CONTRA COSTA COUNTY—With the arrival of winter rains, walking in the regional parks can provide an invigorating experience with lots of fresh air and woodland aromas.
However, it can also be a bit squishy underfoot, given the East Bay’s legendary clay soil. Although the advantages for health and well-being outweigh the inconvenience, I can suggest some routes for people who prefer to remain mud-free.
All the park district’s inter-park regional trails have pavement and remain open to hikers and cyclists. This includes the Marsh Creek Regional Trail in Brentwood, Iron Horse Regional Trail between Concord and Pleasanton, the Lafayette-Moraga Regional Trail, the San Francisco Bay Trail and the Alameda Creek Regional Trail.
You can also enjoy the paved path of the George Miller Jr. Trail at Carquinez Regional Shoreline between Martinez and Port Costa. It extends for a mile and a half along Carquinez Scenic Drive, with great views of the strait and Benicia across the water. It’s mostly flat, too.
Remember that dogs need to stay on leash on all the park district’s paved trails.
Avoiding the mud
Of course, there are relatively mud-free trails within the parks as well. The Chaparral Loop Trail at Black Diamond Mines in Antioch is on sandstone bedrock. It’s a steep climb to the ridge top, but the views from up there are worth the effort.
Or you can walk the Stage Road Trail at Castle Rock/Diablo Foothills in Walnut Creek. Park at the end of Castle Rock Road, past Northgate High School, and head up Pine Canyon for views of the imposing Castle Rocks. There are some wet spots, but it’s mostly firm underfoot.
Be advised, there are four stream crossings within the park, though the water probably isn’t very high yet.
Nimitz Way at Tilden Regional Park near Berkeley is a favorite for its panoramic views, east toward Mt. Diablo and west to the Golden Gate. Park at Inspiration Point on Wildcat Canyon Road. Nimitz Way can be crowded, especially on weekends. Parking is sometimes difficult; please do not block fire gates. And dogs must be leashed on Nimitz Way.
The Sea View Trail is a nearby option where dogs need not be leashed. The trailhead is about 200 yards west of Inspiration Point on Nimitz Way. It’s unpaved, and a lot of it is on rocky soil. Panoramic views here, too.
The Stream Trail at Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park is another possibility. It’s paved for part of the way, and dogs have to be leashed because of the sensitive environment of Redwood Creek.
To get there, enter the park from Redwood Road about two miles east of the intersection with Skyline Boulevard in Oakland. Park at Canyon Meadows at the end of the road and head on up the canyon.
Watch for eagles
Lake Chabot in Castro Valley is always a pretty walk, and you may even spot a bald eagle. A pair of them often nest in the eucalyptus groves. The entrance is on Lake Chabot Road just north of town, and there are paved trails along the lake’s east and west shorelines. Again, dogs on leash, please.
You’ll find another paved path at the Bayview Trail at Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont. Starting at the visitor center, you can circle the hills on the Bayview for a walk of several miles and beautiful vistas of the South Bay. Look for Coyote Hills at the end of Patterson Ranch Road off Paseo Padre Parkway.
These are just a few suggestions. Though park district visitor centers remain closed because of the pandemic, the trails are open and available. Don’t forget your mask and social distancing.
For more information on everything the park district has to offer, visit ebparks.org. You can download park maps that include information about dog leashing and other park rules. Make enjoyment of the regional parks part of your happy holidays.