Impress Your Kids: Hike into a Real Volcano & Labyrinth in Oakland  - 510 Families
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Impress Your Kids: Hike into a Real Volcano & Labyrinth in Oakland 

While my friends and I will disagree about how “kid-friendly” this place is, Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve has long been one of my go-to spots for hiking with my small children. It checks all the boxes for a kid-friendly adventure with its wide, easy trails and unique surprises. This gem of a park has a bonus feature: several impressive man-made Labyrinths. The largest one can be hiked to with school-aged kids and is two miles round-trip.

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Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve’s Labyrinth | Photo: Julia Gidwani

How to get to the Large Sibley Labyrinth With Kids

Take this route from the Sibley Staging Area (recommended parking lot with 38 spaces): Water Tank Road (it’s partially paved) to Round Top Loop Trail. You know you’ve reached the vista when you see some epic views of Mt. Diablo and a fence looking over the Labyrinth. From there take the hairpin loop down into the volcanic valley labyrinth. It took us about an hour and a half to make the full trip, which included breaks.

Sibley hike

I’m not sure how environmentalists would feel about this, but we did bring a very small memento to place in the center of the labyrinth to remember our dog, Churro, who passed away at the beginning of the pandemic. This might be something other kids and parents might be interested in doing. If so, create something to leave before your journey.

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Remembrance mementos in the center of Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve’s Labyrinth | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve Features

Location: We always enter from Skyline Boulevard because there is a parking lot at the Sibley Staging Area and easy trailheads.

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Unique Features:

  • The big wow is the labyrinth! There is the big labyrinth that my 5-year-old was able to hike to, but also some smaller labyrinths that are longer hikes within the park. Full disclosure: I personally would not attempt to hike this with my two-year-old.
  • Easy does it. To minimize altitude changes, use the Round Top Loop Trail and the wider, paved fire trails for the littlest hikers. Luckily, there are not many huge drop-off ledges like at Huckleberry (which is close by, but is more challenging and anxiety-inducing with small kids).
  • Hills galore. For more adventurous hikers and kids with tons of energy, there are many, many hills to climb.
  • The 10 million-year-old extinct volcano!

Surfaces: Some paved trails, some dirt trails, some rocky trails, and everything muddy after rain. Pro tip: my kids love “jumping up and down in muddy puddles” (IYKYK) and are super into muddy hikes in rainboots. Do not let muddy trails deter your family!

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Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve’s Round Top Loop Trail | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Bathroom: Yes, one, clean enough near the parking lot. The changing table is non-operational.
Lunch tables & seating: Find some benches at the trailhead and a few benches scattered throughout the trials. No picnic tables.
Parking: Yes there is a parking lot, however, it usually fills up by 9 am on weekends in which case you’ll need to find street parking.
Shade: Yes and no. Some trails are totally shaded and breezy, some are totally exposed. We usually wear hats for warmth and sun protection over here. Bring a layer.
Covid-19 Restricted Occupancy: Use your best judgment.
Pros:

  • Info signs with lots to learn. Lots of educational opportunities and informational signage throughout this area about the park’s cool geological features.
  • Maps. There are usually also some trail maps stocked by the bathrooms.
  • Bicycles not allowed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to cyclists, it’s just one less thing to worry about with small hikers.

Cons:

  • The narrower trails are difficult to socially distance. I don’t usually take these with my kids.
  • Dogs are allowed off-leash here and while they’re supposed to be under voice control, they are sometimes more excited to greet my preschooler at eye level. If you have kids sensitive to dogs, keep them close, as there are a good amount of unleashed dogs on this trail every time I’ve visited.

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    This was Churro, our very loved dog, at Sibley’s Labyrinth’s a few years back. | Photo: Julia Gidwani
  • As with most East Bay parks, beware of Poison Oak and ticks. I try my best to coach my kids to “look, don’t touch” and stay on the trail. I would do a quick tick check on dogs and kids upon returning to the car in they’ve been hiking off-trail.

Bottom Line on Sibley Park with Kids

Hiking is the main activity here. So if you’re looking for more of a playground-type adventure, check out one of the other somewhat nearby parks like Montclair Park. I have seen grazing cattle here on a few occasions, they can look intimidating, but in my experience, they’re just giant walking Golden Retrievers.

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Grazing cattle at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve | Photo: Julia Gidwani

Pack a lunch and water. Wear closed-toe shoes and cover the ankles. Be a little extra and print out a nature scavenger hunt. Lock your car doors- all the East Bay basics. There are no places super nearby to grab a quick bite, however, Montclair Village is an easy pit-stop for family-friendly places to eat on the Oakland side.

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The cow and my dog both trying to ignore each other at Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve | Photo: Julia Gidwani

 

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