The East Bay Regional Park District is one of the greatest urban treasures in the country. We've been visiting these parks for decades and still find new places to explore.
Here, apropos of nothing more than a beautiful February weekend, is Bryan's list of the Top Five Places To Go With Your Dog In The East Bay:
- Briones. Briones Regional Park is one of the crown jewels of the East Bay parks. It is simply enormous: you could visit dozens of times, spend hundreds of hours, and there would still be huge sections of the park you've never visited. On a fine spring or fall afternoon, there may be hundreds of people in the park, but it's so immense that it never feels crowded. On a brisk winter weekend, you may feel like you have the place all to yourself, with views reaching for miles.
Briones has both on-leash and off-leash sections; the more popular trails are on-leash, but there are plenty of off-leash areas too. At certain times of the year, you want to pay attention to the cows; Briones is used for stock grazing in the winter, and if your dog isn't comfortable around cows, you'll need to take some precautions.
- Point Pinole. Point Pinole Regional Shoreline is one of my favorite parks. Both you and your dog will love the park. There are many trails for dogs to explore, while humans will find both the historical aspects of the park and the breath-taking views over the San Pablo Bay worth the hike. A fun thing to do is to take the shuttle bus down to the picnic area at the far end of the park by the fishing pier, then walk back along the shore enjoying the views.
Once we were at Point Pinole when there was a Vizsla fan club having a meet-up; you haven't lived til you've seen 25 Vizsla prancing and bounding around the meadow.
- Morgan Territory. Morgan Territory Regional Preserve is a bit of a drive from our house, but boy is it worth it! Another of the larger parks in the system, Morgan Territory has extensive trails to explore. For a dog that wants to explore, Morgan Territory is the place; just make sure you're current on your tick medicine, because the grass can grow rather high.
Morgan Territory is one of the more remote parks, and kind of unpredictable; if you visit in August it can be 107 degrees, and we've had a few December visits when it was in the low 40's with a howling wind, and we stayed only a short while before heading home. But on a mile March afternoon, when all the wildflowers are in bloom, it's hard to imagine a more pleasant location for you and your dog.
- Diablo Foothills. Diablo Foothills park is adjacent to Mount Diablo State Park, and the trails inter-connect. Diablo Foothills has some very nice trails, with lots to see, and it's quite dog-friendly.
You never quite feel like you're out in the wildnerness, but if you're looking for a great 2-hour hike without a 2-hour trip to get there, pop the dog in the van and head to Diablo Foothills.
- Leona Canyon. Leona Canyon Regional Open Space Preserve is the smallest of the parks in this article, but it has a lot going for it. Drive up to the back of the Merritt College parking lot, find a space (don't forget to put money in the meter if it's a school day), and look for the hard-to-find Leona Canyon gate at the very farthest end of the parking lot. Within just a few steps, you'll be completely isolated, surrounded by canyon walls, following a wide peaceful trail down the canyon. In wintertime, the creek will be running, but even in summer time the trees will provide glorious shade. Although the walk is short, the complete immersion into the wild makes Leona Canyon one of our favorites.
Don't forget to stop and admire the view of the bay from the college parking lot on your way back out!
You'll notice I didn't include Point Isabel nor Oyster Bay on the list. Those are the classic "dog parks" in the East Bay, and they're certainly nice. But with so many wonderful East Bay parks to choose from, you shouldn't limit yourself to those, so next time you're looking for a dog-walk, why not try one of these?
Got any other great suggestions for places to go with your dog in the East Bay? Let me know!