Happy Trails: 5 Easy East Bay hikes from the Oakland Hills to Martinez shoreline

Happy Trails: 5 Easy East Bay hikes from the Oakland Hills to Martinez shoreline

Although visitor centers and some other high-use areas in the East Bay Regional Parks are closed to avoid overcrowding during the coronavirus pandemic, the parks and trails are generally open for hiking, riding and bicycling.

With that in mind, these five easy trails will get you some much needed fresh air and exercise. Remember to go with small groups including mainly immediate household, maintain social distancing, and carry masks for use when you can’t distance. Carry water and please pack out your trash.

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline

An easy and very scenic walk or ride is the George Miller Jr. Trail, a two-mile section between Martinez and Port Costa. It’s paved, wheelchair accessible, and offers great views of the strait with its maritime traffic and Benicia across the water.

To get there, drive west on Carquinez Scenic Drive from the town of Martinez. Park on the road shoulder; don’t block fire gates. Or you can access the west end by driving toward Port Costa on McEwen Road from Highway 4. Turn right on Carquinez Scenic Drive at the bottom of the hill and drive to the end of the road. There are several picnic tables along the way, and there’s a chemical toilet at the Port Costa trailhead parking lot.

For another easy and scenic walk or ride, turn left on Carquinez Scenic Drive and proceed about a mile to the Bull Valley Staging Area on the right. From there, follow the Carquinez Overlook Trail, or go down the hill to Eckley Pier.

Diablo Foothills Regional Park

Another easy walk or ride is the Stage Road Trail through Pine Canyon at Castle Rock and Diablo Foothills. It’s about a mile and a half from the start to the state park boundary, and of course you can venture farther if you wish.

The trail follows Pine Creek, which is dry in the summer, wet in the rainy season. It’s largely shady. There are lots of views of the imposing Castle Rocks, nesting place for peregrine falcons. If you are lucky, you may see the falcons. But remember that the Castle Rocks, which are in the state park, are closed from Feb. 1 through July 31 to protect the birds during nesting season.

The park is at the end of Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek, past Northgate High School. Park at the Orchard Staging Area on the right, then walk through a gate at the end of the lot. Or if the lot at the end of the road has been opened, you can park there. It’s the Castle Rock trailhead.

Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve

Sibley is the East Bay’s backyard volcano. Through eons of geologic action and modern-day quarrying, evidence of a volcano that was active 10 million years ago has been revealed.

At the park entrance there are restrooms and displays describing the park’s volcanic history. Pick up a brochure for a self-guided tour around eleven signposts. The park also has several rock mazes, one of which was constructed by a local artist. You won’t get lost; the mazes are only one rock high.

The entrance to Sibley Preserve is on Skyline Boulevard a short distance south of the intersection with Grizzly Peak Boulevard in the Oakland hills.

Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks

The two parks preserve a bit of Hayward’s ranching history. Take an easy walk at Garin from the entrance to Jordan Pond and back. If you feel more energetic, the trail network leads up to ridgetops with great views of San Francisco Bay. Volunteers also maintin an apple orchard at Garin. It contains heirloom varieties of apples that are no longer commercially grown. Go to the end of Garin Avenue off Mission Boulevard to get to the park.

Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area

This former gravel quarry in Fremont has been transformed into a park with several lakes. You will find lots of completely flat hiking options. Try the Californio, Old Creek, Western Pacific and Isla Tres Rancheros trails for a walk to see waterbirds and a rare fruit tree grove. The park is on Isherwood Way.

Sunol Regional Wilderness south of I-680 and the town of Sunol, and at Coyote Hills Regional Park on Paseo Padre Parkway in Fremont have lots of hiking opportunities. However, these parks tend to be crowded, so if you go, go early.

You can find several dozen hikes and rides described in two park district brochures: “Short-Loop Trails: Easy Paths for Walking or Biking.” Get the brochures online at www.ebparks.org. Click on “Parks & Trails” at the top of the home page, click on “Maps,” and look under “S” for the brochures.

Ned MacKay writes a regular column about East Bay Regional Park District sites and activities. Email him at nedmackay@comcast.net.

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