Briones Regional Park is a huge park with mile after mile of ranch roads undulating over rolling hills and oak-dotted grasslands. In general the east side of the park is more wooded, while the west side is more open and also more difficult, with lots of steep gradients. There aren’t any real payoff destinations, but the park has some great views as well as some of the better picnic areas in the region.
The park is at its best in winter and spring, when the grass is green, and is very popular during this time. In summer the park is less attractive and, although it stays relatively cool for an East Bay park, is practically deserted. The central basin and Briones Crest in particular has a lot of thistle that gives the landscape an unattractive blotchy look in summer.
Like most of the East Bay, Briones can become very muddy for up to two weeks after a substantial rainfall; once its herds of cows come through and churn up the mud, some of the trails can become practically impassable. The more popular trails leading away from the parking areas have been covered with gravel, which helps a lot.
** The Spengler Trail and Briones Crest (10.5 mi, 2600 ft)
This full-day hike loops through the suburban east side of Briones Regional Park. It’s a challenging hike with lots of ups and downs, but it’s really quite rewarding, with striking panoramic vistas, attractive oak woods, and a nice variety of scenery.
** The Sindicich Lagoons (5.7 mi, 760 ft)
This hike takes you to Briones Regional Park’s most popular destination, an open, rolling hilltop meadow on top of Briones Crest.
* The Lafayette Ridge Trail (6.6 mi, 1670 ft)
This trail starts right off Highway 24 and winds up a hillside to an open ridge with fine views of the suburban Walnut Creek area. The northern half has a lot of steep ups and downs.
© 2018 David Baselt