The York Trail lies inside the 65-acre Leona Heights Park, nestled within Leona Canyon. This dog-friendly trail is a favorite with the locals who want to take their pups for a leash-free jaunt, get a little challenging exercise and not have to travel many miles out of the city to do so. Running alongside Horseshoe Creek, the trail treats you to the continuous sound of running, flowing water, and leads to a small, but beautiful waterfall, where you and the pooch can cool off. The forest around you is new growth redwood, along with oak, both of which provide shady canopies for most of the trail.
York has its blemishes, like steep drop-offs and sometimes muddy, slippery conditions after rains, but its attractions make this a worthwhile hike. Dogs love it because they can be off-leash and cavort with other dogs you meet. When you reach the summit of the hike, you will find yourself in a grassy meadow high above Oakland, surrounded by wildflowers like tall purple thistles, and furbulous views of the city and East Bay. Birds are in abundance along the trail, to the extent that birding clubs make regular forays here. You'll see eagles, hawks and falcons from the summit, as well as songbirds of all types along the way.
There are no restrooms in the park or at the parking lot, and no water except the creek, so bring plenty of water. The park does provide doggy waste bags, so be sure to take some before you head out on your hike, and plan to carry them out with you. The trail intersects with a number of other trails, including the long McDonnell Trail and Pyrite Trail that could extend your walk if you'd like. For many, the short York Trail is just the fix they need on a weekend filled with other activities, or a weekday evening after work.
Don't let the list of hazards deter you from trying this trail. Both Fido and you will enjoy the challenges!
In some places, this trail is very narrow, with a steep slope on one side and the creek on the other, so be careful with your footing. One false step and you could land on the creek's rocks or at the bottom of a small ravine. There are also trees across the path, requiring squeezing under them or scrambling over. Lots of poison oak lines the path. Although there are footbridges at some of the creek crossings, at others you'll have to rock-hop. Rattlesnakes have been seen near the path from time to time. Keep your distance, watch where you step and leave them alone.