Hiking opportunities abound, and free, guided nature walks for all ages are scheduled in the East Bay Regional Parks during the coming week. To mention a few of the times and places:

Sibley Regional Preserve, Oakland's backyard volcano, is the destination for a nature hike from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday, led by naturalist "Trail Gail" Broesder. Meet at the park's staging area on Skyline Boulevard just east of the intersection with Grizzly Peak Boulevard. The hike is on, rain or shine. Bring water and a snack to share.

At Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch, naturalist Eddie Willis will lead a hike from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday in search of early wildflowers along the Chaparral Loop and Manhattan Canyon trails. Eddie's hike is geared for ages 8 and older. Meet him at the uppermost parking lot on Somersville Road, 5 miles south of Highway 4.

And the Wednesday Walkers, another informal group to which all are welcome, has scheduled a flat and easy 4-mile hike at Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area in Fremont starting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, led by naturalist Erica Herron. The park entrance is on Quarry Lakes Drive/Isherwood Way. Meet by the park pavilions.

For information on the programs at Sibley, call 510-544-2233. For the Black Diamond flower walk, the number is 888-327-2757, ext. 2750, and for Quarry Lakes it's 510-544-3282.


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SKYLINE TRAIL: While you're exploring the regional parks, check out the East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail, which is also part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Starting at the Alvarado Area of Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Richmond, the Skyline Trail extends for 30 miles through the East Bay hills, linking six regional parks as it goes. Besides Wildcat, it passes through Tilden, Sibley, Huckleberry, Redwood and Anthony Chabot regional parklands. In a way, it's a walk through history, because these parks and Lake Temescal were the first ones opened to the public in the years after the district was established in 1934.

There are many beauty spots along the way. My personal favorites are San Pablo Ridge in Wildcat and Tilden, and the forest of Redwood Regional Park. Recently, some friends and I hiked up the Belgum Trail from Alvarado Area to the ridge top. There's no denying that it's a long uphill trek, but on a clear day the views from the top are nothing short of spectacular. Serenaded by a coyote chorus, we saw the sun rise over Mt. Diablo, bathing San Francisco, the Golden Gate and Mt. Tamalpais with morning light. The panorama reminded us how lucky we are to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, with access to so many public lands preserved for us to enjoy.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.