Home > Amtrak Capitol Corridor, East Bay, Hike > Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline: A Trip Along the California Riding & Hiking Trail

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline: A Trip Along the California Riding & Hiking Trail

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Panorama -- by Joe Reifer
Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline Panorama — by Joe Reifer

This hike explores the eastern section of Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, accessible by a short walk from the Martinez Amtrak station past historic homes. After a steep climb up to the ridge, you will have a chance to enjoy excellent views of the Carquinez Strait area. Continuing on the California Hiking and Riding Trail, the hike travels through cattle grazing lands and back down to Martinez via a trail through a city park.

Places Visited: Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, California Riding & Hiking Trail/Bay Area Ridge Trail (portion)
Approximate Length: 6.5 miles
Hiking Time: 3-4 hours
Map: Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline
Terrain: Steep uphill climb at start of trailhead; otherwise mostly flat on dirt trails and sidewalks.
Transit schedule: Amtrak Capitol Corridor
Start and end point: Martinez Amtrak Station

Getting to the starting point:

  • From San Francisco, Amtrak runs a San Francisco-Emeryville bus that meets the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train at its stops in Emeryville. The bus can be caught from the Caltrain station, Pier 39, Market & 4th St., and the Ferry Building. Take the eastbound Capitol Corridor train to the Martinez station. Logistically, this a good option because it is timed with the train. If you’d rather not go downtown, another option is to take a Richmond BART train from San Francisco. Take BART all the way to the Richmond station, then walk over to the Amtrak waiting area. Take the eastbound Amtrak Capitol Corridor train one stop to Martinez.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay: In the South Bay (Mountain View and South) take the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train from San Jose (connects with San Jose Caltrain and VTA Light Rail) or Santa Clara/Great America (connects with VTA Light Rail) to Martinez. If you are near Caltrain on the Peninsula, take a northbound Caltrain to San Francisco. From there, catch the Amtrak connector bus and Amtrak Capitol Corridor train, following the San Francisco directions above. If you are closer to BART on the Peninsula, take northbound train to San Francisco, getting off at the Powell Street station. Exit BART at 4th and Market. Take the Amtrak connector bus and Amtrak Capitol Corridor train, following the San Francisco directions above.
  • From the East Bay, you can take the Amtrak Capitol Corridor from Fremont, Hayward, Oakland Coliseum (connects with BART), Jack London Square, Emeryville, West Berkeley, or Richmond (connects with BART).  Take a northbound train to the Martinez station. If you are near a station on the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART line, you have the option of taking BART to Pleasant Hill station and transferring to County Connection Route 316. This route makes a stop at Martinez Amtrak. However, the Amtrak train ride is part of the experience of this outing, so I recommend the train at least once!
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 42 (from the San Rafael Transit Center) to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. Take a Richmond BART train one stop to the Richmond station. Walk to tracks/waiting area for Amtrak. Take the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train north one station to Martinez. Another (more expensive) option is to take the Sausalito or Larkspur ferry into San Francisco. From the San Francisco Ferry Building, take the Amtrak connector bus and Amtrak Capitol Corridor train, following the San Francisco directions above.

Notes:

  • Capitol Corridor tickets can be purchased ahead of time online. At staffed stations (San Jose, Jack London Square, Emeryville, and Martinez) you must purchase a ticket before boarding the train. At unstaffed stations, you can buy a ticket from the machine at the station or purchase one onboard. Capitol Corridor offers several discounted rates, and 2-for-1 fare discount coupons can also be found in the EcoMetro Guide coupon book for the Silicon Valley and the East Bay.
  • Food and beverages may be purchased onboard the Capitol Corridor train, and your own food may be consumed on the train as well. Main Street, a couple of blocks from the Martinez train station (see the last step of the hike directions) has several restaurant options.
  • On your way to and from the Amtrak station to the trailhead, keep an eye out for the historic plaques on homes along the route. Many of the plaques have interesting notes about the early history of Martinez. Several other historic plaques can be found around town, including one in front of the train station. If you have time before catching the train back, walk on Alhambra away from the train station to the corner of Masonic Street to find the plaque “Martinez – Birthplace of the Martini.”
  • The trail that is featured in this hike is part of the California Riding & Hiking Trail, a route that is partially completed. It is also named the Hulet Hornbeck Trail, and is part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. You may see some or all of these three names on signs along the way; they are all the same trail for this hike.
  • The original plan for this hike was to include an optional stop at the John Muir National Historic Site, down the hill from the turnaround point. Sadly and ironically, it is not possible to easily or safely hike off of the trail and visit the historic home of the greatest advocates of walking. See the extended note at the end of the directions for more details. I will update this description should the situation change.

Directions:

