I’ve been California dreamin’ for over ten years now and still haven’t even scratched the surface of all that it has to offer. Thankfully, my life as a dog pro has given me the daily opportunity to explore terrain from the Golden Coast and its beaches to the majestic Redwood Forests and everything in between. Recently, Charlie and I wanted to explore somewhere new. Google led us to Briones Regional Park.
Depending on the time of year (and rainfall), you may be greeted with lush, green, rolling hills surrounding you on all sides. When we went, it was absolutely stunning, and initially, it really transported me to another place – reminded me of New Zealand’s green and sheep-filled hillside pastures. But then my thoughts shifted toward staying present in that moment. That this beauty was here and now. Home in California!
No matter the season, adventuring through Briones Regional Park really allows you to connect with its innate beauty. Even after just a partial climb of the terrain, the 360 degree views of the Bay Area come into focus. Keep walking and you begin to learn about all of the creatures who dwell there. You can also find some shade under exalted, canopied pathways. The park, as a whole, is expansive. You feel like you’re on top of the world while also just a speck on the mountain range. Definitely worth checking it out!
Here are the deets:
Briones Regional Park
2537 Reliez Valley Road
Martinez, CA 94553
This place is HUGE! The address above lists Martinez, CA as the park’s home base. However, if you consult a map, there are several access points from the neighboring towns of Lafayette, Pleasant Hill, and Orinda. I took 24 East out of Oakland and exited on Pleasant Hill Road. There will be two options: north (heading left and away from the freeway) and south (taking you away from the freeway toward the right). Take the second exit northbound; it will loop you underneath the overpass leading toward the park. You’re now on Pleasant Hill Road. Drive along until you come to Reliez Valley Road. Make a left. You’ll now be on a windy road for a little bit…probably 2 miles max. The Blue Oak Trail will begin on your left hand side. Look for a large, maroon sign that appropriately reads: Briones Regional Park.
Wear supportive sneakers or hiking boots because these beautiful rolling hills seem more like mountains when you’re hiking them! The inclines are not steep, per se, but they’re gradual and lengthy, so you definitely feel it as you walk. Just take it easy and enjoy. It’s worth it!
From the precipice, you can see miles of gorgeous views of the East Bay. The pups will love it too! Wide-open spaces all along the way are perfect for romping around off-leash, in addition to the wooded areas for sniffing and exploring.
Quick note about dog access – some areas are on leash and some are off. Check the signage. But in my experience, the place is so big, you won’t have any problem finding an area for your dog to roam freely.
Just a few things to be aware of:
• Navigation – Apparently, there were maps at the bottom of the trail. Definitely missed that! Grab one if you can. Some of the trails weren’t marked or ended up being dead-end paths.
• Ticks – The year-round, moderate weather here in the Bay keeps its inhabitants very happy, including (and unfortunately) ticks. No true winter allows the tick population to thrive, and parks like Briones play home to these pesky creatures. The trimmed, rolling hills are fine, but getting into the thick of high grasses in other places can get tricky. Because my paranoia took a strong hold of me, I did a lot of research on Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks. Luckily for us (and our dogs), most cases originate in the Northeast region of the United States. But of course, you still don’t want these leech-y invaders on your dog or in your home. Be aware.
• Wildlife – There are cows ranging freely on this reserve. They definitely seem used to people and dogs roaming their territory, so I wasn’t concerned about any altercation, but if you have a puppy who doesn’t necessarily know how to navigate an interaction with unfamiliar animals/species, I’d be worried to see what could happen: cow vs dog. No biggie though. All you have to do is leash up until you’re past the herd.
• Poop – With cows comes lots and lots and LOTS of poop! Not on the trails, which is nice for us humans, but your frolicking dogs WILL find disgusting mounds to inevitably roll around in!
Other than that – thumbs up! Have fun!