Briones Regional Park’s extensive network of hiking trails is capped by Briones Peak, which has expansive views of hills and mountains in the San Francisco Bay Area.
This is Hike 97 in my book 100 Classic Hikes: Northern California, fourth edition (Mountaineers Books, 2018). The all-color guide contains 24 hikes in the Bay Area and the Wine Country, in addition to numerous hikes in the Northern Sierra Nevada.
The Top 100 Day Hikes and Backpacking Trips in Northern California
The all-color fourth edition features the best trails in:
- Northern Sierra Nevada
- Lassen and Mount Shasta areas
- Trinity Alps and Marble Mountains
- Redwood Coast
- Wine Country and Bay Area
Includes trailhead directions and detailed maps and trail descriptions
Often available at Barnes & Noble, REI, and other quality bookstores and outdoor stores (call first!)
Briones Regional Park Hike: Key Data
Distance: 8.4-mile loop
Type: Day hike
Elevation gain: 1300 feet
High point: 1483 feet
Season: Year-round; wildflowers peak in April
Contact: East Bay Regional Park District
Maps: USGS Briones Valley, USGS Walnut Creek, Briones Regional Park trail map
Note: Highly recommended that you download the park map; there are many trail junctions and twists and turns of the paths here; there are usually maps at the trailhead
Briones Regional Park/Alhambra Creek Staging Area GPS coordinates: N 37 57.389 W 12 7.398
Notes: Dogs allowed, must be on-leash in some areas. Be sure to grab the map at the trailhead kiosk: there are many trails and trail junctions on this hike. Toilets near trailhead. Fee.
Directions to the Briones Regional Park Hike Trailhead: Alhambra Creek Staging Area
Getting there: From CA Highway 4, take the Alhambra Avenue exit (Exit 9) and go south on Alhambra Road. After 0.5 mile, turn right onto Alhambra Valley Road. Go 1.3 miles and then turn left onto Reliez Valley Road. Go 0.5 mile and then turn right for the final 0.8 mile to the Alhambra Creek Staging Area parking lot. From CA Highway 24, take the Pleasant Hill Boulevard exit (Exit 14) and go north on Pleasant Hill Boulevard. After 1.0 mile, turn left onto Reliez Valley Road. Continue 4.8 miles and turn left for the final 0.8 mile to the Alhambra Creek Staging Area parking lot.
Hiking to Briones Peak
Head to the far southern end of the parking area and take the Alhambra Creek Trail. Walk south past riparian habitat, buckeye, live oak, and blue oak to a trail junction at 0.9 mile, where you bear right onto the Spengler Trail. Climb away from the creek past coast live oak, poison oak, coyote brush, and California laurel to two ponds called Maricich Lagoons at 1.6 miles, where you turn left onto the Old Briones Road Trail. Climb gradually along gently rolling grassy hillsides that typify the Briones region to a trail junction at 2.0 miles, where you bear left on the Briones Crest Trail.
Briones Peak Views
Take the short spur trail on the left at 2.5 miles to a bench marking the top of 1,483-foot Briones Peak, the highest spot in Briones Regional Park. To the north you can see the San Joaquin and Sacramento Rivers converge into Suisun Bay; San Pablo Bay sprawls northwesterly, Mount Tamalpais looms westward beyond the Berkeley hills and San Francisco, and Mount Diablo juts to the east.
Hiking Table Top Trail and Spengler Trail
Bear left at the next trail junction, and then climb briefly and go right onto the Table Top Trail (left takes you on a shortcut over to the Spengler Trail). Walk past chaparral and scattered coast live oak to a trail junction at 3.3 miles, where you turn left back onto the Spengler Trail. This wide road plunges steeply at times through a canyon shaded by coast live oak, huge toyon, buckeye, California laurel, and the occasional bigleaf maple.
From Spengler Trail to Diablo View Trail
Go left at a trail fork at 3.7 miles and right at trail fork at 5.3 miles, and then continue to a trail junction at 5.7 miles, where you turn left. Go left at a trail junction at 6.3 miles. Continue left on the Spengler Trail at a three-way trail junction 25 yards farther. The trail stays shaded while dropping 0.4 mile to a fork, where you bear left for a brief climb. Go right onto the Diablo View Trail at 7.3 miles. Turn left at a trail junction 0.5 mile farther. After 100 yards the trail drops to the Alhambra Creek canyon and continues to end at 8.4 miles at the trailhead at the Alhambra Creek Staging Area.
Camp for Free in California National Forests
California’s national forests and BLM lands have thousands of miles of dirt roads with lots of spots for dispersed camping (boondocking). My book provides all the info you need to get started (but is not a guide to specific sites):
- Researching the best locations
- Finding the best camping spots
- Backcountry safety and ethics
- What to take