  • After disembarking from the train, walk around or through to the front of the Amtrak station. Head diagonally across the parking lot to the right, crossing a bridge and through a small park, to the corner of Marina Vista and Alhambra Ave.
  • For here to the trailhead, you will be following the lamppost signs for the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Head slightly to the right on Marina Vista, crossing Alhambra Ave.
  • Turn left at the next block, Berrellessa St.
  • Turn right at the next block, Escobar St.
  • Walk two blocks on Escobar, and turn right on Talbart St.
  • In three blocks, you will be at a 3-way intersection. Take the middle of the three streets (a soft left) which is Carquinez Scenic Drive.
  • Follow the sidewalk on the left side of the road past homes and a cemetery.
  • Turn left into the parking area at the sign for the Carquinez Shoreline, Nejedly Staging Area.
  • Head out on the wide trail, ignoring an unmarked trail off to your right shortly past the parking lot.
  • Head through the gate off to the right that is signed for the Bay Area Ridge Trail/Hulet Hornbeck Trail.
  • Climb the trail, which is steep in sections, until you reach the T intersection at the top.
  • Turn right and very shortly look for the “scenic view” sign and a trail heading to the right.
  • Take the trail to the bench, where you can admire the views out to the Carquinez Strait.
  • Head back the way you came, turning left at the “scenic view” marker and passing the trail you came up.
  • Very shortly, you come to a signpost, with the Franklin Ridge Loop trail to the right. Your route is straight on the Hulet Hornbeck/California Riding and Hiking Trail.
    Continue on the Hulet Hornbeck Trail, passing two trails on your left that meet up and head down through Rankin Park (the second of the two trails travels past a small wind turbine; this will be your route on the return).
  • Continue straight on the Hulet Hornbeck Trail, passing a rusted barn/stable on your right (with a trail leading off behind it) and  a gravel access road to what appears to be a disused ranch facility on your left.
  • Continue straight, passing a trail intersection on your right (one trail loops back to the barn, and another heads down to the freeway below).
  • Continue straight, passing a series of trails heading down to your left into the neighborhood. Pass through the cattle gates, make sure to latch/secure each one when you get through.
  • Look for picnic tables off to your right, next to a horse corral. Ahead of you is a final cattle gate and the continuation of the trail heading down to the freeway. Don’t go through the cattle gate, but instead head over to the picnic benches. This is your turnaround point, and a good place (assuming cattle haven’t taken the spot themselves) to stop for a rest.
  • Continue back the way you came, staying on the main trail past the offshoot trails and the barn, until you come to the first of the two Rankin Park trails that you passed on the way up. Turn right, heading towards the wind turbine.
  • Shortly, at the trail split, turn left.
  • The trail zigzags, and shortly meets with the other Rankin Park trail, where you will turn right.
  • Head down the hill, which is steep in parts, eventually passing the cemetery on your left and a cross on the hill to your right.
  • When the trail ends, head down the street to the left, which is Foster.
  • At the end of the block, turn right at the Talbart/Carquinez Scenic Drive intersection.
  • In two blocks, turn left at Marina Vista.
  • Continue on Marina Vista until you get to the small park in front of the train station at Marina Vista and Alhambra.
  • If you have the time and want to get a bite to eat or visit the commercial district before taking the train, turn right at Alhambra, and walk two blocks to Main Street. Otherwise, cross diagonally to your left on the path through the park and over the bridge to the train station. Congratulations, you made it!

John Muir Historic Site: Not a Recommended Side Trip

This hike was originally planned with a stop at the John Muir Historic Site, with an optional side trip across the street to Mount Wanda.  From this route’s turnaround point, the Bay Area Ridge Trail continues steeply down the hill, heading towards and then paralleling Highway 4. At the T juncture at the bottom of the hill, a left turn puts you at the back entrance of the historic site. Going by descriptions I had read of this trail, this back entrance should be open to hikers, but was locked on my visit. After wandering a bit and consulting a map, it became clear that the only safe route to walk would be north through the neighborhood on Canyon Way, Rapp Ave, K Street, and then south on Alhambra. This unfortunate detour would add a mile each way to the trip.

Thinking we must be missing something, a phone call was made to the historic site. The employee said that the back entrance was closed due to “9/11 security reasons” and that we should go through the pedestrian tunnel under Highway 4, along the shoulder of Franklin Canyon and back through the underpass to the front entrance on Alhambra. However, this route is not safe for walking, as there are no pedestrian crossings at the busy freeway interchange. A car-free option for visiting the Muir house would be to plan a separate trip taking the County Connection Route 316 bus to the site, either from the Martinez Amtrak station or from Pleasant Hill BART.

I was disappointed to pass Muir’s house without being able to walk there right off the trail. Additionally, it did not seem worthwhile to hike the unpleasant route down the hill along noisy Highway 4, across a dangerous intersection, to the busy Mt. Wanda hiking area. If you would like to imagine walking in Muir’s footsteps, you’re probably much better off sticking with the route as described and enjoying the relative peacefulness of this section of the trail.

However, for those who are interested in hiking to the end of this section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail to Mt. Wanda, you can follow this route:

  • Continue on the Hulet Hornbeck/Bay Area Ridge Trail past this hike’s turnaround point, and through the cattle gate. Here the trail heads down to and along Highway 4.
  • Continue down the hill, which is steep in parts, to the T intersection at the bottom.
  • Turn right, heading through the tunnel under Highway 4 to Franklin Canyon Road.
  • Cars will be traveling at high speeds on this road and there is no crosswalk here, so look VERY carefully for traffic in both directions before crossing the street to the trail on the other side.
  • Turn left and follow the trail as it heads up and parallels Franklin Canyon Road.
  • At the parking area for Mount Wanda at the corner of Franklin Canyon and Alhambra, head up the wooden stairs to the trail.
  • Here you can follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail one mile up Mount Wanda. A nature trail also loops through here; nature guides may be available at the entry kiosk.
  • Head back the way you came (again making a very careful crossing at Franklin Canyon) and continue with the hike directions above.
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  1. Georgia
    October 24, 2009 at 7:45 am

    Unfortunate that you could not visit the Muir site on foot. Am perplexed about the “9/11 security reasons” reasoning for closing an access point to a historic site.

  2. Adam
    October 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    This sounds like a great route! I must embark upon it sometime.

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