Point Pinole Regional Shoreline,
East Bay Regional Park District,
Contra Costa County
In brief:
3.6 mile loop on bluffs overlooking San Pablo Bay.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
The featured hike is an easy 3.6 mile loop hike, with about 75 feet in elevation change. There are a few gentle hills, but the trails are nearly flat.

Mostly exposed, with a few pockets of shade.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Gravel and dirt fire roads and dirt trails.

Hiking time:
1 1/2 hours.

Usually very pleasant and breezy in summer. Otherwise nice all year round.

Getting there:
From Interstate 80 in Contra Costa County, exit Richmond Parkway (exit 20). Drive west about 2 miles, then exit at Giant. At the foot of the exit ramp, turn right. Follow the brown parks signs the rest of the way to the park entrance on the left side of Giant, about 1 mile from Richmond Parkway.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3759'30.03"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants back near 80. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Parking fee of $5 charged when entrance kiosk is staffed. $2 dog fee. Large paved parking lot, with 3 designated handicapped spots. Pay phone, pit toilets, and a drinking fountain located at the edge of the parking lot, and also at several other locations in the park. Maps available at the information signboard. AC Transit bus #71 serves the park: visit the Transit Info website for more details.

All trails are multi-use. Dogs are permitted. Park is open from dawn to dusk.

The Official Story:
EBRPD's Point Pinole page.
Park office 510-237-6896

Map Choices:
• AAA's West Contra Costa Communities is a good road map.
Map from EBRPD.
• David Weintraub's East Bay Trails has a useful map which includes most of the park's trails (order this book from Amazon.com).
• 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by Ann Marie Brown (order this book from Amazon.com), has a simple map and featured hike.
Map from Bay Trail website (less detail than the EBRPD map, but you can take a virtual tour of the park here)

Point Pinole in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View 36 photos from the featured hike

