BARTable by bike: Berryessa Ridge Trail

The Penitencia Creek Trail in San José. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Editor's note: BART is currently running reduced service for essential travel. We are dispatching long trains even though ridership has been significantly reduced. We are doing this to ensure our riders can properly socially distance from one another. If you plan to ride BART, see our feature, Tips for riding BART during COVID-19.

Before heading out, make sure you understand local requirements on social distancing and wearing a mask. Alameda County and San Francisco city health officials require residents to wear face coverings any time they leave home and get within 30 feet of anyone not living in their household. If you need a mask, check out our feature, Bay Area businesses selling masks during COVID-19

Difficulty
• Short route: beginner
• Long route: advanced
 
Terrain
• Short route: mostly flat pavement with some gravel sections
• Long route: steep ascents and descents on gravel roads
 
Cautions
• Some sections of the trail are gravel. Make sure you are comfortable riding on mixed surfaces before heading out.
• If you are choosing the long route, be aware that the hills of the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve are very exposed to the sun with little shade protection. Bringing extra water and sunscreen is advised.
 
From Berryessa/North San José BART Station it's four miles to the entrance of Alum Rock Park and almost six miles to the boundary of Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.
 

The idea to unite the ridges encircling the Bay Area with one continuous trail came to be 30 years ago. Today, 380 miles of the Bay Area Ridge Trail are open and ready to explore with 80% open to bikes.

The newest section of the trail is the first BART + Bay Area Ridge Trail crossroad and it links San José with local parks, creeks, wilderness and the Bay. From the Berryessa/North San José BART Station, you’ll be able to hike or ride a bike to the Penitencia Creek County Park and Gardens, Silicon Valley Wildlife Center, Alum Rock Park and historic Mineral Hot Springs, and sweeping views of Sierra Vista Point.

What to bring

Comfortable riding shoes, helmet, water bottles (there are several places to fill up along the way), sun protection (hat, sunscreen), extra layers or rain gear (just in case). A smartphone is handy for maps and looking up information or taking photos. And, of course, your Clipper card. Make sure to download the Ride with GPS app so you can easily reference the route.

How to get there

Take BART to Berryessa/North San José BART Station and follow the route that connects directly to the station.

Short route

Enjoy a mostly flat trail along Penitencia Creek to Alum Rock Park.

Views from the Penitencia Creek Trail. The rolling hills of the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve can be seen in the distance. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Things to see

Penitencia Creek County Park and Gardens

This area is rich in Native American and Spanish colonial history. The Ohlone Indians inhabited the area for centuries before 1778 when King Charles III of Spain granted the land to the settlers of the Pueblo of San José de Guadalupe. The park is open year-round from 8:00am until sunset.

The Penitencia Creek Park. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley

This facility provides free high-quality care, rehabilitation, and opportunity for release to sick, injured and orphaned wildlife. With over 200 annual volunteers, they care for over 5,000 birds, mammals, and reptiles from over 150 different species each year. The center is open 9am to 5pm, 7 days a week.

Watch out for falling tree limbs. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Youth Science Institute

This organization delivers hands-on science and experiential environmental education programs in Alum Rock Park as well as two other locations. Each year, YSI serves inquiry-based life, physical, earth, and social science to nearly 30,000 pre-K to sixth-grade students.

Once inside Alum Rock Park, the creek becomes more prominent. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Alum Rock Park

Founded in 1872, Alum Rock is one of California’s oldest municipal parks. Nestled within the Alum Rock Canyon in the foothills of the Diablo Range, the park's 720 acres of natural, rugged beauty provide visitors with outdoor activities including hiking, horseback riding, bicycling and group picnicking. Picnic tables, barbecue pits, water, restrooms, and a children's playground are in the mid-canyon area. The park is open year-round from 8am until 30 minutes after sunset.

Alum Rock Park has many places to picnic or relax in the shade. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Long route

This route follows the same path as the short route but adds some challenging climbing into the hills of the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve above Alum Rock Park. The difficult ascents pay off with incredible views of the surrounding areas.

Leading up to the hills of the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve. Photo courtesy of BARTable staff.

Things to see

Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve

Perched above Alum Rock Park in the Eastern foothills of the Diablo Range, the Preserve provides watershed protection for Penitencia Creek and is home to a number of protected wildlife species including the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, American badger, Western burrowing owl and other species such as golden eagle, mountain lion, bobcat, and gray fox. It offers sweeping views of the Valley and the opportunity to stroll through diverse landscapes including oak wood-lands, rolling grassland, and chaparral communities. The preserve is open year-round from 8am to sunset.

Want to explore more of the Ridge Trail? Check out the Bay Area Ridge Trail website.

Visit bart.gov/bikes to check BART’s bike rules, then strap on your helmet and get out there!

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