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Berkeley, California, United States

Panoramic Hill - Chaparral Peak - Strawberry Canyon Loop

6.7 mile trail near Berkeley, California with excellent bay views

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    This guide contains photos
 (8 votes, 5 reviews)
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 6.7 miles / 10.8 km
Duration: Half day
Dog Friendly
 
Overview: Panoramic Hill - Chaparral Peak - Strawberry Canyon Loop is about 6.7 miles long and located near Berkeley, California. The trail is great for hiking and normally takes 2.5-3 hours.

A favorite weekend hike, with amazing views of San Francisco, Oakland and the Bay, seen from eucalyptus, pine and oak forests. A great workout too. Up Panoramic Hill from the Claremont Hotel, along Panoramic Ridge via the upper Strawberry Canyon fire trail to Chaparral Peak, down the new fire trail below Grizzly Peak to the lower Strawberry Canyon trail. Around the perimeter of Strawberry Canyon, back to the upper fire trail, then back down Panoramic Hill on the north side of the canyon. Especially nice at sunrise or sunset, or when there is thick fog down near the bay.

Note that U.C. is planning to clear cut the eucalyptus and Monterrey pines up here in the next year. 'Cause, you know, this area is really just a fire break for the rich folks who live in the hills. Come see it while you can!


Tips: Hiking boots are a good idea, because even though it's mostly on fire trails, there are some steep sections with a lot of loose gravel.

Most of the parking near the trail head is 2 hour max Monday thru Saturday from 8 AM - 6 PM. There are a few spaces that are not time restricted on Sataturday on Stonewall and Tanglewood Drives, but you have to look carefully. Otherwise, there is unrestricted parking on the east side of Claremont Ave south of Route 13/Ashby (but don't park in the bus stop on school days.)

There is not much signage on these trails, so you may want to use your cellphone's GPS or print out this guide and follow it closely.

Points of Interest

map

Trail Head

The trail head (shown in the photo) is under the POI #1 marker at the hairpin bend in Stonewall Road. You will probably have to park below (near where it says "GO", or below on Claremont Ave south of Ashby) and either come up Stonewall or Tanglewood Road (where there is a sidewalk leading to the trail head near the North end of the road.) Follow the fire trail up through eucalyptus groves from here.
Junction
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Trail to North Side of the Canyon

At this bend, you get nice views of the UC Berkeley campus to the north, and San Francisco to the west. As the trail goes around the giant eucalyptus, there will be a small trail into the woods to your left. This is the trail you will take back from the north side of the canyon later (from POI #13). Continue to the right, up the main fire trail for now.
Viewpoint
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Top of Panoramic Hill

You will come to a sign saying something like "Warning: steep hill, loose gravel"; there is a new bench nearby. After this steep section, a second bench provides a nice place to catch your breath and admire the view. On a clear day, you can see the Golden Gate, Richmond, Bay (both spans) and San Mateo bridges from here. You will hit a private drive just above here; if you go left, you can come back down the other side of the canyon. Continue to the right, uphill towards the pine trees along Panoramic Ridge instead.
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Pine Grove

Look to your left, just past the gate of the house, to find a path through the pine grove that grows along the ridge. Strawberry Canyon reserve, a part of the Berkeley campus, lies to the north. Continue along Panoramic Ridge via the main fire trail to your right; the pine grove will be on your left.
Viewpoint
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The Spiral Knob

As you continue along the upper Strawberry Canyon fire trail, you will pass a turn-off that goes downhill to your left. Pass this by and continue straight up the steep fire trail under the pines. You will reach the top, then descend; the trail then continues steeply upward along the south side of the Spiral Knob. As you reach the top, keep an eye out for a small single-track trail on your left. It leads up to a the top of the Knob, where there are spirals made of small stones and amazing views. Keep an eye out for poison oak on your way up. After admiring the the views, descend and continue heading north on the upper fire trail.
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Chaparral Peak

Shortly after coming down from the Knob you will come to a cross roads at a saddle point. To the left, the road leads down to the lower Strawberry Canyon trail; to the right, it leads down into Claremont Canyon. Pass these by and continue straight up the south face of Chaparral Peak. Don't wait for the top for the views though, which are obscured by pine woods. Once you crest the hill, you will descend into a field; another fire trail will cross your path. Pass this by, and head slightly uphill to the woods. The trail then descends to meet Grizzly Peak Blvd. At the parking lot, look for the fire trail to descend to your left and follow along parallel to the road. This will take you up to a small will with fine views. The trail then descends into Strawberry Canyon (at this point it is lined by large logs.)

