Coyote Hills Regional Park

stats box This hike was an adaptation of a hike written up in a book of 60 hikes within 60 miles of San Francisco, specifically in Coyote Hills Regional Park, which is located along the San Francisco Bay shore near Fremont, Union City, and Newark in Alameda County. The trails in Coyote Hills Regional Park connect with the Alameda Creek Regional Trail and Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge, facilitating much longer hikes if desired.

The hike in the book is a 5-mile loop, but I modified and expanded it to 7.2 miles. Beginning at the Visitor Center parking area, denoted by the orange dot, I walked out the northeast “extension” almost to the Alameda Creek Trail, went out to an Indian site, and then took the Lizard Rock Loop Trail and part of the Bayview Trail to the Nike Trail. I made a small loop by going north on Red Hill Trail, then south on Bayview to Nike Trail. Next I headed south on Red Hill Trail to the End of Trail sign, backtracked to Soaproot Trail, and followed Bayview to the Quarry Staging Area, where I took Muskrat Trail back to the start.

GPS track

GPS track

My modified loop added some additional elevation gain to the original write-up, but even so, I climbed only about 700 feet. My GPS was initially a little confused about my elevation, but eventually got itself restored before I got to the first hill about halfway through my hike.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

The day of my hike was a nice day with pleasant temperatures. All of the trails are exposed, so on a truly hot summer day would not be so pleasant. However, there is typically a breeze over the San Francisco Bay. There are many local users of the trails, and quite a few local residents prefer to park outside the Park boundary and walk in, which adds an extra 1.25 flat miles each way to the Visitor Center.

I set out roughly north on the Chochenyo Trail, which passes between two marsh areas. Due to the ongoing drought (and possibly the season) the marsh areas were completely dry. Almost immediately I got a feeling about what the terrain would be like in the park; I’ve walked past on the Alameda Creek Trail numerous times, but this was my first time in Coyote Hills. To my left were the hills known today as the Coyote Hills. They kind of rise up out of nowhere from the flatlands between the Bay and the East Bay Hills. To me this view is quintessential Coyote Hills.

photo of Coyote Hills

Coyote Hills

The Chochenyo Trail follows the edge of the marsh area and intersects with the D.U.S.T. Trail, which continues straight ahead until it intersects with the Alameda Creek Trail. I noticed a white hawk-like bird land on a small leafless tree. It turned out to be a white-tailed kite. In the background of the picture the edge of the Alameda Creek Trail is visible. There were a number of users on the trail, including one man on roller blades.

picture of white-tailed kite

White-tailed kite

The D.U.S.T. (Demonstration Urban Stormwater Treatment) Trail passes next to a slough to the D.U.S.T. Marsh. In this area, which was not dry, there were ducks, I think shovelers, Canada Geese, a snowy egret, a turkey buzzard, and coots. On other occasions I have seen other birds when walking on the nearby Alameda Creek Trail. After walking the 0.4-mile length of the D.U.S.T. trail and back, I continued on the Chochenyo Trail to a Tuibun Ohlone village site. The Tuibun lived in the area for about 2000 years, preceded by other Native Americans in the Bay Area for perhaps 10,000 more years. The village site is sometimes referred to as a shellmound and may be one of over 400 such locations in the Bay Area. It is accessible only with a docent guide.

image of Tuibun Ohlone village site

Tuibun Ohlone village site

After walking all the way around the site I retraced my way along the Chochenyo Trail until I reached the Lizard Rock Trail. Along the way there was a nice view of what I believe is Red Hill, with the Glider Hill Trail snaking its way up the lower hillside.

photo of Red Hill

Red Hill

Lizard Rock Trail is actually two trails that pass on either side of a smaller hill, unnamed, with some interesting rocks; I presume that the one at the summit is called Lizard Rock. I took the trail to the right, and after ¼ mile or so there was a T intersection with Bayview Trail. This trail makes a big loop around the park and is a paved multi-use trail with little elevation change. At Bayview I turned left (south) to go to the Nike Trail in order to climb up to Red Hill Trail. The trail is presumably named for a Project Nike missile base which is located on park land.

