up the canyon.

These trails allow access for fire fighters in case of an emergency, enable volunteers and officials to enter and remove invasive, fire-prone vegetation, and, of course, provide opportunities for enjoyment for hikers and dog walkers. In addition to the trails themselves, we have installed trail markers and a redwood bench at Signpost 29, where people can sit and enjoy the vista of native trees and shrubs made possible by the removal of eucalyptus and other fire-dangerous trees. Most recently, with Conservancy board member Fred Booker taking the lead, we now have trail maps installed at key locations.

About a year ago, again working with the landowners, we scouted out a new trail that would connect the Willow Trail, at a point just below the redwood bench, to the East Bay Regional Park District’s Gwin Canyon Trail, which starts at the north end of Norfolk Road and currently stops near the border of UC and Park District lands. Such a connector trail was contemplated for many years but never completed due to the challenges of the steep hillside terrain.

Now, finally, with the help of student volunteers, work on the connector has begun. Last fall we worked with Cal students on Berkeley Project Day constructing steps. One Cal student who was helping said, while leveling a hump of earth, “Trail building is a lot harder than I thought.”

Work continues with the Boy Scouts of Berkeley Troop 6. Last spring we were most fortunate that Eagle Scout David Hood adopted trail building as his project. David and other members of his troop flagged the final path of the trail, removing overgrowth and cutting into the hillside to make a level, navigable path. The scouts also shored up the lower side of the trail to prevent erosion. The trail’s path follows the contour of the hillside as much as possible to avoid ups and downs and getting too close to Claremont Creek. Conservancy board members Bob Strayer, Josh Borkowski and Jon Kaufman were on hand to guide the work, along with the scout leaders named below.

We look forward to the day, hopefully not too far in the future, when it will be possible to hike a complete circle from Signpost 29 up to Four Corners, then along Grizzly Peak Boulevard to Marlborough Terrace and Norfolk Road, and then down the Gwin Canyon Trail all the way back to Signpost 29. Thanks to everyone who has helped to make this trail a reality!