Location: Fairmont Dr, San Leandro, CA 94578
Website: http://www.yelp.com/biz/fairmont-ridge-staging-area-castro-valley (It does not have it's own website)
Description: Fairmont Ridge is one of my favorite places to go hiking! It offers a 360 degree view of the Bay Area. From the start you walk up a very steep paved incline or you can take the scenic route in the grass, but when you reach the top there is 360 degree views of Lake Chabot, the valleys of Castro Valley and on the Bay side you can see panoramic views of the Bay Area and beyond to the ocean. It is really breathtaking. You can walk your dogs off-leash which is a must for my crazy bunch. My daughter loves greeting the other off-leash dogs on the path. The main path is paved which is good if you are toting a stroller or if it's muddy out from the rain. My family prefers to take the more adventurous side paths which wind you around the mountains and are a little more remote and isolated- not as much foot traffic. It makes a really quiet and intimate walk. The side paths through the grass are also a little less steep than the main path. My daughter loves going up there and running through nature, seeing other friendly dogs, and there are roaming cows that are often walking and grazing that you may run in to- those are her favorite to see!
Highlights: The biggest highlight is taking a morning walk at the break of dawn when the sun is rising. This is my favorite time to go- the sun rising over the valleys is an amazing sight that will truly make you appreciate it's beauty and being alive to witness it. I took the hike by myself at sunrise once and it was so amazing I convinced my daughter to join me next time- when she saw it she said "You were right, this is beautiful! I should have came with you last time!" Awww music to a mother's ears :-)
Tips: Wear shoes you don't mind getting muddy. Try getting there at sunrise- you will not regret it! But anytime of the day is beautiful- I recommend going early or later. If you go in the middle of the day it can get really hot and there is not much in the way of shade on the main path.