Near and Dear Escape: Fun, One-Day Jaunts in the East Bayby Bob Jolly

Aaaahhh, sunny days and a peaceful ride in Contra Costa County. Photo by Bob Jolly
Are you looking for an easy, one-day trip in the Bay Area? This one is especially adaptable for families with varying degrees of skill and experience. You will be able to visit regional parks, open spaces, and attractive, large city parks in Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Alamo, and San Ramon. The bike trails in this region are unique in the Bay Area because they are dedicated lanes which often follow pleasant and picturesque canals.

On a moderately warm weekday I put my bike on a train at the Rockridge BART station in Oakland. Since it was 9:30 a.m. and I was going against the commute, the BART car was uncrowded. Arriving at the Pleasant Hill BART station at 9:50 a.m., I easily found the Iron Horse Trail, which borders the parking lot. I turned right (south), following trail signs to Walnut Creek. After crossing Treat Boulevard, I continued half a mile to an intersection with the Contra Costa County Canal Trail.

Started in 1937, the 48-mile canal was the first undertaking of the Central Valley Project, which has since become one of the largest water storage and transport systems of the world. It stores and distributes 20 percent of California's developed water. The building of the statewide canal system, along with Shasta Dam and other projects, provided jobs for thousands of people during the Great Depression. Originally intended only for agricultural purposes, the Contra Costa County canals are now used almost entirely for municipal and industrial needs. As you bike along the trail, you will see that many private homes pump water from the waterways. If you follow various branches of this canal network, you can reach the town of Pacheco in the north, large parks of Walnut Creek (Heather Farms Park and Lime Ridge Open Space), Mount Diablo Park Trail, and even Briones Regional Park.

I chose on this day to head south on the Iron Horse Trail toward San Ramon (15 miles). After about two miles, I crossed downtown Walnut Creek on the recently completed pedestrian and bike bridge. After I got to Alamo (about 3 1/2 miles), I left the trail to check out the access to Las Trampas Regional Park (left on La Serena to the end, right on Holiday Drive, left on South Avenue).

The Iron Horse trail runs straight and flat down the San Ramon Valley and stops near Alcosta Boulevard. Looking across the barrier which closed the trail, I saw persons and equipment paving the three miles of trail as it goes toward Pleasanton. When this section is completed, there will be easy access to the Tassajara Creek Regional Park.

Maps of both the Iron Horse and Contra Costa Canal Regional Trail are available from the East Bay Regional Park District: 2950 Peralta Oaks Court, Oakland, CA 94605; 510-635-0135. They're also available for reference in the SFBC Member's Resource Library at SFBC Headquarters, 1095 Market Street.