To find a hidden slice of open space with great views and autumn hues, head to Mulholland Ridge Open Space Preserve, a little-known 250-acre open space area along Donald Drive on the boundary of Orinda and Moraga in the East Bay. Do the easy 2.5-mile out-and-back Mulholland Ridge Trail, strolling through golden cattle-grazed grasslands spotted with oak and coyote bush chaparral.
Keep an eye on the sky too. White-tailed kites, red-tailed hawks, and American kestrels like to hover low against the backdrop of Moraga Valley to the west and Mount Diablo to the east. The trail is paved the entire way to the gate at the top of Donald Drive, the entry for Orinda hikers and typical turn-around point. For more stunning views though, continue straight through the gate and immediately take a left at the bench. A 0.5-mile dirt ridgetop path leads to a water plant where a handful of meandering narrow trails are etched into the honeyed hillside on the right, overlooking neighborhoods accented by quickly changing arboreal bursts of bright green, red, and orange. Autumn calls!
Mulholland Ridge can be reached from the top of Donald Dr. in Orinda, or from the Hacienda de las Flores parking lot in Moraga. From Hacienda de las Flores, follow trail signs up behind the main building. Exit the gate at the top of Hacienda Trail and turn left to start the hike at the bottom of Donald Dr. Open dawn to dusk. Dog-friendly on paved portion.