A tucked-away gem right next to UC Berkeley, this is everything you need to know to hike the Berkeley Fire Trails.
The first time I hiked the Berkeley Fire Trails, my boyfriend told me we were going on an easy hike that he used to do in college. He was wearing flip-flops and it was a “fire trail” so I thought it would be flat and not too difficult.
Needless to say, I definitely did not know what I was getting myself into with that first hike.
Luckily, the views more than made up for it. It quickly became a place we hiked together again and again, especially once we moved more permanently to Berkeley.
I want to make sure you’re more prepared than I was with that first hike, so this is everything you should know before hiking the Berkeley Fire Trails – including the shorter Claremont Fire Trail and the longer Strawberry Canyon Fire Trail.
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Miles: 1.5-miles (shorter version), 6.8-miles (longer version)
Time: 30-45 minutes (shorter version), 2.5-3 hours (longer version)
Elevation Gain: 806 ft (shorter version), 1,404 ft (longer version)
Trailhead: Start near the intersection of Dwight Way and Sports Lane on the Clark Kerr Fire Trail for either the shorter or longer version. Or an alternative starting point for both hikes is along Stonewall Road on the Stonewall-Panoramic Trail.
Dog-Friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a leash.
There are two different versions of the Berkeley Fire Trails – a 1.5-mile trail that goes through Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve and a longer, more strenuous 6.8-mile trail that goes up to Grizzly Peak.
Shorter Version – Claremont Fire Trail (1.5 miles)
There are two places you can start the Claremont Fire Trail.
I’d recommend parking near the intersection of Dwight Way and Sports Lane. From here, you can start up the staircase you’ll see near the end of the street.
Hike along the Clark Kerr Fire Trail until you come to a fork, one that goes up and to the left and one to the right.
Continue on the right-hand trail and make your way to the first grand viewpoint of the day – the Berkeley Overlook Vista Point.
There’s a bench here if you want to stop and take in the view and prepare for the arduous uphill trail from this point on.
This is where the trail gets difficult. It’s a steep uphill climb for the next mile or so on the Stonewall Panoramic Trail as you curve your way up to the second viewpoint.
You’ll know this second viewpoint when you see it because of the panoramic views. There’s also a sign that warns you of a steep hill ahead (like you haven’t already been hiking up one).
There are a couple more benches at this viewpoint as well. Take a breather here before you turn your attention to the last huge hill of the day, this one is the behemoth.
Take your time and slowly make your way up this last hill.
Once you’re at the top, look behind you for one of the best views in Berkeley, looking out over Oakland, downtown Berkeley, the Berkeley campus, and the San Francisco skyline in the distance if it’s not too foggy.
Once you’re done soaking up all those wonderful views, head to the left on the paved road called Panoramic Way.
Make your way down the hill, until you see the trailhead start again on the left (right where the street turns into Dwight Way).
Take this trail the rest of the way down.
This is where you’ll come down on that lefthand trail that you passed on your way up the hill, eventually coming back out on Dwight Way where you parked your car.
Longer Version – Claremont Fire Trail + Strawberry Canyon (6.8-miles)
If you’re looking for a longer version to explore more of the Berkeley Fire Trails system and Strawberry Canyon, you can keep hiking along the upper fire trails before heading back down the hill.
To add to the original trail, just keep to the right instead of the left when you get to the top of the largest hill.
Once you’re at the top, you’ll follow a paved road on the right until you see a trail on your left. Use this trail to cut over to the Upper Fire Trail and hike along this for a while until you get to a fork in the road.
You’ll take a left at the fork and follow the Fire Trail until it changes into the Upper Jordan Trail. Keep left at the next fork to stay on the Upper Jordan Trail.
Once you reach Grizzly Peak Boulevard, you can head back the way you came.
What to Know Before You Go
- There’s Very Little Shade – The first part of the trail, which also happens to be the steepest, has very little shade. Bring plenty of water and try to avoid the middle of the day when it’s hottest out. The trail can also be a bit on the dusty side so going in the morning or right before sunset can be a more comfortable time to hike.
- The Trail is Usually Crowded – Since it’s right next to campus, this is a popular trail in the East Bay, especially with UC Berkeley students. It’s also a popular place to watch the sunset. If you want to go when there are fewer people, opt for mornings during the week.
- Watch Out for Rattlesnakes – There’s various wildlife in the Berkeley Hills, including rattlesnakes. I’ve seen a pretty big rattlesnake when hiking this trail in the past. Be aware of your surroundings and give rattlesnakes ample space if you come across one.
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