Easy loop on hills above Point Richmond.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.3 mile loop hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is
about 12 feet, and the hike's high point is about 312 feet. Total elevation
change is about 400 feet.
Almost completely exposed.
Less than 1 hour.
Can be muddy, but nice anytime.
From Interstate 580 in Contra Costa County, exit Canal/Garrard (exit 8).
Drive south on Canal (if you've exited from westbound 580, turn left at
the base of the exit ramp/from eastbound 580, turn right at the base of
the exit ramp) one block to West Cutting. Turn right and at the first
stop sign turn left onto South Garrard. Drive through the tunnel and then
about 0.3 mile more (now you'll be on Dornan Drive), to the first signed
park entrance on the right side of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google
Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phones, gas, restaurants, and stores about 0.6 mile northwest in Point
Richmond. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. Lots of parking. Wheelchair-accessible restrooms
throughout the park's developed western area. Maps at information signboard.
Drinking water available in the park's lagoon area. The park has handicapped-designated
parking spots, and the western, lagoon-area of the park is highly wheelchair-accessible.
There is no direct public transportation to the park, but AC Transit bus
#73 will drop you within walking distance: visit the Transit
Info website for details.
The trails on the eastern side of this park are designated hiking only.
Dogs are permitted. Park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The Official Story:
Park office: 510-235-1631
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region (or better yet,
West Contra Costa Communities) map to get there.
David Weintraub's East Bay Trails has a simple map and trail
this book from Amazon.com).
map from the Bay Trail website (another Bay
Trail webpage has more info on the park and some photos).
photos from the hike through the park's eastern area.
View photos from the
walk around the lagoon.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Regional Shoreline is a 260 acre grassy hillside and shoreline park, divided by Dornan Drive. Rarely in the bay
area will you find a park with two such split personalities. The west
section is dominated by a lagoon, and borders San Francisco Bay (although
fenced Santa Fe Railroad tracks keep you away from the shoreline). A 1-mile
paved walking trail levelly winds through a manicured park with attractive
shade trees, picnic tables, and a playground. Across the street, Miller/Knox
presents a completely different face to the visitor. Trails are unsigned,
and shortcuts are frequent; it's no wonder considering the inappropriately
graded "official" paths. Even though the trails are narrow,
they climb up hillsides as if they were fire roads (this is why switchbacks
are smart management tools; give hikers an easier grade up a hill and
they will take it, at least most of the time). With no switchbacks, hillsides
are eroded and scored throughout this area of the park. While the western half of
the eastern section (if you can follow my logic) looks out on San Francisco
Bay, Mount Tamalpais, Angel Island, and San Francisco, once east of the
ridgeline the views take a decidedly urban turn. Industrial Richmond,
with all its attendant noises and sights, sprawls right up to the park's
boundary. You can check out the trails in this part of Miller/Knox if
you are curious, but I recommend that you stick to the area west of the
With only a few miles of trails, Miller/Knox
won't hold the attention of most bay area hikers. It's convenient if you
live nearby (especially if you have dogs), but it's a small park. Some
folks use the paved trail around the lagoon as a lunchtime exercise loop.
If you enjoy easy shoreline strolls, check out spacious Point
Pinole Regional Shoreline, a few miles north. Families will
probably appreciate the attractive facilities, and use Miller/Knox for
picnics and romps around the lagoon. If you are a train buff, you could
combine a visit to Miller/Knox with a tour of the Golden
State Railroad Museum, right across Dornan Drive from the park. There's
also a small bit of shoreline access at Keller Beach, which is off Western
Drive, the first street to the right as you come out of the tunnel.
Somehow it seems appropriate that an industrial
buffer such as Miller/Knox boosts such charming wildflower displays. What
better contrast to drab industrial Richmond than a hillside of colorful
flowers? When I visited in mid-February, California poppies were blooming,
and milkmaids, buttercups, johnny-jump-ups, and bluedicks were just unfurling.
