The hiking book: Hiking the San Francisco Bay Area (Falcon Guides)
The distance: 4 miles
The CityGirls rating: 6

Ten million years ago, this preserve was an active volcano, spreading lava and volcanic ash around the area that became the ridges and formations of the Berkeley Hills. Mastodons, hipparions, camels and prongbucks once roamed here, and their remains have been found in the quarries that excavated much of the infilled rock and lava down to the original volcanic crater, Round Top.

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The subduction process that caused this ancient volcano is the same one that, moving northward over millions of years, caused the eruptions of Mount St. Helens.

That’s great and all, you may be saying, but how did this volcano fall over? Well, as the guidebook says, “Welcome to California.” After its period of activity ended, earthquakes “folded, titled, crumpled and tossed” Round Top into its current form.

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Our hike went by one of the largest old quarries, which has become known for its labyrinths. The Mazzariello Maze is the biggest, situated at the bottom of the quarry (yeah, it has “maze” in the name, but really it’s a labyrinth, not a maze). Taking a tiny trail around the edge of the quarry walls, we came across two more, smaller labyrinths created by other hikers.

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These labyrinths are hidden from sight until you reach the far side of the quarry, and we liked them better than the more obvious and more highly trafficked Mazziarello Maze.

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Getting down from the hidden labyrinths was a bit of an adventure in its own right. With the muddy trail and the pine needles covering the steepest slopes, winding our way back around the quarry and the labyrinths was sure to end with us covered in mud from head to toe. So we looked down the other side of the hill, decided we could see a kind of sort of trail and worked our way gingerly back down.

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(Yeah, we came down the back side of that hill and around on the lovely flat roadway. We decided that was better than trying to get back down the super steep, muddy trail you can kind of see going past the large, dark green bush/tree on this side.)

And then there were cows. Lots of cows.

Fuzzy and actually pretty cute cows. A lot of the preserve is also a cattle grazing area, and the cows were hanging out, munching grass and enjoying the view near, and even on, the trail.

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Along with the cows, we saw some other (somewhat wild) wildlife. There was a whole flock of chickadees near the quarry, and we liked watching the flashes of white on the underside of their wings as they flitted about. We also passed a couple bunnies (or bun-buns, as they’re known in our household). It made for quite the pastoral scene, and with the cows, it was a marked contrast to the more-truly-wild fauna we encounter on our hikes up and down the coast.

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The whole Bay Area had gotten a few days of rain in the week before our hike, and the trails were quite muddy. In fact, we encountered a whole interesting variety of mud: mud that was squishy and squelchy and sticky and soupy. In fact, we’re still trying to get all the mud off our hiking shoes.

HIKE NOTES
Ease of following designated hike: 7. They’ve updated the self-guided geologic tour marker numbers since our book came out, but we had very little trouble translating the directions in the hike to work with the change numbers.
Best season to hike: We like going out to the East Bay in the winter when it’s not super hot there and colder weather along the coast makes us appreciate the warmer weather usually found inland.
Our hike time: 2.25 hours with a good deal of time spent exploring the quarry.
Solitude: 3.