Good times at Bon Tempe
The Bon Tempe trailhead is accessed via the Sky Oaks area outside of Fairfax. Unlike the other watershed staging areas, this one is not free: pay the $8 use fee at an automated payment vending machine near the entrance kiosk. Past the pay station, continue down the road, bear right at the signed fork, then park in the gravel lot on the left.
|Newt along Shadyside Trail
The fire road climbs to the spillway and heads southwest. One the far end of the spillway, a junction offers a choice. Kent Lake and its namesake trail are to the right, as is the start of Rocky Ridge Fire Road. You can hike out and back on Kent Trail, but if you want a loop, come prepared. It's 2 miles to the first junction so loops involve at least 5 miles and 500 feet in elevation change. I like to string together Kent, Stocking, and Rocky Ridge Fire Road (which is described on my Bon Tempe page), but there are additional trails to add variety to your day. Be sure to have a detailed map and good navigation skills in the wooded north slope -- it's easy to get lost when you can't see the surrounding area because of the dense tree cover.
Back at the junction on the edge of the spillway, consider an easier option. The loop around Bon Tempe, on Shadyside and Sunnyside trails, is one of the mildest 4 mile hikes in the watershed. Trails are well signed and there are lots of runners and hikers about.
On Wednesday, craving more than a lakeside stroll, I choose a hike that may be my new Bon Tempe favorite. An easy jaunt on Shadyside, sharp climb on Lagunitas-Rock Spring Fire Road, and moderate descent on Rocky Ridge Fire Road. This loop is about 5 miles with about 800 feet in elevation change.
|View to Bon Tempe Lake from Lagunitas-Rock Spring Fire Road
Newts! The first one crawled out from under one of those fetid adder's tongue leaves, and headed toward the lake. The second one scampered across the trail coming back from the water. I glimpsed the third in a pool near a bridge. I guess breeding season is running late this year.
|Gypsum spring beauty, on Lagunitas-Rock Spring Fire Road
|Runners on Rocky Ridge Fire Road
Nearly 3 miles into my hike, I was relieved that the sustained climb was behind me. Rocky Ridge Fire Road offers curious hikers a broad sample of Tam's plants. From Bay Tree Junction, the trail wanders downhill through madrones and bays. At the ridgeline, serpentine soil fosters low slung natives including manzanita and ceanothus. Because there are few trees on this stretch, I enjoyed exceptional views of Tam and surrounding open spaces. At 3.3 miles, signed Stocking trail heads west toward Hidden Lake and Kent Trail. No time for that today -- I continued straight. I always hope to catch native flowers that thrive in serpentine soil on Rocky Ridge; on Wednesday I saw just one Oakland star tulip, but manzanita and ceanothus were blooming, filling the air with sweet scents. Bees buzzed deliriously. Western fence lizards scampered across the rocky trail, reminding me that rattlesnakes will be out and about now. As the fire road descends steeply, chamise gives way to Douglas fir forest, which then shifts to grassland, buckeyes, and oaks. Soon I was back at the edge of the spillway, then at the trailhead.
I can't wait to go back!
Read more about the Bon Tempe area (includes driving directions and details).