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Walnut Creek Magazine

LACE EM’ UP

Feb 06, 2020 07:06AM ● By Caroline Cabral

In a county that boasts over 260 days of sunshine, hiking is a year-round activity. Yet only one season boasts cool temps, flower blooms, and green hills. “Spring is the best time to hike,” says Walnut Creek’s former mayor Bob Simmons. As mayor in 2012 and 2015, Simmons initiated “Walking with The Mayor” tours to encourage citizens to explore their local environment. A passionate world traveler and avid hiker, in 2019 Simmons logged 1,700 miles. “It restores you; it makes you feel better,” he says. “Walking is just something that’s fundamentally important to your health.”

In fact, when it comes to a simple action you can take every day to stay healthy, walking is all the rage. The American Heart Association reports that for every hour of brisk walking, life expectancy for some people may increase by two hours. Even just 30 minutes daily can increase cardiovascular fitness, strengthen bones, reduce excess body fat, and boost muscle power and endurance, according to Harvard Health.

“I don’t think you can go wrong with hiking as long as you do it safely,” says Simmons who started down the trail when he was in college. Luckily, there are 1200 miles of East Bay trails in every size, shape, and difficulty, so head on out. Here are a few of our favorites. And in the age of Covid-19, remember to practice social distancing. Happy trails!

SHELL RIDGE

You’ll forget you’re only a few miles from Ygnacio Valley Road and downtown Walnut Creek once you’re in the Shell Ridge open space surrounded by native grasses, valley oaks, and gently sloping Mt. Diablo foothills. Cows graze freely and hillcrests reveal creeks and ponds. The area gets its name from marine fossils left behind when the ocean waters that once covered the area receded. You’re guaranteed to break a sweat on a three-mile loop, and the views will leave you breathless.

Access Point: Marshall Drive dead-ends at the trailhead next to Indian Valley Elementary School. Follow the trail straight out as it gently dips and curves. At the top, turn left and follow it up the hill, for spectacular views of Benicia, then loop back to Marshall Drive.

LIME RIDGE

On the eastern edge of Walnut Creek lies Lime Ridge—an area rich in diverse plant and animal life with 25 miles of hiking trails. The north section is less steep with excellent views of Concord and the Carquinez Strait; the south region is far more extensive with a network of jeep trails, single tracks, and herd paths.

Access Point: At the end of Valley Vista Road, across from Boundary Oak Golf Course. Pick up a complimentary map at the trailhead and set off on one of the dozens of loop hikes. Glorious views of Mt. Diablo and its foothills make this a popular place to hike.

MT. DIABLO STATE PARK

Sprawling over 20,000 acres, with its peak towering 3,849 feet high, Mt. Diablo State Park is the jewel of the East Bay. Whether you’re in the mood for a walk, a hike, or a bike ride, this Bay Area ecological wonder is home to an extensive trail system, fascinating wildlife, and distinctive rock formations. 

Access Point: Due to Covid-19, the park is temporarily closed to vehicles, but you can enter on foot through the gate on Northgate Road from 8:00 am to sunset. Go to https://www.parks.ca.gov/ for trail maps and the latest information.

IRON HORSE TRAIL

This multi-use, whole-access trail runs between the cities of Concord and Pleasanton, connecting over 30 miles of the East Bay. It begins in Concord near Highway 4, runs south through Walnut Creek and crosses under I-680 at Rudgear Road near the Park & Ride. From there the trail passes through rural/residential areas in Alamo, Danville, and San Ramon extending to Dublin/Pleasanton BART and further on to Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area. For other places to explore, go to https://www.ebparks.org/ and remember, if you can’t stay six-feet apart, please wear a mask.