did you know that the East Bay had its very own volcano? It’s true, and no, I’m not talking about Mount Diablo! Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve (originally Round Top Regional Park) is home to a now extinct volcano. Along with Temescal and Tilden, Sibley is one of East Bay Regional Park District’s three original parks, established in 1936. Round Top, standing at 1,763 feet above sea level, is the most recognizable feature of the park and was formed by the lava and debris left behind from years of volcanic activity. During the last ten million years, tectonic activity along the Hayward and Moraga fault lines pushed the Berkeley Hills up and into existence and eventually tilted the entire Round Top volcanic complex onto its side. After thousands of years of erosion and the more recent quarry operations in the area, the volcano and surrounding layers of bedrock formation have been revealed, leaving scientists and geology buffs with a “living” laboratory.
“I am neither a scientist nor a geology buff, but if your family is anything like mine, they love to explore new places.”
ROUND TOP LOOP TRAIL
Length: 1.7 mi | Elevation Gain: 246 ft. | Route Type: Loop | Heavily trafficked
ROUND TOP, VOLCANIC, AND BAY AREA RIDGE TRAIL LOOP
Length: 2.1 mi | Elevation Gain: 475 ft. | Route Type: Loop | Moderately trafficked
ROUND TOP, VOLCANIC, AND SKYLINE TRAIL LOOP
Length: 3.5 mi | Elevation Gain: 554 ft. | Route Type: Loop | Heavily trafficked
BAY AREA RIDGE, ROUND TOP LOOP, AND VOLCANIC TRAIL LOOP
Length: 3 mi | Elevation Gain: 593 ft. Route Type: Loop | Moderately trafficked
ROUND TOP LOOP TO VOLCANIC TRAIL LOOP
Length: 3.5 mi | Elevation Gain: 593 ft. Route Type: Loop | Moderately trafficked
*EAST RIDGE TO MAZZARIELLO LABYRINTH
Length: 6.6 mi | Elevation Gain: 1,614 ft. Route Type: Out & Back | Moderately trafficked
*BAY AREA RIDGE AND NATURE PATH LOOP
Length: 7 mi | Elevation Gain: 1,604 ft. Route Type: Loop | Heavily trafficked
*These trails pass through Huckleberry Regional Botanic Preserve, and therefore are not dog friendly.
I am neither a scientist nor a geology buff, but if your family is anything like mine, they love to explore new places. Luckily, Sibley has a good assortment of easy to moderate trails that are perfect for a family hike. If you decide to start from the park’s main entrance on Skyline Blvd, be sure to check out the informational displays and grab a map/self-guided tour brochure before you head out on the trail. If you’re hoping to bring Fido along, you’ll be happy to know that Sibley allows dogs on the trails, as long as they’re kept on a leash (and you clean up and pack out their waste).
For our hike, we chose the Round Top/Volcanic/Skyline Trail Loop but opted to hike the loop clockwise from the Tunnel Rd. Staging Area, so we would end our trek in the pleasant shade of the California Bay, Coast Live Oak, and Monterey Pine that are prevalent. We did take a couple of detours in various places to be sure we didn’t miss any of the geological and wildlife interpretive displays. Those (and bringing his stuffies along) were my youngest’s favorite part. My middle child enjoyed the amazing views of the Berkeley Hills, while informing us of the difference between vascular and non-vascular plants and trees, and my oldest kiddo enjoyed the myriad of colors found among the various rock formations.
Sibley is also host to a handful of man-made labyrinths. The most well known is the Mazzariello Labyrinth, constructed in 1990 and donated as a “gift to the world” by East Bay resident Helena Mazzariello. People will often visit for meditation and prayer, leaving small trinkets and other offerings at its center. Another slightly smaller heart-shaped labyrinth can be found along the Volcanic Trail, as well.
Admittedly, there are times that I find it difficult to get motivated to hike in summertime temps, so I do my best to beat the heat by starting early and bringing more water than I think I’ll need. Sunscreen is also a must! In the midst of COVID-19, don’t leave your mask at home. While it’s obviously easier to maintain social distance while outdoors, there are some trail sections where a 6-foot passing zone is hard to come by. Lastly, please take your trash out with you, including any organic matter. I bet you didn’t realize it takes six months or more for an orange peel to biodegrade! Bonkers, right? Your fellow hikers will thank you!
All in all, we really enjoyed Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and are excited to return and explore more. When you’re ready to plan your next hike, check out www.alltrails.com, or the AllTrails app. It’s a great resource for getting out on the trails, no matter what level of hiker you are. And the next time you’re traveling along CA-24, right before you travel through the Caldecott Tunnel, take a quick glance left, and see if you’re able to pick Round Top out of the ridge.
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
HOURS - Nov-Feb: 7 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Mar-Oct: 7 a.m. -10 p.m.
ENTRANCE/PARKING FEE - None
PARKING - Sibley Staging Area (38 spots); Old Tunnel Rd. Staging Area (13 spots)
PARK ACCESSIBILITY - Round Top Road is paved to the top of Round Top. (Watch for occasional vehicles using the road.) There is also a 600-foot paved wheelchair path north of the visitor center that ends at a viewing platform. Quarry Road, beginning at Old Tunnel Road, is also paved.
WATCH FOR - grazing cattle, poison oak, rattlesnakes, ticks, steep drop offs
RULES - Most trails are hiking and equestrian only. A few trails are multi-use (biking). Dogs are permitted at Sibley, but are not allowed on adjacent Huckleberry trails. Bicycles are not allowed on narrow-gauge trails, except on the Skyline Trail between the Sibley visitor center and Old Tunnel Road. Bicycles are allowed on the wider-gauge fire trails and paved roads, but are not allowed on Round Top Road from the fork .15 mile east of the visitor center to the top of Round Top.
Photos by Provided