Tucked in the quiet Oakland hills neighborhood of Montclair, the Shepherd Canyon Trail (a.k.a. Montclair Railroad Trail) is a popular community rail-trail that has come to symbolize the power of community activism. The rail right-of-way, which was once used by Sacramento Northern Railroad as part of a regional interurban electric rail system, was at risk of becoming State Route 77 during the 1970s. Community activists and visionary local officials prevented the highway from being constructed through Shepherd Canyon and instead created the trail to preserve open space and encourage alternative modes of transportation.
The trail begins in quaint Monclair Village near an assortment of cafes, shops and restaurants that you may want to visit before or after your time on the trail. Minutes after entering the trail, you are enveloped in a canopy of oak and eucalyptus trees, distanced from the hustle and bustle of the village. Shepherd Canyon is a popular neighborhood trail, with a healthy mix of dog walkers, parents pushing strollers, cyclists, joggers and folks just out for a stroll. Many segments of the trail are lined with houses, and it's apparent that the trail has been adopted as a community amenity and treasure. There are also a number of unpaved side trails for further exploring.
Farther along the trail, the Snake Road overpass bridge is where a Sacramento Northern trestle once stood. Immediately after crossing the bridge, an open area with benches and a nice vista of the Oakland hills makes for an ideal spot to take in the ambience and watch trail users go by. The trail gradually climbs up the canyon, with a steeper section for the last 0.5 mile. The trail ends at the intersection of Saroni Drive and Shepherd Canyon Drive. Cyclists looking for a longer ride can continue on Shepherd Canyon Drive and connect with Skyline Boulevard, a popular on-road cycling route.
Parking and Trail Access
From San Francisco or downtown Oakland, take Interstate 980 East toward Walnut Creek/State Route 24 East. Exit onto SR 24 East and continue for about 4 miles. Take the exit for SR 13 South toward Hayward. From SR 13, take the Moraga Avenue Exit toward Thornhill Drive. Keep left at the fork, follow signs for Montclair District/Moraga Avenue East/Thornhill Drive and merge onto Moraga Avenue. Moraga Avenue merges onto Mountain Boulevard. Turn left at Medau Place and go 2 blocks until the street dead-ends at the trailhead. You can park on the street or in the nearby lot.