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Central Briones Survey Hike





by Transit & Trails


Wildlife Sightings

by iNaturalist


Length: 6.7 miles
Difficulty: Strenuous
Duration: Day Trip
Created by Ken Dyleski

Ken Dyleski helps Save Mount Diablo with mapping and on-the-ground stewardship work. He collaborated on producing the first edition of the Mt. Diablo map published by Save Mt. Diablo. His GPS enabled digital trail map of the Diablo Grand Loop was published on the National Geographic Topo site. He has a California State Certificate in Geographic Information Science from Diablo Valley College. Mr. Dyleski's previous articles on the outdoors have been published in Sierra magazine, Northern California Explorer, and the Tahoe Daily Tribune.

Good for:
  • Birding
  • Views
  • Wildflowers
  • Forests and Woodlands
  • Grasslands
  • Other Freshwater
  • Car (Drive up)


Briones Regional Park opened to the public in October 1967. Since Felipe Briones built the first house near Bear Creek in 1829, and the opening of the park, many people, deeds, titles and land boundary battles in the courts have profoundly changed what was largely pre-Gold Rush wilderness. This hike is a visually stunning roller coaster ride compressing many generations of relationships with the land into a few hours of walking with nature, enjoying our open space views and hopefully hikers considering what stewardship strategies we might adopt in the future.

Looking around the perimeter of the park it becomes clear the north and west sides are less developed and the look is closer to the earlier ranch and agriculture communities that thrived in the 1800’s. Hills on the south and east borders have the kind of low density housing  greatly consisting of  “ranchettes” and “view homes” that unfortunately visually and physically add to the already excessive urban sprawl in the East Bay. Let’s begin exploring from the Alhambra Creek Staging Area on the N.E. corner of Briones, in Martinez off Alhambra Valley road. The parking area is Waypoint #1, (WP1). Ten key GPS waypoints along this trail can be downloaded to Garmin hand held units or Apple or Android Smartphones via a free GPX Reader app. (See end of description for a link.

Pick up a free copy of the Regional Parks map from the parking area kiosk.  Start the Diablo View Trail at the back of the parking lot, it’s the wide fire road heading left not the small single track trail heading uphill through the grassland.  Follow the wide trail first climbing and then wandering pretty much on the contour lines through open oak woodland. As expected, there are views of Mt. Diablo to the left nicely framed by “windows” of oaks. It’s a great spot to appreciate where we are in time right now, as the view shed on the horizon from the now preserved Concord Naval Weapons Station to Black Diamond to Mt. Diablo and south is largely open space with housing kept to the lowest elevations. The Diablo View Tr. ends at the signed Spengler Trail (WP2) so continue left on the Spengler. Follow the Spengler into and out of a creek basin, do not turn left downhill at the bottom, go straight ahead uphill to a 4-Way  trail junction (WP3). Stay far right heading up hill. Shortly the trail levels at a fork (WP4) so stay left and descend into another creek basin.  At a trail sign with a number 51 in a circle (WP5), continue straight ahead still on the Spengler Trail. The right trail is a short service road leading to a storage tank, the left trail descends down the creek eventually reaching the Reliez Valley Staging area on largely unsigned trail. Continue now on an unrelenting climb, to a trail sign numbered 53 (WP6) marking the Tabletop Trail heading right, again uphill. Do not stay on the Spengler Tr. or you’ll lose lots of altitude and add over 2 miles to your journey to get to the hike's high point  at Briones Peak Summit. Table Top Tr. from marker 53 gives truly wonderful views across much of Contra Costa County, and takes you a short .37 mile to the junction of the Briones Crest Trail and a gate. Take the Briones Crest Tr. through the gate and follow it a short distance parallel with the fence on your right. Look for the summit marker (WP7) embedded in a concrete block next to a welcome rest bench at the obvious high point. It’s a spectacular location on a clear day.

Continue on our loop down the Briones Crest Trail to the Old Briones Road trail, turn right and then soon left on the signed Lagoon Trail. Visit the Sindicich Lagoons (WP8) visible just ahead now, enjoying the birds they attract before briefly back tracking on the Lagoon Trail, to the Old Briones Rd. and turn left. In less than half a mile, turn right onto the Spengler Trail (WP9) and enter the Alhambra Creek drainage canyon. At a hairpin left turn in the trail, find a little used road  going uphill to your right which takes you to the original Alhambra water source, a concrete reinforced tunnel (WP10). Reference Alhambra Creek in Wikipedia for a fascinating article on area history.

Walk briefly back to the hairpin turn staying downhill on the fire road a short distance where a trail sign announces the junction with the Alhambra Creek Trail leading downhill and the Spengler, heading uphill to the right. Stay on the fire road, now called the Alhambra Creek Trail.  Enjoy the walk alongside the wooded creekside, all downhill to the Alhambra Creek Staging area, in about one mile.

Download a special GPX file (right-click and choose "Save File As") with key waypoints and highlights from this trip. You can load these into a dedicated GPS unit (EasyGPS is great for that) or load into a free app like GPS Essentials (Android) or GPX Reader (iPhone).




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