Carquinez Regional Shoreline is one of the Bay Area's more underappreciated hiking destinations. The largest and most scenic part of the park features a rolling grassy ridgetop with superb views over the vast, industrialized inland waterway. Two smaller, disconnected sections near the little canyon-bottom town of Port Costa offer less impressive but still enjoyable views of the strait. The newest addition to the park is a 2-mile-long section of paved road that winds along the base of the low bluffs that line the strait; it's a little dull for hiking but makes a good bike ride.
The hike featured here explores the open, grassy ridgetop in the main section of the park. Getting to the ridge is a bit of a chore; although there are four trails leading from the park's main staging area to the ridge, none of them are especially nice. Even so, the main staging area is still the best place to start since it's directly below the most scenic part of the ridge. The ridgetop trails with their views are the real payoff of the hike; despite a bit of up-and-down, they're relatively level and make an enjoyable, easy, and scenic walk.
Start at the Nejedly Staging Area, which is tucked away at the base of the hill on the northwest side of Martinez. Take the leftmost of the two gates and stay to the left to witchback up a hillside. The trail climbs past a cemetary and then joins a dirt road that climbs steeply to the ridge.
At the ridgetop, turn left. The road meanders along the ridgetop. The noise of the frequent shoreline trains can be heard.
The high point of the trail, where there's a dirt road intersection and a cow shelter, is heavily grazed, the grass reduced to ugly, worn-out stubble and very step of the trail covered with cow manure. Fortunately the ugly, overgrazed landscape is confined to the hilltop, although the cow manure continues from here on south.
The trail reaches a gate with a bench just past the gate. This is a good turnaround point; south of here, there aren't as many views and there's more noise from Highway 4.
On the way back, take the first trail to your left to climb up to a hilltop with some of the park's best views. Few people take this detour, but I think the extra views make the added climbing worthwhile.
Continue north past the Hulet Hornbeck Trail to a bench with a nice view of the strait, unfortunately with an electrical line in the way. The views become less sweeping (though with no electrical line) after this point, and at some point the trail starts to descend steeply. The rest of the loop isn't that interesting, so I usually just skip it and turn around.
Turn back and take the first left to descend on an unnamed connector trail. The second half of this trail is an adopted unofficial trail and is annoyingly steep, but the trail also offers some great views and is the most scenic of the four possible ways down, making a nice end to the hike.
© 2018 David Baselt