by David R. Newman
Now is the perfect time to get out and explore all of the many outdoor gems the East Bay has to offer. Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, and with it, the official start of summer. To celebrate, here’s a list of family friendly hikes to help you fight those quarantine blues…
Heron Bay – This marshy strip of land makes up part of the San Leandro shoreline that touches the bay. It’s open and beautiful, with a nice wide paved trail that leads north all the way to the San Leandro Marina and some southward gravel trails that meander through the marsh and eventually connect with the Hayward Regional Shoreline. Perfect for bikes, joggers, walkers, and dogs. As part of the Bay Trail, the views of the bay are amazing, especially during low tide when birds fan out along the wet sand to feast. This is a nice place to go when it’s hot, as the winds coming in off the bay offer some cool relief.
14010 Neptune Dr, San Leandro (take Lewelling Blvd west to Bayfront Drive)
Fairmont Ridge – When you mention hiking in Castro Valley, most people think of Lake Chabot, with its many picnic areas and miles of trails that ring the lake. But there is a lesser known area just above the lake to the west called the Fairmont Ridge Staging Area that dog lovers flock to. It’s a simple paved road that follows the ridge for a few miles, ending in a small grove of trees that embrace the Alameda County Children’s Memorial. Views are fantastic, with a sweeping vista of the bay to the west, and a birdseye view of Lake Chabot to the east. If you’re feeling adventurous, try one of the smaller dirt trails that break off from the main road and meander through the rolling terrain. Grazing cattle can often be seen here and sometimes lounge right next to the trail.
2601 Fairmont Dr, San Leandro
Garin Regional Park – A beautiful park in the Hayward Hills with several trails and some
wonderful picnic spots. It’s right next to Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Park, and in fact some of the trails connect but you would never know you’re in a different park. There’s something for everyone here, from ridge trails with jaw-dropping views of the bay, to winding creek trails, to serene flat pathways, to challenging slopes covered with wildflowers.
1320 Garin Ave, Hayward (access also available off of Ziele Creek Drive)
Greenbelt Trails – Another hidden gem managed by the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD), this 6.3 mile trail links The Plunge/Memorial Park in downtown Hayward with East Avenue Park in the hills behind the Cal State East Bay campus. You would never guess it was there amidst all the urban sprawl, but it’s truly an oasis. Follow Ward Creek on a mostly wide dirt trail. It’s shaded by trees the whole way and a great way to escape the summer heat.
Parking at 24176 Mission Blvd, Hayward, or 3221 East Ave, Hayward
Little Yosemite – The Sunol Regional Wilderness is a vast, well, wilderness, covering acres of land. It’s a little remote compared to the other hikes listed here. The Canyon View Trail leads from the visitor center to Little Yosemite, a scenic canyon with small waterfalls. It’s a nice hike, but a tad grueling. For an easier route, just follow Camp Ohlone Road from the parking lot. The star here is the Alameda Creek, at times wide and shallow, while at other times babbling and gushing.
1895 Geary Rd, Sunol
Alameda Creek – Yes, it’s the Alameda Creek again, but this time in a more tame environment. Follow the channel behind rows of houses on a flat, paved road that’s perfect for a family escape. Go far enough and you’ll reach Coyote Hills to the west, or Quarry Lakes to the east.
Several access points. Parking available behind library at 34007 Alvarado-Niles Rd, Union City
Central Park/Lake Elizabeth – Located in the heart of Fremont, this is the perfect place to
unwind. Whether you follow one of the paved paths by bike or simply want to stroll the grounds with your dog, now is a great time to enjoy this area when the crowds are away.
40000 Paseo Padre Pkwy, Fremont – parking at Sailway Drive
Coyote Hills Regional Park – A few rolling hills surrounded on all sides by marshland, this is a wonderful place to explore. The trails are easy and most are paved. Interesting rock formations and an Ohlone village site.
8000 Patterson Ranch Road, Fremont
Ed R. Levin County Park – This is a huge family friendly park with many trails, a few ponds, and scenic views throughout. Located in the hills behind Milpitas, many don’t realize it’s there. Hiking one of the shorter trails can be pleasant, or you may want to challenge yourself with a longer trail.
3100 Calaveras Rd, Milpitas
When visiting any of the East Bay Parks, remember these guidelines:
Wear cloth face coverings/masks as recommended by the CDC.
Maintain 6 feet social distance from other park users while walking, biking, and fishing.
NO picnicking, gatherings, or meetup groups (only immediate households).
PACK OUT YOUR TRASH. Do not leave trash in parks and on trails.
Keep dogs ON LEASH at ALL times in ALL parks (where allowed)
Bring water and hand sanitizer. Water fountains in parks are temporarily closed to stem the spread of virus.
Park vehicles properly, safely, and respect park neighbors and park staff. Do not block driveway, roadway, emergency exit, or service access road. Parking restrictions will be enforced.
Also, remember to bring water and wear sunscreen and a hat!
So what are you waiting for? Get out and explore nature. You’ll feel better about yourself and the world. As Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
As of this writing, all restrooms near trail access are open. For more park info and COVID-19 updates, visit ebparks.org