Hike, Bike or Horseride in Briones Regional Park, Central Contra Costa County, CA

by on January 7th, 2011
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There are many large and enjoyable nature facilities throughout the Greater San Francisco Bay Area, but one of the favorites of “roughers” is the Briones Regional Park. It’s huge, has miles and miles of relatively flat trails as well as modest hills, and is geared toward much more of the “outdoorsy” type of activities that smaller, more developed parks do not accommodate. It also allows dogs off leash

Large, with many entry points

The 6,117 acres that comprise Briones have been largely left untouched by the East Bay Regional Park District. There are five major access points, depending on desired activities. The two most developed are the Alhambra Creek Valley Staging Area off Reliez Valley Road near Martinez, and the Bear Creek Road Staging Area near Orinda and Lafayette just north of the intersection of Bear Creek and Upper Happy Valley Road. These entrances charge nominal fees, but have plentiful parking areas and easy access to all of the main activities such as horseback riding over the park’s scenic trails, picnicking areas, and the three group camping areas, which require reservations.

Briones can also be entered from Alhambra Valley Road in Martinez or Pleasant Hill Road in Lafayette in order to save a few dollars. Other than in the developed areas, dogs can roam off-lead (as long as they are friendly!), although owners should be sure to take droppings off the trails-Mutt Mitts are usually provided. Also, make sure the dog is trained to return on command, or be prepared to search for hours if it catches an interesting scent!

Dozens of physical activities

Briones is an ideal park for hiking, running, mountain biking, archery, bird watching, and similar activities. From Briones Peak, the highest point in the park at 1483 feet (452 meters), there are panoramic views of Mount Diablo and the Diablo Valley to the east, the Sacramento River and Delta to the north, the East Bay hills and Mt. Tamalpais to the west, and Las Trampas Regional Wilderness to the south. That means some of the hills are long and have some challenging grades, so be in good physical condition before attempting to bike or run much in the vast interior of the park. Also, take a sufficient supply of water before venturing away from the main staging areas. For the most part, the trails are smooth and wide, so hiking boots are not really necessary, although hats and sunscreen should be used on hot days if planning a long hike.

For dates and times of operation, fees, maps, directions, and so on, visit the website at: http://www.ebparks.org/parks/briones

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