The Red Hill Trail runs along the spine of the main row of hills that comprise Coyote Hills. For now I turned north, traveling up and over the 150-foot hill just before the 4-mile mark on the elevation profile. When I again reached Bayview Trail I turned left (south) to enjoy the views of the salt evaporation ponds that are part of the Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. After about 0.5 mile I reached the west end of the Nike Trail and followed it back up to the Red Hill Trail, where I turned right to continue south along the hilltops. The trail climbs to the top of Red Hill, at 280 feet elevation the highest point of my hike and probably of Coyote Hills Regional Park. There are some interesting rocks, a picnic table, a geodetic marker, and 360-degree views from the top of Red Hill. You can see all of what I consider to be the “big 6” peaks in the south half of the Bay Area: Mt Diablo, Mission Peak, Mt Hamilton, Loma Prieta, Mt Umunhum, and Mt Tamalpais. Here is a nice view roughly northwest, with Red Hill Trail, San Francisco Bay, and the East Bay Hills near Oakland in view.

picture of San Francisco Bay from Red Hill

San Francisco Bay from Red Hill

It’s always a treat to see Mt Tamalpais from the south bay, with the city of San Francisco just in front. Mt Tam is 35+ miles away, so is not always clearly visible. The flat eastern portion of the San Mateo Bridge cuts across in the middle of the picture.

image of Mt Tamalpais from Red Hill

Mt Tamalpais from Red Hill

Turning to the east, Mission Peak and its neighbors, Mt Allison and Monument Peak, rise abruptly from the flatter land near the Bay. Mission Peak is about 12 miles away.

photo of Mission Peak from Red Hill

Mission Peak from Red Hill

South of Mission Peak is Mt Hamilton, 25 miles away. The recognizable Lick Observatory buildings are not so visible from here. And to the southeast, across the southern tip of the Bay, Loma Prieta and Mt Umunhum in the Santa Cruz Mountains were visible about 30 miles away.

Finally, I focused my attention closer to Red Hill, to the marsh area at the base of the hill. This view shows that the marsh area is completely dry. Some of the Visitor Center parking is visible near the trees. The water toward the upper left is probably D.U.S.T. Marsh.

picture of very dry marsh area in Coyote Hills Regional Park

Very dry marsh area in Coyote Hills Regional Park

After enjoying the views I continued southeast along Red Hill Trail, which went down and then up and over another hill before descending to the junction with Soaproot Trail. From this junction the Red Hill Trail continues for about 0.2 mile to yet another hilltop where the trail dead-ends at a picnic table with more pretty views. I returned to the Soaproot Trail and back down to the Bayview Trail. At this point my way-finding got a bit confused, as there are multiple trails and minimal signage in the immediate area near this junction. Eventually I made my way around the Dairy Glen group campsite and to the Quarry Staging Area, where there was a pretty view toward the area where former landowner George Patterson operated a stone quarry.

image of view across Quarry Staging Area

View across Quarry Staging Area

From the staging area I decided to take the Muskrat Trail instead of the flat Bayview Trail back to the Visitor Center. This trail climbs about 125 feet over a hill. As I was climbing the hill I noticed a scrub jay fly by and land in a nearby bush. Although scrub jays are fairly common, I was pleased to get a nice picture of this handsome bird.

photo of scrub jay

Scrub jay

At the top of the hill there were several interesting rock formations. This one seems to show layers, suggesting (to someone more knowledgeable than I) the type of geological process that may have been involved in its formation.

picture of rock formation along Muskrat Trail

Rock formation along Muskrat Trail

After passing over the shoulder of the hill the trail descends to the Visitor Center. The relatively steep descent is accomplished via steps.

This was an enjoyable hike in a park that has some interesting history and geology as well as impressive views of the area around the San Francisco Bay.

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4 Responses to Coyote Hills Regional Park

  1. readersguide says:

    Nice hike!
    It looks so dry–
    Last time I was there, as I walked down that second hill I saw hawks soaring around the hills, close to the trail, and lots of kestrels.

  2. trailhiker says:

    Yes, it’s been terribly dry. I’m hopeful, though, that we’re now getting enough rain to start to turn the hills their beautiful winter green.

  3. Pingback: San Francisco Bay Trail: Redwood Shores | trailhiker

  4. Pingback: Stanford Dish and Matadero Creek Trails | trailhiker

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