APRIL 21, 2021 – Crockett Hills Regional Park rises into the hills southwest of the confluence of the Napa River and Carquinez Strait at San Pablo Bay. The park features stands of bay laurel and oak amid rolling grasslands with views of Mount Tamalpais, the Phillips 66 San Francisco refinery and the twin bridges that carry Interstate 80 across the strait at Crockett. Watch out for scary tall poison oak. Find the trail map here.
We are hiking the 390-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sign up to follow our progress here.
There is a peculiar uncertainty to planning a hike in a place that you have never walked before. This would be our first full-day hike of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the first hike we have ever done in the rolling hills of the East Bay. The hike appears to be an easily do-able 5.8 miles and 1,250 feet of elevation gain until you remember that you also have to hike back. Even so, we have hiked up Montara mountain from our doorstep and this would be a similar elevation gain and distance. I was confident that we were prepared.
I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the East Bay vistas. It is still early enough in the year for the grasses and wildflowers to be interesting rather than the monochrome brown that the hills become by early summer. The refinery views at the beginning of the trail give way to endless grassy hills studded with refreshing stands of oak trees. I found it enchanting…
… until we got to the last quarter-mile of the trail. We could see to the end of the fire road we were walking — a locked gate at the bottom of a steep hill. This would be a difficult slog back up, with 20-40% grades and no redeeming vistas. Could we count this thing complete if we could see the end point, or did we actually have to tap the gate? Sigh, if we stopped now, we would have to change our goal to Nearly Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail. There was nothing for it but to slog on.
So we went down the hill. We saw a barn. We saw Highway 4. We saw cows traveling an easier trail. We tapped the gate. The cows mocked us as we trudged back up. If you are not obsessively walking the whole Ridge Trail, feel free to skip the last 3/4 mile of this hike. You’re not missing much except a barn and some smug cows.
I’ve driven past the grassy hills above Crockett on Interstate 80 many times. They’re intriguing: golden brown in summer, emerald green in winter, cattle grazing gingerly on silly steep pastures. But they don’t scream “Hike me!”
As we researched our hike at Crockett Hills Regional Park last week, I envisioned meandering up hill and down dale beneath power lines for 11 shadeless miles to reach views of an oil refinery, the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge and the next valley. And that’s exactly what happened. Yet, somehow the amalgamate of nature and suburban industrial works.
The park’s meandering, circuitous trails were a challenge. I’m convinced we saw the same three cyclists half a dozen times. We stayed mostly on track using the AllTrails app and the Ridge Trail medallions on park signage, but neither were infallible. Next hike we’re going to add a hard copy of the Ridge Trail route and perhaps a sextant to our navigation kit.
The route ends at an unfortunate gap in the Ridge Trail at the John Muir Parkway. The final 1,600 feet of trail loses nearly 400 feet of elevation. If only we could have pressed ahead. It was no fun retracing our steps up that beastly little hill.
Miles we hiked0
(with returns and connectors)
Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 11.2 out of 390 miles (sigh, not much yet)2.9%