Red Hills CA – Hiking the Overlook Loop Trail
I feel like hiking on BLM land is always this unique experiences, kind of like the wild west of trails – open to horses, mountain bikes, geocachers, and lots of beer & whiskey drinking (inferring from the litter). The skeptical look of the cowboys greeted us as we pulled into the Red Hills Area of Environmental Concern (Red Hills CA) this Presidents Day weekend, as if they could tell we had fancy-pants micro-brews in the back. But in the end were are all drinking American, which is all that really counts on Presidents Day!
Curtis and I were invited down to go hiking with our favorite Whippet mix, Aspen, and her owner, Jen, while the other boys tried their best to mountain bike on the rocky trails (heard it was “Advanced, bro”). We didn’t print out a map (which are available on the BLM website) and we didn’t see one (maybe hidden by the cowboys?) but managed to hike 3 miles around the Overlook trail Loop and down some unmarked paths (there are quite of few of there).
Red Hills, CA: Overlook Trail
Trailhead: Take Red Hills Rd (Left off of 120 at Chinese Camp) and continue down the paved road over a couple of river washes (almost dry the days we went) to the large parking lot & signed area on the Southeast side of the road, it is the second signed area if you are coming from Chinese Camp.
Distance: 3 miles up and around the Overlook Loop, then finding another unofficial trail back to the parking lot once we were looped back to the ridge.
I believe the Red Hills are called “The Red Hills“ because of the red-ish serpentine soil. serpentine is a soil I heard about often when I attended the California Native Plant Society Conference last year. Serpentines tend to pop up in patches, and are not extremely plant friendly so you often get some either boring dime a dozen shrubs, that can acclimate to anything, or amazing rare stuff, that have found a way to live in this less competitive soil type. Side note: I am pretty sure you might want to read a book or something before telling your friend this, because I am neither a plant or soils expert!
Because it isn’t wildflower season we saw more shrubs and less of the amazing wildflowers, but the weather was wonderful for February. In the winter hiking in the foothills is sometimes our only good option for hitting the trail, since the warm spells in the Sierra have been melting the snow and making for lame cross country and snowshoeing conditions.
The foothills, while not as scenic at the Sierra, have their own kind of beauty: of gently rolling hills, of milder weather patterns, and of straighter highways (a very beautiful sight for the easily carsick person like myself). Plus, who here hasn’t been super excited getting out of the Central Valley on their way up the Sierra to see the start of the foothills – the beginning of our journey up peaks and over mountain passes!