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Point Pinole, like a few other spectacular open spaces in the bay area, exists in spite of years of abuse to the land. TrailheadIn a similar fashion to Mount Tamalpais (the top of which was shaved off by the Air Force) and Almaden Quicksilver (contaminated by toxic mercury mining), when the abusers were finished with the land, conservationists were able to snatch up the property, clean it up, prevent development, and preserve it as open space. Point Pinole, an over 2000 acre parcel perched at the edge of San Pablo Bay in Contra Costa County, was home to 4 explosives manufacturers from 1880 to 1960. After that the land was purchased by Bethlehem Steel, but their plant never was built, and the East Bay Regional Park District bought their first piece of Point Pinole in 1971. Interpretive displays throughout the park help visitors to relive the days of dynamite manufacturing (including a photo of a TNT-hauling sad-looking donkey). Bayview TrailNot much remains in the way of buildings, but if your interest is piqued, be sure to visit the ruins of the dynamite blast and burning bunker, and the black powder press.
     For hikers, there are many short trails to be explored (although you'll share them all with cyclists and equestrians). A shuttle runs from the parking lot to the fishing pier and back, so if you're visiting with kids or older folks, it's possible to share a no-effort nature experience. Almost all the trails are perfectly flat, so Point Pinole is a good choice for beginning hikers.
     For the featured hike, start at the parking lot and walk north on paved Point Pinole Road. Bay View TrailThe road runs along train tracks (used by Amtrak and freight trains), then crosses the tracks and approaches a cluster of well-groomed picnic areas. At 0.19 mile, look to the left for the signed Bay View Trail. Turn left onto Bay View Trail, which descends gently toward the bay through a grove of eucalyptus and some toyon.
     The trees thin as the trail approaches the marshy edge of San Pablo Bay, and other than occasional clumps of coyote brush and poison oak, unobscured views of the water, and distant Mount Tamalpais dominate the landscape (or should I say waterscape?). At 0.26 mile, stay to the right as a dead end spur heads east near a garbage can.
     A few paths (some marked, some not) offer access to the shoreline, and along Bay View Trail there are many unmarked (some marked) junctions with spur trails that connect to Woods Trail. View across the bay to Mount TamalpaisThe entire length (about 1.6 miles) of the Bay View Trail is consistently signed, but even if you wander off course here, it's tough to get lost, with the bay, on the left, comprising the west edge of the park. At 0.44 mile, Cook's Point Trail heads north at a signed junction. As you stand near the tangle of paths, you are virtually on top of the Hayward Fault, which runs northwest through this park. Continue to the left on Bay View Trail.
      Occasional benches perched facing west are excellent bird watching spots. You will most definitely see gulls, probably glimpse red tailed hawks and vultures, and may even spy an osprey hunting for fish over the water. Along the bluffs on Bay View TrailThe broad multi-use fire road ascends at a barely noticeable grade, until it reaches a rerouting at 0.91 mile. A signed path heads downhill to "beach access," but remain on Bay View Trail, which climbs into a eucalyptus grove. At 0.98 mile, you'll reach a T junction.Turn left to remain on Bay View Trail.
    Thick stands of non-native eucalyptus lining the path were were planted by the Atlas Safety Powder Company as a safety measure from 1921-22. You'll run through a quick succession of junctions with Bianni, Nitro, Angel Buggy, one unsigned path, and Packhouse Trails, from 0.99 mile to 1.24 miles. Continue straight at each junction, on Bay View Trail.
     A solitary buckeye stands downslope on the left, just before a small bluff covered with poison oak and sagebrush. At 1.44 miles, a hiking only path heads down toward the shoreline, and a few steps later paths departs to the left and right. Either fork is an option, as both reconnect, but the signed junction is to the right. At 1.49 miles, bear left and continue on Bay View Trail.At the point, a bench with a view north
    Gradually you'll re-enter grassland, and as you approach the point, views open up to the northeast and northwest. At 1.72 miles, Bay View Trail turns east at an unmarked junction. You can stay to the right on Bay View, but the hiking only path is prettier; both trails terminate near the pier. Continue straight.
     A fence protects hikers from a steep drop off on the left. The narrow path descends through grass and eucalyptus, curves right at a bench, then drops to the paved road at 1.92 miles. The remains of an old wooden pier jut up from the water, providing perches for herons, egrets, and other shoreline birds. Interpretive displays about the history of the wharf area and fish you might catch (you don't need a license to fish from the pier) are installed just before the pier, to the left. Built in 1977, the pier (which is closed to dogs) features View west from the fishing piersome benches where you might rest and enjoy the views to the north, east, and west. This is a quiet place, especially on a weekday. When you're ready to resume hiking, begin walking back down the paved road. The shuttle stops at a roundabout, and the adjacent area has pit toilets, another information signboard, and some picnic tables. Continue on the paved road past the shuttle stop to the signed junction with Owl Alley (shown as Marsh Trail on some maps) at 2.05 miles. Turn left onto the wide dirt trail.
      Owl Alley, a somewhat plain trail with a charming name, sweeps levelly southeast, eventually drifting away from the boggy ground to the north. At 2.28 miles, Owl Alley crosses another path (go left if you wish to visit the dynamite blast and burning bunker); continue straight.
     There's a small fresh water pond just off the trail to the right before a signed junction at 2.52 miles.(To extend this hike, and visit the black powder press, turn left onto Marsh Trail.) Continue straight on Owl Alley. Marsh Trail
     The eucalyptus-lined dirt road reminds me of a backcountry stroll through Tuscany (although of course, cypress trees need to be mentally substituted for the eucalyptus). At 2.84 miles, an unattractive maintenance yard comes into view on the left, and then Owl Alley ends at a signed junction with Cook's Point Trail. Turn right onto Cook's Point Trail.
     Another of Point Pinole's wide dirt roads, multi-use Cook's Point Trail runs along the eastern border of the park, so expect some noise from local industry and train tracks to infiltrate the bucolic grassland. A wide meadow on the right side of the trail seems a sure bet for springtime flowers in this cow-free east bay park. At 3.01 miles a closed trail breaks off on the left. Continue straight on Cook's Point Trail.
 In summer blue chicory blooms in the dry grass along the trail. At 3.05 miles a signed trail veers off to the left -- this is an optional route that ends just before the railroad bridge. Continue straight on Cook's Point Trail. Cook's Point Trail
     After a few feet, at 3.07 miles, Cook's Point Trail sweeps left, and another trail, a spur to Point Pinole Road, shoots off to the right. Bear left to remain on Cook's Point Trail.
     In summer 2002 the right side of the trail was burned, so spring 2003 may feature a good wildflower display. Some scorched toyon and coyote brush remain. Cook's Point Trail crosses Point Pinole Road at 3.24 miles. Turn left onto Point Pinole Road.
     As you walk south, the lawn area unfolds, replete with a children's play area, volleyball net, horseshoe pit, picnic tables, and some massive eucalyptus. At 3.44 miles, you'll reach a previously encountered junction with Bay View Trail. Continue straight on Point Pinole Road, and retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Total distance: 3.64 miles
Last hiked: Monday, August 12, 2002