Spring is definitely the season to visit.
Start at the parking lot, cross the street,
and look for a trail behind a small roadside pullout, marked by a "park
curfew" sign (you should be to the south of the Richmond Ramblers
building). After a few feet, the slight path, open to hikers only, crosses
a marshy area on a wooden boardwalk. You might see dock, an edible plant common
in wet areas, along with coyote brush and willow. Once through the damp
marsh, the trail begins a brief climb through coast live oak, toyon, poison
oak, and coyote brush. Shortcuts make the navigating tough. There are
a few stairs, and then you'll reach an unsigned T junction at about 250
feet. Turn right.
The hiking only path climbs to an exposed
drop-off, revealing initial views of the lagoon area, the bay, and Point
Richmond. Then the trail descends through a grassy area, dotted in winter
with flowering broom and California poppies. Spur paths from the right
join the trail as it cuts across a hillside populated with toyon and pine.
At 0.3 mile, the trail forks at an undersigned junction (a signpost with
a walking stick figure caption doesn't help much). Bear right and
head uphill through toyon, blackberry, and monkeyflower to West Ridge
Point. At 0.4 mile, you'll reach a flat hilltop, and the end of this trail.
From here there are unobstructed views of San Francisco,Angel
Island, Mount Tamalpais, and San Francisco Bay. When you're ready to continue,
retrace your steps to the previous junction, and bear right.
The trail begins to climb slightly, through
grassland where you might see wild radish and California poppies in the
winter. Then the path shoots sharply up the hillside; several paths have
been worn through the grass, so just pick one and head uphill. The ascent
is steep, but short, and the trail eases up a bit, then reaches an unsigned
junction at 0.9 mile. A bench is a welcome sight for weary lungs. At about
300 feet, there are pleasant views in all directions (well, to the east
there are views of Richmond, and that's not so pleasant). When I visited
after the snowstorm in February 2001, it was fun to scan the surrounding
hills for snowfall. Vollmer Peak and Mount Tam were dusted, and the mountains
to the distant north (Napa and Solano Counties) were liberally coated
with white. I watched two kestrels perching on power lines and hovering
while they searched for prey (maybe they should give the squirrels near
the lagoon a buzz). From this junction, you can head east on Crest Trail (there's no sign, but that's what the map calls
the wide paved trail) to East Vista Point, or continue downhill to the
park's border and back uphill to the west, joining the featured hike at
the octopus junction described below. It's an easy loop that will add
on about 1 mile to your hike, but be warned, this section of Miller/Knox
blurs the distinction between blank industrial land and park. So for this
hike, walk north (left if you're standing facing Richmond) from
the junction behind the bench.
The hiking-only trail ambles across False
Gun Vista Point, then plummets downhill to the north. A few steps don't
help much, as they are steep and the earth around them eroded.
At about 1 mile, you'll reach a real octopus junction. The first path
to the right heads down to the industrial area, and then path to the left
of that (with the steps), climbs to Nicholl Knob. A rough path, the first
on your left, also descends, but choose the second clockwise path.
This charming trail, open to hikers only,
angles along the hillside, where you might see bluedicks and California
poppies in the winter. At 1.05 miles, there's another of the park's undersigned
junctions. (You can extend this hike by continuing straight on what the
map shows as Marine View Trail.) Turn left.
After just a few steps downhill, the trail
splits at an unmarked junction. Bear left. The land around here
is prone to landslides, so watch out for sudden drop-offs. The path squeezes
through some willow and coast live oak. A primitive board bridge guides
you across a washed-out area, then you pass through a moist hillside with
toyon and coyote brush lining the trail. Look for milkmaids, johnny-jump-ups,
and California buttercups in winter. At 1.25 miles, you'll reach a previously
encountered junction. Turn right and retrace your steps to the trailhead.
Total distance: 1.3 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, February 13, 2001