By Nikki Muench
I’ve spent nearly 20 years hiking all over the Bay Area, typically within a two-hour-maximum drive radius to take advantage of day hike opportunities, so this month I’m sharing a couple of my favorite spots to hike and picnic that highlight some of the fantastic views in the East Bay.
Seaview Trail in Tilden Regional Park has a summit spot that gives you an amazing view of San Francisco, and on a clear day, you can actually spot the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The vista is about 1-1.5 miles straight up the trail from Quarry parking lot (there will be a bench on your right, facing San Francisco), in between the UC Botanical Gardens and Inspiration Point parking lot. Getting to the parking lot early (~8 am early on the weekends, or earlier if you’re up for a pre-sunrise hike in the dark as the park officially opens as early as 5 am) will guarantee you a parking spot and a less packed trail, where you can combine a few different trails to make a shorter or larger loop back. My favorite is Seaview Trail to Upper Big Springs Trail to Quarry Trail. Pack breakfast (or second breakfast), wander through the stone maze and take in the views of San Francisco, Mount Diablo and if you’re lucky, the Sierra Nevadas at the vista.
If you discover that Quarry parking lot is already full by the time you drive into Tilden, keep driving on Wildcat Canyon Road up and over the hills and connect to Bear Creek Road to Briones Regional Park (Bear Creek Staging Area entrance). Briones is a large park that absorbs a lot of people, dogs, and horses, and with so many trails it’s easy to piece together shorter or longer loops up the beautiful hills and down into the oak groves. There are plenty of picnic tables at any of the park entrances, but there are also some great benches throughout the park that make for a great water break or mid-hike snack break spot – my personal favorite is a bench on the Briones Crest Trail overlooking the Sindicich Lagoons. This park does not offer a lot of shade or cover and it gets very hot here during the summer, so I would encourage an earlier hiking start time to avoid the heat.
Note: There are a lot of cows throughout this park, so be sure you know how to safely share the space with them, especially if you are bring Toto or Fido along for the hike. (The diagram below can also be found on an informational panel at the start of the Abrigo Trail just past the Oak Grove picnic area.) Heads up that starting now through summer, you may be asked to pay a $3 parking fee when the kiosk at the Bear Creek Staging Area entrance is open.
Enjoy the beautiful Bay Area this summer!