Contra Costa Canal Trail,
East Bay Regional Park District,
Contra Costa County
In brief:
4.9 mile out and back walk on a paved trail running along the Conta Costa Canal, bordering residential neighborhoods.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.9 mile out and back walk is very easy. The trail is flat. You can create more challenging hikes by extending a walk off the trail into surrounding parklands.

Totally exposed.

Trail traffic

Trail surfaces
Paved sidewalk-like trail.

Walking time
2 hours.

Nice year round.

Getting there:
From the CA 24/Interstate 680 junction in Contra Costa County, exit Ygnacio Valley Road (exit 46b). Drive east on Ygnacio Valley Road for about 2 miles, then turn left (north) onto San Carlos Drive (look for the small "Heather Farms Park" sign). Drive about 0.5 mile, to a parking lot on the right side of the road, just before the road curves left and crosses the canal.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3755'26.91"N
122 2'41.29"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants on Ygnacio Valley Road, and there's a shopping center just off the trail, near Bancroft.

Trailhead details
Lots of parking near the trail, with even more parking back down the road at Heather Farms Park. There you'll also find restrooms, a pay phone, and drinking water. There are a few designated handicapped parking spots at the trailhead, and the trail is an excellent candidate for wheelchairs and strollers. No parking or entrance fees. Maps are available on the trail, less than 0.1 mile from the trailhead. This trail is accessible to public transit. From the Pleasant Hill BART station, walk or ride about 1/4 mile south on Oak Road.

Trail is multi-use, and is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dogs are permitted.

The Official Story:
EBRPD's Contra Costa Canal Trail page
EBRPD headquarters 510-562-PARK

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from EBRPD (download the pdf)

Contra Costa Canal Trail in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike

Contra Costa Canal Trail is a broad path that supportsTrailhead a multitude of activities, including running, roller blading, dog walking, and strolling. The 13.5 mile trail runs mostly through residential neighborhoods from Martinez to Concord, following along the Contra Costa Canal. Although the trail crosses city streets from time to time, the Contra Costa Canal Trail generally keeps a safe distance from roads, so users are protected from cars (and auto exhaust). It's a perfect haven for families with small kids and folks in wheelchairs. This cooperative project developed by the East Bay Regional Park District and the Contra Costa Water District offers the greatest recreational and transportation benefits to cyclists. Residents of adjacent communities can use the Contra Costa Canal Trail to ride to school, the grocery store, or even to commute locations via BART. Cyclists from out of the area may take BART to Pleasant Hill or Concord, and then ride on the paved path to any number of parks and open spaces. Other long distance regional Contra Costa Canal Trailtrails such as Iron Horse, Ygnacio Canal, California Riding and Hiking, Lafayette to Mount Diablo, and Briones to Mount Diablo permit passage to Mount Diablo State Park, Briones Regional Park, Lime Ridge Open Space, Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, and Las Trampas Regional Wilderness (note that with the exception of Contra Costa Canal and Iron Horse, all these trails have long stretches on dirt trails and fire roads).
     Numerous cul-de-sacs and streets may serve as staging areas for a walk on the Contra Costa Canal Trail. Heather Farms Park, roughly in the bottom middle of the horseshoe-shaped trail, is easy to find, and provides lots of parking. You can even go for a hike or bike, then return to Heather Farms and go for a swim (for a fee) in their beautiful outdoor pool.
     Start from the trailhead on San Carlos Drive. The Briones to Mount Diablo Trail runs parallel to the paved parking lot, and you can walkContra Costa Canal Trail onto the path from either end of the lot. Walk north (away from Ygnacio Valley Road). After less than 0.1 mile, the trail crosses the canal on a bridge and meets a T junction. There's an information signboard with maps here. Turn right onto the Contra Costa Canal Trail.
     The flat and wide multi-use path heads vaguely east. Although the Contra Costa Canal is fenced off from the trail, this obstacle does nothing to keep ducks out, and you'll likely see and hear them splashing through the water. Houses are visible on the both sides of the trail, but thick stands of mostly domesticated shrubs and trees screen views and sounds somewhat. You might see plants ranging from natives walnut and oak to introduced species such as pyracantha, eucalyptus, and various pines. One distinctive tree along the trail is Arbutus unedo, strawberry tree. This small tree has white, manzanita-like urn-shaped flowers and round bumpy red fruit. At 0.35 mile, the Crossing Citrus Avenue, with the hills of Lime Ridge visibleContra Costa Canal Trail crosses busy Bancroft Road. A pedestrian activated light ensures a safe crossing. After a long straight stretch, the trail curves right just past a bench, and there are partial views south to Mount Diablo. Occasionally lemons, persimmons, grapefruits, apples, and pomegranates spill over fences out of backyards, and you might see jays munching on fruit along the trail. These fruit trees are a riot of blossoms in spring. School recreation fields sprawl north on the left, and you may glimpse the rolling hills of Lime Ridge straight ahead to the east. At 1.65 miles, there's a second street crossing, this time at Oak Grove Road. The Contra Costa Canal Trail continues north and east, moving away from commercial and industrial zones through residential neighborhoods. At 2.38 miles, you'll cross quiet Citrus Avenue, and a few steps later, at about 2.45 miles, you'll reach a signed multi-trail junction. Paved Ygnacio Canal Trail heads south, Contra Costa Canal Trail turns north, and California Riding and Hiking Trail continues northeast. This is the turnaround point for this walk, but consider connecting to Lime Ridge Open Space for a picnic or hike. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 4.90 miles
Last visit: Monday, November 26, 2001

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