Cull Canyon is best known for its swim lagoon (a shallow man-made lake), but it also has a section of the long-distance Chabot-to-Garin Regional Trail. The trail isn’t especially promising at first as it runs through the densely-wooded canyon, but as it climbs out of the canyon and winds over the oak-carpeted hills, it gradually gets quieter, more remote, and more scenic. The scenery doesn’t get really good until about two and a half miles in, when the woods give way to open scrub and the singletrack turns into a dirt road. You can actually skip all the wooded singletrack and start the hike from this point by parking on Belhurst Lane; the only disadvantage is that the round-trip hike would only be 4 miles.
Although the trail’s elevetion never gets above 1200 feet, it has lot of up-and-down and a respectable elevation gain. The best part of the hike is on EBMUD property, but a permit isn’t required.
Parking in Cull Canyon is free; you only have to pay if you want to get into the swimming area. On summer weekends, the parking lot can fill up unless you arrive well before the lagoon opens at 11 am, but almost everyone is here for the swim lagoon and picnic areas so the trail is little-used. Unfortunately, there’s no snack bar.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
The beginning of this trail is a little confusing. From the north end of the Cull Canyon parking lot, take the trail downhill, take the tube under Columbia Drive, then climb the hillside to your right up to the road. Walk alongside the road across the creek, where the trail really begins. Fences have been installed to keep people from just running across the street, which would be a lot easier.
The trail runs through the heavily-wooded canyon, not far from Cull Canyon Road. Despite the presence of the road there’s still a nice rural character to this area. There’s a lot of poison oak in the area but it’s not usually a problem. There’s a surprising amount of up-and-down for what’s essentially a canyon-bottom trail. The trail descends and crosses the creek twice. The crossings usually aren’t a problem even in winter but could be difficult after a heavy rain.
The trail then turns away from Cull Canyon Road and starts climbing the out of the canyon by a series of switchbacks. As it does the woods start to open up and become more attractive.
At the top of the hill the trail ends near a housing subdivision. To the left is Belhurst Lane. Take the little-used dirt road to the right (now deteriorated to a narrow track) through a horse pasture.
The trail ascends through scrub. Entering EBMUD property, the comes to a T intersection with a well-maintained dirt road.
The road rises and falls through patchy woods with views of the green, oak-carpeted hills to the west. This is the best part of the trail; it’s completely quiet, feels very remote, and is quite scenic.
There’s a steep climb up to the highest point of the trail. The views from the top aren’t really spectacular, but this is a good turn-around point as it makes about a 10-mile round-trip and after this the trail begins a steep descent to the Ramage Peak Trail.
© 2018 David Baselt