Family Peak Bagging: Tolman Peak at Garin Dry Creek Pioneer

This is not about bagging a 14er, not even close! Tolman Peak does not reach 1,000 ft but that does not mean we didn't get great views of the San Francisco Bay Area!

View of the San Francisco Bay Area from Tolman Peak
If you are not familiar with "Peak Bagging", that is an outdoor term for reaching the peak of a mountain like one of Colorado's famous mountains above 14,000 feet.  Technically our little family "bagged" Tolman Peak, at only 947 ft, it is still peak bagging!  Tolman Peak is more like a hill but from the top you can see the entire San Francisco Bay Area, from the South Bay to out past San Francisco.

Garin Dry Creek is surprisingly remote once a mile has gone by.  I would consider Garin Dry Creek an "urban outdoors" park because its right up against two cities Union City and Hayward.  Surrounded by California State East Bay, cemeteries and residential areas.  Yet on almost every occasion we've been there we have encountered wildlife (alive and dead) and felt like we were miles away.

"Tolman Peak has a little kick to it!"

On this warm winter day, we wanted a relaxing hike to let the kids burn some energy so we decided to hike at Garin Dry Creek, Tolman Peak.  We only need to hike to Gossip Rock and then we can say we have hiked on every trail at Garin Dry Creek!  It was a busy day at the park that even the May Road Entrance parking lot was full.  We actually had to park outside on the Mission Blvd, which added 0.55 miles to this 4.75 mile hike (from May Parking Lot).

Shady May Trail

May Trail is very shady and is not much like the rest of the park, which is exposed grassy hills.  Our kids have issues with hiking fast up even the slightest uphill so even though Tolman Peak has some elevation gain the majority of the hike is perfect for my not-so-energetic two year old daughter.  We continued onto High Ridge Loop Trail which is a fire road and could still hear all the traffic sounds from cars and the BART train.

Ladybugs were plentiful throughout the day which motivated the kids moving to find the next ladybug down the trail. Near the fork of High Ridge Loop and Tolman Peak Trail there was a waterhole for the grazing cattle and they all were laying in the shade. When I'm hiking alone with the kids, we normally hike to the waterhole and the kids throw rocks in the pond so the kids were a little astonished to see the cows in "their spot".

Our kids were in their hiking "groove" along the Tolman Peak Trail which followed a creek that actually had water flowing in it!  Dry Creek was not dry and the sounds of croaking frogs made my kids happy.  We reached a little bridge that was surrounded by large Pine and Eucalyptus trees, all of a sudden I realized that even though we were probably less than 2 miles away from the busy streets of Hayward I felt I like I was 100 miles away from civilization.  No more traffic or train sounds, all the other park visitors were gone and we were alone with the sounds of the croaking frogs and my kids screaming! Sometimes there's no need to drive far away to get into the Great Outdoors.

After a little break near the bridge, we finally made it to the base of Tolman Peak and it was time to hike uphill.  We didn't want the kids to get burned out nor spend hours on end going up hill so I carried my daughter in my Ergo and my husband picked up our boy unto his shoulders.  Tolman Peak definitely has a little kick to it, let's just say my husband and I got a workout!

I love My Hiking Family!

Where is Tolman Peak?

Obviously Tolman Peak exists...I was just a little confused about where the actual peak was. According to the East Bay Regional Park District map, Tolman Peak was just south of the South Fork Trail near the bench, but I could not find the circular peak marker that you normally find at the peaks.  According to our Garmin GPS the peak was north of the bench near some rock formations, either way we were at the top and we enjoyed our views of the Bay.

Even if it's a warm day down below in suburbia-land, going up on the East Bay Hills always allows for the direct chilly ocean wind cut right through us.  I always think that we won't need our jackets but a few minutes on top of Tolman Peak led to wearing every piece of clothing in our packs!  After we all bundled up we all hiked down on South Fork Trail, which was a single track trail and somewhat steep in sections.

We tried to hurry back to the car since I was cold and couldn't warm up! My daughter decided that she wanted to hike at her own pace so it took a little longer than we hoped but I'm always happy when she hikes because she doesn't hike long distances like her brother. We were hungry and only packed snacks since we planned on eating out afterwards, but we were all running low on energy and needed to finish.  Promises of treats, finding more ladybugs moved everyone along and we finally finished our lovely family peak bagging at Tolman Peak.

Side Note:  The great thing about hiking with kids is that everything slows down and you get to enjoy the small beauties of nature.  The San Francisco Bay Area never gets real "Winter" weather other than rain and with due to drought conditions in California our East Bay hills have been terribly dry.  Even with the tiny bit of rain we have received recently the hills been showing signs of Spring.

Trip Report: Garin Dry Creek Regional Park 

Who: Family - Two Adults and two toddlers
Mileage: 5.3 miles (From the Mission Blvd)
Time: 4 hours - Toddlers partially carried
Elevation Change: Approx 1,000 ft 
Family Friendly: Moderate

Trail Directions (Lollipop): From May Rd Entrance Parking Lot - May Trail 0.12 Miles - Slight right onto High Ridge Loop 0.32 miles - At the 2nd fork continue straight to Tolman Peak Trail 0.88 miles - At the Fork take a left (counter clockwise) continue on Tolman Peak Trail for another 0.82 miles - Right onto South Fork Trail for 1.29 miles and continue back Tolman Peak, High Ridge Loop and May Trail to parking lot.

I love my urban outdoor parks! What's your go to park whether urban or not?

Related Posts and Links:

  1. Implosion Hike...What's Not to Like?!
  2. A Chilly Hike at Garin Regional Park
  3. New Year's Day Hike: Garin Dry Creek
  4. Garin/Dry Creek Regional Park

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