The fire trail up Chaparral Peak is steep and has a lot of loose rocks-- better to go up this way than down. If you don't feel up to it, look for a narrow single-track trail to your right shortly after the cross roads. This alternate route will take you around the southeast slope of the Peak above Claremont Canyon; it is shown to the right of POI #6. Lots of wildflowers in spring. Keep an eye out for mountain bikers. This will eventually hit Grizzly Peak Blvd. Follow along the road for about 50 yards and you will see a fire trail behind a chain leading off to your left. If you take this, it will lead to the field beyond Chaparral Peak. At the top this trail crosses the one described above; go right, up into the pines.
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Near Grizzly Peak

This section descends from Grizzle Peak to the lower Strawberry Canyon trail. I believe is a new fire road, which has fairly loose dirt and gravel, also a fair amount of trash from the road above. This descends below a large boulder that is popular with rock climbers and budding graffiti artists. Caution-- a kid fell off this boulder and died earlier this year. The trail will take you under the high power transmission lines that power Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Good wildflowers in the spring. May get muddy if it has rained recently.
Junction
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Lower Strawberry Canyon Fire Trail

This is where you join the lower Strawberry Canyon trail. It travels along the inner perimeter of the canyon through dense woods. Go left.

[If you were to go right here instead, the trail goes about 1 mile to the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI, or "misery" if you ask the grad students), near the Lawrence Hall of Science. On weekends, one may park up here as an alternate means of accessing these trails. Listen for loud "whoops" coming through the forest, especially at dawn or dusk. The University keeps a (caged) colony of hyenas (!!!) near here.]

This section is quite level, making it popular with runners.
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Optional Side Trail

This optional single-track trail leads through pine groves to a hill with very steep sides. Look for a sign saying "Ecological Study Zone". Pretty, but you can skip it if you're in a hurry or tired.

When you come back, continue along the main Strawberry Canyon trail. After about 1/3 of a mile, you will see a branch up to the left, which would take you back to the saddle point below Chaparral Peak. Instead, continue to follow the main, level trail.
Viewpoint
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Bench Overlooking Strawberry Canyon

Continuing along the lower Strawberry Canyon trail, you will come to a bench made of a log, a nice place to stop and rest for a minute. Looks out over the wooded canyon, with the Berkeley campus and San Francisco in the distance. The place where I decided to move to California in 1990. The Spiral Knob is above and behind you. The trail then continues downward at a moderate grade.
Junction
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Trail back to the Upper Fire Trail

A smaller fire trail branches off to the left from the main trail; this will take you back up to the ridge. There are other smaller single-track trails nearby that also go there, but these tend to be quite of steep (like the one in the picture.) When you get to the upper fire trail, go right, back along Panoramic Ridge.

(If instead of taking this branch you were to continue downward on the main trail, you end up at the parking lot by the Strawberry Canyon trail head, just above the pools-- another place you could park to access these trails. This section has nice oak trees, as well as a short-cut through a redwood grove if you keep your eyes peeled for a small trail on the right).
Junction
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Trail head, north side of Panoramic canyon

Just below the two houses at the top of Panoramic, you will see a small trail to your left. This has more nice views, but is pretty steep and narrow. If you think it might be too muddy, you can always take stay with the road, which will rejoin this trail below. If so, go left at the fork after the gate.
Junction
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The Way Back

After coming down a short, steep section of Dwight Way, you will take a steep foot path to the left that leads down to a pair of largish rocks, overlooking the Clark Kerr part of the U.C. campus.

Just below the rocks, the trail to the left will take you down through Bay Trees to a small stream, then back up to the eucalyptus grove where you started. Keep your eyes peeled for poison oak which grows along the trail. It's a short walk back from here.

(If instead you go right below the rocks, the trail leads down to Dwight Way, near the Clark Kerr track-- another possible place to park. I don't much care for this bit of trail though, which is steep and narrow.)
Pictures in this guide taken by: M.W.Rowe, robgendreau
Reviews
mwrowe
With respect to the comments regarding the moderate rating--- yes, there is about 1500 feet of elevation gain, and it is steep in places. But EveryTrail guides cover a wide range of trails, from 1 mile long, completely flat "urban hikes" to multi-day treks in the Sierra Nevada or the Rockies. On that scale, this hike is moderate.

The difficulty rating is based upon the trail, not the capabilities of people I don't know.

Visited on May 22, 2014

by mwrowe on May 22, 2014
khanniman
This should NOT be rated "moderate" hike. From elevation hikes right from the get go, this should be rated difficult for those of us with moderate joint problems. The trip back down was more difficult than the arduous trip up. While we liked the challenge, we could not get beyond the first few miles of the trail's quick elevation gain. Please revise the difficulty of this trail!
Visited on Jan 26, 2014

by khanniman on Jan 26, 2014
sierra201
Great hike! But be aware, 1500+ feet of elevation gain. Very detailed trip notes, so glad I had them with me! However, could have used a little more detail with the very end of the hike.
Visited on Dec 22, 2013

by sierra201 on Dec 23, 2013
sfliver
Great views, but no signage throughout the hike, making it hard to know which path to choose in order to follow this loop. We ended up taking a 7-mile hike, but not this one. The 2-hour parking limit is only valid on M-F.
Visited on Apr 27, 2013

by sfliver on Apr 28, 2013
kitemare
All the parking at the base of this trail is 2 hours Mon - Sat. I would not try this unless it was a Sunday or had method of parking for longer.
Visited on Jan 26, 2013

by kitemare on Jan 28, 2013

Panoramic Hill - Chaparral Peak - Strawberry Canyon Loop Trail Map


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About the Author

mwrowe
I try to hike Panoramic Hill with my dog Zorra every morning. You'll see me with a silver coffee cup...

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