Monday, December 21, 2009

Oakland Hills Walk 4 - Heaven Hill and Pacific Railroad Loop 3.5 miles

HH&PRR is about half way along this loop if you start at Lodge and Hemlock, but it is one of the highlights. I'll talk more about it and later.

One of our frequent hikes is north along Skyline to Sibley, and from there onto regional park trails. In Jan 2008 there were severe storms, and a slide blocked Skyline Blvd to all traffic, including pedestrians. In searching for an alternate way to Sibley and Huckleberry, I discovered the HH&PRR route, though didn't have a name for it at the time. The weather was still wet and stormy, so I took the closest surface I could find to the slide, and followed it north, at each intersection, choosing the rightmost (eastern) street, as that kept me closest to Skyline Blvd. It is about half through shaded small residential streets, and then climbs along undeveloped parkland (where I frequently see turkeys). That parkland is on the left. The right is steep and lightly developed, but for sale signs are posted, and some large houses are underway. The return is along Skyline Blvd, now repaired, back to the starting point.

Starting from Hemlock and Lodge we go clockwise down to Snake, cross to Thornhill, and then a sharp right on Wild Currant. We can look north across Thornhill canyon and see the high point of our loop.

Watch for metal creatures on rooftops.

Right on Glen Oak, and then down Sobrante. On the right side look for a steel footbridge leading to a dwelling. Under the bridge is a mass of green right now, no water to be seen. In the summer there is still a green band here, marking one of the few Oakland creeks that has not yet been trapped and piped. The first right hand street off of Sobrante is Thorndale, where you start up. On the way look for a three chair mini park on the left, where someone has taken about 100 sq feet of an undeveloped canyon lot, and setup and area where you can take a break. Once you stop seeing houses on the left, you are passing regional park land. Watch for turkeys from here on. Soon on the right you will see a railroad crossing sign, a small rail car, and a totem pole. This is the site of the former Heaven Hill & Pacific Railroad. There was a car stopped at the entrance as we walked by, the driver unlocking the chain blocking the driveway. He had lived there for 30+ years, and at one time had a small operating railroad. There is no longer a residence on the site, and it is probably slated for development.The current interest is his patented car of the future - sort of a motorcycle with outriggers.

Continue on up, taking a jog at Jewel Ct for a panoramic view of the bay. After that, up till you hit Elverton. There you have a choice - left to go up to Sibley for water and restrooms, or straight ahead on Elverton. Near the end of Elverton you walk along maybe 50 yards of the ugliest fence ever to slip through Oakland Planning Commission. I thought that there was a law that houses on these steep slopes were limited in how much they could obstruct the view - maybe these houses in high places had friends in high places. Shortly after that you join Skyline, walk south past Huckleberry, turn right on to Colton at the firestation and then right on Lodge back to the starting point.

For a preview of the walk, see the YouTube video:


  1. It's remarkable to have such interesting places to walk in one's own backyard so to speak!

  2. Thanks for posting this. I was best friends with the son of the man who let the chain down for you. The best parts of my childhood were spent on Heaven Hill.