Every once in a while, a runner needs a good challenge -- and the scars to prove it to co-workers on Monday. For a run that'll give you muddy legs, a nice firm ass, and some scraped knees from a downhill spill or two, head to Wildcat Canyon the morning after a perfect storm. The park spans 2,428 acres, and this six-mile run cuts through a lot of it. Start on the mild road that parallels Wildcat Canyon Creek, and be sure to throw a few smug nods at the ambling dog walkers you pass along the way. Once you hit the hills, the only other creatures you'll see are cows. Shortly after the pavement fades on the Creek Trail, take a sharp left through the cattle gate up Mezue Trail. Here's where the fun begins. The climb is moderate, but consistent, and the muddy clay keeps you on your toes -- literally. You'll see verdant meadows on your right that drop away into a soggy canyon. Ahead, the trail winds deceptively toward an unreachable ridgeline, but you're rewarded with views of Mount Tam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and the smokestacks of Richmond. After a storm, the shadows of clouds dance over the grasslands, and you might spot a raptor racing the wind over the ridge. At the junction with San Pablo Ridge Trail, take a left. This is the best place to look for wildlife -- the mud tracks of coyotes or bobcats and the wingspread of red-tail hawks or turkey vultures. At the trail's high point, 1,057 feet, get ready for your first screaming descent. A couple more climbs and descents will bring you to the junction with Belgum Trail. Turn left and head past the site of an old sanitarium (evidenced by a few stray palm trees and a kiosk) to the Wildcat Canyon Creek Trail. Take a right at the creek trail to return to your car tired and happy.
Readers' Pick for Best Run: Lake Merritt