Prettiest Vistas of the East Bay

Take in the grandeur of the Bay Area from these 12 stellar destinations.


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Photo by jden

Briones Regional Park.


Panoramic Picnic in Briones

The East Bay Regional Park District describes Briones Regional Park as “a secret wilderness” surrounded by the towns of Contra Costa County, with rolling, grassy hills and secluded, shady canyons. Views abound here, but a longtime favorite picnic hike provides a wide panorama of the park and the birdy Sindicich lagoons, with Mount Diablo and Las Trampas Peak framed in the distance. There are no towns in sight; herons, egrets, ducks, and soaring hawks and vultures are your companions.

From Alhambra Valley Road—just west of the intersection with Reliez Valley Road—take Old Briones Road to the parking lot. Hike up Old Briones Road Trail. Turn right on Briones Crest Trail. About 300 yards past the intersection with the Mott Peak Trail, just before you enter a wooded section, descend from the fire road on an unmarked trail, which soon opens out on a flat, grassy area in front of the line of oak trees. This quiet, magical picnic spot is a 500-foot climb and about 1.75 miles from the parking lot.


Stephen Buel

View south toward Sunol.


Soar With Hawks

The Soaring Hawk Trail at Anthony Chabot Regional Park may be overlooked because of an off-putting map notation that reads “dead-end trail.”

This multiuse trail skirts a little-used part of Chabot but is a magnificent greenbelt accessible directly across from the Bort Meadow Staging Area on Redwood Road in Oakland. To appreciate Soaring Hawk, one scrambles up the remains of an old road that morphs into a rustic path leading upward to become a well-defined trail. Follow the gentle curves through the forested passageway. The meandering track rolls away from the San Leandro Reservoir and tacks in the opposite direction, dipping and climbing to a highpoint about 1.25 miles from the staging area, where a stunning scene awaits: the hills southeast toward Pleasanton and Sunol, the joining fingers of the muddied reservoir, the San Francisco skyline, a Bay Bridge spire, the turtle-shaped hulk of Chabot Equestrian Center, the shimmering bay, Coyote Hills, the Dumbarton Bridge, and the South Bay. Don’t be surprised to hear the roar of a raptor’s wings overhead, because the trail is called Soaring Hawk.


pat Mazzera

Mare Island view.


360-Degree View

The highest point of Mare Island Shoreline Heritage Preserve in Vallejo opens into a 360-degree view of seven counties, including Mount Diablo and East Bay bergs of Crockett and Rodeo. The eyes can also take in the Napa River, San Pablo Bay, Mount Tamalpais, the Zampa Bridge, and Vallejo.

From 1857-2002, this beautiful vista was off-limits to the public, because the property was part of a Naval Ammunition Depot. After some legislative skirmishes and environmental cleanup, the 215-acre park opened in 2008. It is still something of a Bay Area secret, open only Friday through Sundays from 10 a.m. to sunset. To get there, travel from Vallejo across the Mare Island Causeway to the island. Go south on Nimitz Way to Railroad Avenue and the park gate. Leave your car at the funky, fun Visitors’ Center.

Along the 1-mile trail to the peak, you will pass the Navy’s oldest Pacific cemetery, ruins of a groundskeeper’s home, an art tribute to shipyard workers in the form of a large skeletal “Spirit Ship,” and many other interesting historic and natural features. The rewarding crest view will make you forget the steepness of the ascent.

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