Canyon (formerly, Sequoya) is an unincorporated community in Contra Costa County, California situated between Oakland and Moraga in the San Francisco Bay Area. The community is named for its location in the upper canyon of San Leandro Creek along the eastern slope of the Berkeley Hills. It lies at an elevation of 1142 feet (348 m).
The community is mainly traversed by Pinehurst Road and Canyon Road. The homes of the community are nestled amongst the steep, narrow private roads and footpaths that extend from the redwood groves and ferns along the creek, through the mixed live oak, bay, and madrone forests on the steep hillsides, up to the chaparral and knobcone pines that grow along the ridge.
Canyon has a colorful history. Logging camps and notorious saloons helped establish a local reputation for rowdiness in the nineteenth century. A vast forest known as the Moraga Redwoods once covered the valley that is now Canyon. An extant fire trail west of the spot where Pinehurst Road makes a sharp hairpin turn near Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve was previously known as Winding Way on some maps, and was originally an old 19th century logging road built by Hiram Thorn. In the 1850s Thorn operated a mill on the site. Thorn built the road to bring redwood logs out of the forest and to his mill, and then over the mountain into Oakland via the Temescal Creek route on the northwest edge of Montclair Village. The Oakland part of the route is now known as Thornhill Road.
In the early 20th century, the Sacramento Northern Railway ran through the canyon for which the community is named. The rails ran on a bench (still present) above Pinehurst Road, upon exiting a long tunnel from Oakland at the site of Thorn's road. The eastern portal (called Eastport by the railroad) just north of Canyon was buried by a landslide in 1980 and is no longer visible, but was located along the fire trail path west of the hairpin turn on Pinehurst Road.
In the late 1960s Canyon became a center of political and social protest and creative alternative lifestyles. Canyon Cinema of San Francisco was founded by neighbors here in the 1960s. Today’s residents still work together to maintain their own roads and water systems, and Canyon Community Association volunteers provide mediation services, emergency planning, and interface with county and state agencies. Much of the land beyond the community is owned by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD).
The only public services in the community are the local post office (ZIP Code 94516) where all mail is picked up and the Canyon School, a 68-student K-8 public school, located on Pinehurst Road on the banks of the Upper San Leandro Creek. A notion of the community's unconventionality may be gleaned from the fact that the school lunch menu features organic milk and produce, Niman Ranch beef, and hormone and antibiotic free chicken. The community is in area code 925.
As John van der Zee wrote in his book about the town, Canyon (1972): A small assemblage of mostly unconventional dwellings, mostly built by the nonconformists who live in them, it is a consciously ecological community that recycles everything it can. In Canyon, the mutual respect and the cohesion of neighbors revive the vital satisfactions once intrinsic in human communities, and its 'civil agencies' are functions of the inhabitants.