Columns Hit the Trail

Get back to nature with quick trip to Benicia

Get back to nature with quick trip to BeniciaColumns Hit the TrailWhen the clocks change in fall, it means shorter days, dusty trails and the need for “quick hit hikes” to take advantage of the sunlight.

All these reasons brought me to Benicia State Recreation Area, a small slice of land in the California State Park system situated on the Carquinez Straight. My goal was to tackle the Benicia Bay Trail, which is part of the much larger Bay Area Ridge Trail.

I am most definitely a “time on trails” person, so I parked at the entrance and hiked a foot path that ran adjacent to Dillon Point Road along Southampton Bay Wetlands Preserve. Expect some vehicle traffic as most visitors drive out and park much nearer to the water.

More than 70 percent of this park is tidal wetlands and there are trails through these areas, but my goal was to spend time near the open water at Dillon Point.

The low hum of traffic, power lines and homes looming over me from high above during the first portion of this hike had me wondering about my decision to visit this park, but I forged on nonetheless. I had a map, but you don’t really need one as exploring this place can be done in less than two hours. This park is dog-friendly, allowing them on almost all trails with a leash, of course.

At Dillon Point, a great spot for shore fishing, I ran into the Benicia Bay Trail – a neatly manicured and well-traveled single-track trail that started as an easy ascent toward a setting sun. In fact, these trails are perfect for the young, old and hikers of all skill levels. I saw families, dogs, bicyclists, strollers and all walks of life enjoying the warm weather before winter kicks in.

What this park lacks in size is made up in scenic views. The golden hillsides this time of year offered panoramic views of Mt. Diablo and the Carquinez Bridge, with a November sunset as the backdrop. I wished I had brought binoculars, because the birds and surrounding area made me want to take a closer look.

A late afternoon walk at Benicia State Recreation Area offers views of the sunset and the Carquinez Bridge.

I hiked the Benicia Bay Trail in its entirety, then circled around and picked up the Bay Area Ridge Trail around a very large PG&E transmission tower on my way toward Glen Cove. Half of the trails flank the water, while the other half twist and turn around the hillsides of Dillon Point. You really can’t get lost here, as all trails seem to point back to where you started.

I discovered the Bay Area Ridge Trail is a 550-mile, multi-use trail that encircles the greater Bay Area – connecting a lot of parks and open spaces.

If you want to visit a park that doesn’t require an entire day or a long drive, consider Benicia SRA. With rain on the way (wishful thinking) and reduced sunlight, get out there and enjoy it.

Contact Kevin Parker with comments or questions by email