Briones is a fantastic location all year round, but the park really shines in the spring. Wildflowers, a lot of them, grow here on the high slopes of the grassy hills. Against the lush green grass, excellent patches of California buttercups, filaree, California poppies, lupines, fiddlenecks, and cream cups stand out. As in many hilly parks, while cows graze here (making the trails wet, muddy, and rutted in the winter, and dry, dusty, and rutted in the summer), flowers blooming close to the crests are mostly unpunched.
Briones has a lot to offer even though the wildflowers aren't in complete splendor. Five staging areas have adequate parking, including the Lafayette Ridge Staging Area, and several trailheads have green hills rising from trail picnic facilities and reserved youth campsites. There are a plethora of loop options with an approximately circular shape and over 5,000 acres. Most of them involve a climb up to Briones Crest, which is near the park's center. At Briones, the highest elevation is below 1500 feet, so there are no strenuous climbs, although some paths wander a little up and down. Almost all the trails here are open to riders, equestrians and hikers, so expect the trails to be shared.
Walk through the gate on the paved road on the side of the parking lot for the featured hike. As a flat paved route, Old Briones Road starts out, angling through coyote brush and small coast live oak and elderberry trees. You're likely to see cattle right away, and more all over the valley. At 0.13 mile, at a marked intersection, Homestead Valley Trail splits off from Old Briones Route. (The Homestead Valley Trail is often closed due to storm damage, but it makes a fine choice for the climb up to the lagoon area of Briones when the trail is open; just take Homestead Valley to Briones Crest Trail and resume the hike at the junction of Briones Crest and Old Briones Road.) Continue straight on Old Briones Road.
The large multi-use dirt path crosses a cattle gate and enters the grassland. Your first flower course can be displayed off the left side of the trail in spring: poppies scattered gently across the upper slopes of the green hills. Briefly, under some California bay, coastal life, valley, and black oaks, Old Briones Road seeks shelter. In spring, California buttercups brighten the understory. Once the fire road emerges back into the grassland, Black Oak Trail sets off at 0.64 mile from a marked junction. Keep driving on Old Briones Road straight ahead.
Old Briones Road crosses a creek near a corral after another flat stretch through a pastoral setting, then meets Valley Trail at a 1.0-mile junction. (Another option is the Valley Trail to extend your walk a little. At a flat grade, the hiking, biking, and equestrian trail continues, then climbs to a junction with the Briones Crest Trail. Take a left on the Briones Crest Trail, past the high spot of the park, Briones Peak, and then follow the featured hike at the junction of the Briones Crest Trail and Old Briones Road.)
Your hike uphill will definitely be enlivened by a range of flowers in spring. Whole hillsides with blasts of yellow are dominated by California buttercups. On the sides of the trail, delicate white forest stars, bluedicks, various lupines, and yellow fiddlenecks may all be on view. Buckeye, California bay, and elderberry trees flourish in the hills' damp creases, with poison oak a regular companion. You will find hilltops at the crest flushed with orange from blooming California poppies if you happen to visit the park at "poppy peak." On the right side of the road, purple lupines accompany California sagebrush in the dry rocky patches. With each step, the views back down and across the valley seem to get more lovely. At 1.64 miles, Old Briones Road hits the crest and a marked junction after a slight climb. But look for a small path to the left before you cross the fence and enter the intersection, leading uphill along the fence to a bench. Make a left turn and head towards the table.
Walker on the trail After a brief, slight climb, you can reach a beautiful viewpoint on the bench. Truly spectacular shows of California poppy, creamcups, clover, and lupine sprawling down the hill are planned in April. Even if it's not spring, the bench is a comfortable place to relax, with tremendous views of the park's western portion. It's also a perfect spot for bird watching. In boxes attached to the fence, bluebirds nest, so they are usually spotted, as are kestrels, hawks, kites, and plenty of smaller birds. The Maricich Lagoons can be glimpsed just above the other side of the east fence. Walk back to Old Briones Road when you are ready to proceed, pass through the doorway, then turn left. At 1.74 miles, the trails break at a signed junction after only a few moves. On the Briones Crest Trail, the bear left.
The large multiple-use trail winds across grassland along the crest. On a clear day, a view back over your shoulder could include Mount Diablo. Few live coast oaks line the trail in parts on the right side, but the left remains soft rolling grassy hills. In spring, buttercups seem to prefer the field. On the left edge of the Briones Crest Trail, one of the Sindicich lagoons comes into view. The John Muir Nature Area has been identified as this part of Briones, and precautions are taken to prevent cows (and humans presumably) from damaging the natural features of the park. At a marked intersection across from the lagoon at 2.02 miles, the Lagoon Trail departs from the left side of the trail. (To extend this hike a little over 2 miles, Lagoon is another good choice. Take Lagoon to Briones Crest, turn left, and then turn right when you get to Mott Peak Trail.) Proceed straight on the Briones Crest Trail.
As the trail climbs slightly in a nearly straight segment, the second Sindicich lagoon is visible to the right. At 2.32 miles, on the left side of the trail, the signed View Westjunction Mott Peak Trail begins. All trails begin to descend from here and leave the crest area. On Mott Peak Trail, turn left.
Another large multi-use fire path, Mott Peak Trail, climbs for a few yards, then crests, passes through a fence, and begins a descent. On one spring hike off the left side of the trail. On an April hike, yellow fiddlenecks were the predominant wildflower along the trail, but you could also see more poppies, filarees, and lupines. At 2.74 miles, at a marked intersection, Mott Peak Trail meets Black Oak Trail. (Mott Peak continues downhill until it ends, which is an optional route, at Abrigo Trail. Turn left on Abrigo and then turn left at the parking lot and walk back to the trailhead along the road.) Onto Black Oak Trail, bear left.
The road, accessible to cyclists and horse riders as well as hikers, dips, rises again, then rises along a ridge. Vistas to the east include Mount Diablo and Briones Crest from a bench on the left side of the road. More rolling hills to the north extend to Suisun Bay. The drop back into the valley by the Black Oak Trail is also visible. Another bench sits off the trail, near an oak-studded hillside as the trail descends. Then the Black Oak Trail twists steeply and shoots downhill. There may be several flowers in bloom in the spring. The trail sweeps right, crosses the valley, then finishes at 3.74 miles at the previously encountered junction with Old Briones Road. Turn right to the trailhead and retrace your steps.
Pleasant Hill, California has some of the most picturesque hiking trails in the region. Here’s our top list This amazing attraction is located near the following must-see sights in Walnut Creek, California:
Contra Costa Canal Trail
Paso Nogal Park
Las Juntas Open Space
Hidden Lakes Park
Briones Regional Park
Mount Wanda Trailhead
Pleasant Hill Park
All of these wonderful hiking trails are located just a short distance from our location at 1261 Locust Street in Walnut Creek, California!