The southern end of Crockett Hills has some pretty nice hiking, but unfortunately the only entrance is two miles away. Because the park is so heavily grazed, it’s a long and somewhat unpleasant hike to get to the good parts: you have to hike two miles over a ridgetop that’s been reduced to an ugly stubble by grazing, on trails that are liberally splattered with manure at every step. And even the good trails are mostly hot, dry dirt roads that aren’t as scenic as the nearby Point Pinole or Carquinez Strait Regional parks.
The park was little-used until 2015, when five miles of new mountain bike flow trails were built, turning the park into one of the best places in the East Bay for mountain biking. For a few months the park was mobbed as cyclists came from all over the East Bay to ride the new trails, which were by all accounts excellent. However, this only lasted until the winter rains later that year. The rain itself might not have been a problem, but after the trails were softened, they were churned into an unpleasantly bumpy mess by the park’s cows and despite extensive trail work have never really recovered. Today the park is quiet again, although it’s still mostly visited by mountain bikers.
The flow trails aren’t really suited to hiking, but the little-used trails that loop around the park’s isolated interior valley can actually be quite enjoyable, if a little difficult to reach. The hike described here is the shortest possible hike that includes an interior loop.
Start at the parking lot at the very northern end of the park, just outside the small industrial town of Crockett. After going through the gate, don’t follow the obvious trail ahead, but immediately turn onto the much less-prominent trail to your right. The trail climbs steeply up a wooded hillside; there’s a little poison oak near the top.
After passing through a tunnel under Cummings Skyway, the trail leaves the woods and emerges onto an exposed ridgetop. As it continues to climb along the ridge, there are some nice views of Carquinez Strait and its oddly mismatched bridges. Unfortunately the ridgetop is the most heavily-affected area by cow grazing in the park and is dusty, barren, and completely covered with dried-out flecks of manure.
The trail reaches a manure-strewn picnic area on an open hilltop, then begin to descend. After a gate, turn onto the Big Valley Trail, which descends steeply into the valley.
Turn right onto the little-used Kestrel Loop Trail. Here the scenery begins to improve as the dirt road runs through the valley, then begins to climb up a hillside. At the park boundary there’s a connector trail to another dirt road. There are actually two ways to cross over to the upper road: a faint trail and a much more promenent, but steep, fire break.
The upper road continues to climb, offering some nice views of the valley below and the hills to the west before cresting a ridge and descending back to the Big Valley Trail.
Return the way you came.
© 2018 David Baselt