Since google maps introduced the terrain maps and I spotted the Tehan Falls I wanted to go there. The Tehan Falls are 60 feet high, which sounds impressive. However, they are hard to reach, and require some serious bushwhacking. The shortest route via Tehan Falls Road is over private property and close to houses, so I never really considered it. So I thought I have to hike 10 miles (one way) or so via Pleasanton Ridge. But recently I discovered that I could enter the northeastern part of the park via the ‘Preserve’ at Laurel Creek Drive.
I figured that after a few weeks of rain there should be enough water in the creeks for the falls.
The route I planned would lead me from the preserve via a ridge north of Gold Creek to the main ridge and then to another side ridge between Gold Creek and Tehan Canyon. From there I would bushwhack to the falls. The route worked, but was more difficult than expected. Also, I should have gone better prepared. I did carry a printout of mytopo maps with me, but I also should have entered the coordinates of important junctions into my GPS unit.
I parked at the parking lot of the preserve at Laurel Creek Road. Behind the restroom house I turned left along the single track trail, over the bridge and along the trail to a small canyon where two creeks join. From there I turned left where the ridge starts. The barely visible trail continues to a fence with missing wiring. From here I turned left on a dirt road which is about 10 feet wide. It was a beautiful trail overgrown with fresh green, but it looked well maintained. The trail went up and down, partially very steep, and featured beautiful views of the valley. Shortly after an X shaped intersection (I went straight) the trail abruptly ends at a gate.
I think this is where the Pleasanton Ridge Park begins. I climbed over the gate. (Note: I am not sure if the whole trip would have been a lot easier had I turned left at the X intersection – on satellite images it looks as if that trail might join the trail on the other ridge, which I only reached after climbing the main ridge. Maybe I should find out another time).
On the other side of the gate the wide trail did not continue, so I had to follow the ridgeline on a barely visible deer trail. The ridge line turned left, and after a short climb lead to a clearing. To follow the ridge, I turned right, following the deer trail. At some points I formed arrows out of branches because I was worried that I wouldn’t find my way back. This turned out to be a good idea.
At some point the ridge ended where it joined the main ridge. This was way steeper than I thought, maybe 60 degrees, and I had to climb it on all four. At the top, the ridge is lined by a fence with a trail on the other side. I walked along the fence and found a spot where the lowest wire was missing (apparently this was well known by the deers because a deer trail lead right to that spot), and crawled under it to the trail. The views from the top where magnificent.
To the east, I could see Pleasanton and Dublin, Mt. Diablo to the north east, and the SF Bay to the west. The trail, as I found out later, was the North Ridge Trail. I followed it south. I knew that at some point it would be joined by another trail leading east onto the other ridge. I found it at trail marker 41, but didn’t recognize it, so I continued further south to trail marker 39, where I finally recognized my mistake.
Back to the correct trail, I had to hop the gate. I followed this trail downhill to a point where it climbed again. According to my topological map, this was the point where I had to start bushwhacking downhill on the southern side of the ridge. I followed a deer trail, first through woods, than a grassy clearing and then chaparral. Again I created markings using sticks. At some point I found a creek bed with almost no water, which I followed to the left (east). Along the way the creek was joined by other creeks, all of them with no water – not a good sign when one is looking for water falls. Further down, after climbing over a few fallen trees which crossed the creek, I could see an old trail along the creek, which I followed until it ended abruptly at a steep cliff: this is where the falls should be, but without water, no falls. The cliff was steep. Lots of fern was growing on top of it. I could imagine that if there was enough water, the falls would be beautiful. However even then, coming from above, I had a bad vantage point, and I couldn’t see an easy way to climb down the cliff.
I took a break, before I headed back to the car, almost exactly along the way that I came. The whole trip lasted just a little bit more than 3 hours. 7.3 miles according to my GPS unit. I could have saved 0.75 miles if I had turned at marker 41 right away instead of going further south.