Best Hikes of the East Bay

Our trail guide includes awesome views and abundant flora and fauna.


Published:

Photo by Pat Mazzera

(page 1 of 3)

Instead of schlepping to see redwoods alongside throngs of tourists in the Muir Woods, beat a path to Redwood Regional Park, where redwoods stand as quiet sentries along the Stream Trail, often without the crowds. The beauty of hiking in the East Bay is that it can be a lone experience not far from the trailhead. A hike can be rife with misty vistas, dusty ridge trails, and rolling hills flecked with lowing cattle. The landscape announces seasons with California poppies bursting orange and interlocking tendrils of blooming Scotch broom undulating like a vast yellow sea. To understand this bit of East Bay paradise, follow this guide to 12 worthwhile hikes. It includes lesser-known adventures as well as old favorites in a world of hiking microclimates with unique characteristics. From Alameda, Berkeley, and Crockett to Moraga, Oakland, and San Leandro with varying distances and levels of difficulty, these hikes are sure to please.

 

Briones Reservoir Loop

Orinda hills 13.5-mile loop, difficult.

Highlight: A secluded, serene, and hilly half-marathon hike with glimpses of waterfowl and other wildlife. Requires EBMUD permit.

Park at the Overlook Staging Area and go clockwise on the Oursan Trail across the dam, past building facilities and through wind-swept pasture lands (say hello to the cows) and oak woodlands to the Bear Creek Staging Area. Always stay left and high to stick to the main trail. The final 3 miles follow shady, rolling single-track through oak-bay woodland. The loop is best in spring, when the hills are green and wildflowers are blooming, or autumn, when the trees turn color and temperatures cool. This loop—a combination of a fire road and single-track—requires a permit ($3 per day or $10 per year). Dogs allowed off-leash.

—SLS

 

Crockett Hills Regional Park

Crockett Five miles, moderate.

Highlight: Before hitting the trail, check out the old barn, corrals, and milking house with an active beehive.

Start at the Crockett Ranch Staging Area, near the charming small town of Crockett, which is practically beneath the Carquinez Bridge. Walk up the hill on Edwards Creek Trail and continue on the Wood Rat Trail. This short, steep, shady segment is lined with oaks, buckeyes, and bay laurels. At the top, a pedestrian tunnel under Cummings Skyway takes you to the main event—rolling oak woodlands and grassy meadows with spectacular views of San Pablo Bay, the Carquinez Strait and Bridge, the delta, Mount Tamalpais, and Mount Diablo, as well as nearby oil refineries. You can hike for several hours on the weekend without seeing anyone, although the wide variety of soaring birds, wildflowers, butterflies, and small critters make very good company. Follow any of the trails until you reach the Back Ranch Loop Trail—a remote, abandoned outpost—and then head back for a roughly five-mile outing. Dogs allowed off leash.

—JB

 

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