Ringtail Cat Madrone Trail Loop is a 9.7 mile moderately trafficked loop trail located near San Ramon, California that offers scenic views and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
dogs on leash
From San Ramon, take Crow Canyon Rd towards Castro Valley, turning right on Bollinger Canyon Rd. Follow Bollinger Canyon Rd until you reach the Little Hills Ranch Recreational Area. Park at the small parking lot on the right. If you prefer, you can follow Bollinger Canyon Rd to the end and park at the Las Trampas Staging Area, which has a larger parking lot with portable toilets. Instead of starting on the Elderberry Trail, you will start directly on the Rocky Ridge Trail.
Great trail for the moderate/advanced hiker. Fairly steep inclines and lots of elevation gain may be tougher for beginners. I did this trail the day after some rains, so the trail was a bit slippery in some places.
A good combination of wide open views on the ridge and neat forested passages at lower elevations. Fewer 'cow pies' than some other parks in the regions, but definitely enough that you need to watch your step. Taking the Sulphur Springs trail instead of staying on the ridge adds in some more elevation, but the neat little bathtub springs (see pictures) is worth it.
I did the trail counterclockwise. Importantly, I suggest other hikers continue on the Madrone trail back up on the ridge when they reach the four way intersection near the end of the hike, and continue from there to the parking area. I tried to take the route outlined here and found that the trail totally disappeared. Had to backtrack over a mile back to the intersection to use the ridge instead.