Best Parks to Explore Nature
Any resident will tell you that California has it all. The Golden State comprises a booming technology scene, world-famous wineries, family-friendly amusement parks, stunning ski resorts, nine national parks and a variety of landscapes. From its beaches to forests to deserts, California has it all.
Zoom in to the Tri-Valley area of Northern California, which includes Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, San Ramon and Danville. This region represents California’s limitless choices, especially when it comes to its nature scene. Be warned: if you move here, you will constantly hear opportunity knocking on your door. These welcomed knocks offer limitless potential for exploration and fun. If you choose to indulge in Northern California’s regional park scene, relish in the vast assortment of parks. Whether you prefer a stroll or a workout, lush greenery or dry woodlands, family fun or a solo adventure, remember: California has it all. Read on to discover some of the Tri-Valley’s best parks to explore nature.
Best Panoramic Views: Mount Diablo State Park
Located in Walnut Creek, Mount Diablo State Park boasts breathtaking panoramic views. Within the park, there is a myriad of places to visit, such as the Summit Visitor Center, an observation deck, trails, campsites and picnic areas. Though, the park’s primary attraction is unequivocally its summit and astonishing vista.
In terms of numbers, Mount Diablo stands 3,849 feet tall and offers 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see views for 200 miles that span 40 out of 58 California counties. From the west, you’ll spot the Golden Gate Bridge and Farallon Islands. Turn to the southeast, and you can take in the Lick Observatory. Southern views include Mount Loma Prieta of the Santa Cruz mountains, and due north, you’ll find Mountain Saint Helen and Lassen Peak of the Cascades — with one hike that provides 8,539 square miles of awe-inspiring views of California’s natural landmarks. No wonder many rank its summit as number one.
Beyond the spectacular views, this state park offers more than 80 hiking trails. Learn more about the park’s cultural and natural history at its visitor center. Enjoy lunch among the majestic natural formations of Rock City. Let the stillness of nature overcome you as you surround yourself with spring’s influx of butterflies, wildflowers and verdant forestry. Its stunning landscape provides tranquility and reprieve from the daily hustle of life and appeals to locals and visitors alike.
Best Workout: Mission Peak Regional Preserve
Situated east of Fremont in Alameda County, Mission Peak Regional Preserve is ideal for those who want a rush of endorphins. Its strenuous three-mile trek to the summit promises rewarding views of the Tri-Valley’s natural scenery. Once at the top, at 2,516 feet, you can find the iconic pole of this classic Bay Area hike, as well as views of Mount Tamalpais, the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Hamilton, Mount Diablo and the Sierra Nevadas.
If you choose to embark on this athletic adventure, you may begin at either of Mission Peak’s two entrances located at Ohlone College or Stanford Avenue. Be sure to bring at least two liters of water, sunscreen and sturdy footwear. The steep gradient to the top has little shade, which makes it ideal for the cooler months or a morning hike in the warmer seasons of spring and summer.
Surround yourself with a variety of captivating landscapes such as open grasslands and woodlands. Prepare for an inundation of wildlife, including cows, goats, hawks, vultures and horses. Beyond the hiking opportunities, this East Bay Regional Park provides space to bike, backpack, camp, ride horses, hang glide and paraglide.
Best Variety: Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park
Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park is the second-largest park in the East Bay Regional Park District. It was established in 1988 with only 1,700 acres and has since expanded to over 9,000 acres! Located in Pleasanton, this park overlooks the Pleasanton and Livermore Valleys. Because of its size, this park offers various activities and diverse landscapes, thus appealing to a wide range of nature enthusiasts.
Hikers, cyclists and equestrians can enjoy a spectrum of scenery, including canyon streams, olive groves, meadows, ponds, waterfalls, ridge top vistas and forests. The available hikes span all skill levels, making this park both athletically challenging as well as family-friendly.
Best for Families: Sycamore Valley Open Space Regional Park
Sycamore Valley Open Space Regional Preserve is located in Danville, south of Mount Diablo. This park comprises two prominent ridges and is characterized by its wondrous rolling hills and valleys.
Amidst the magnificent grasslands and scattered oak trees, this 700-acre park offers easy hikes that are perfect for families. Give your little ones the chance to see wildlife up close as Sycamore Valley is home to abundant wildlife. Depending on the season, you might see garter snakes, tree frogs and mice. See how many birds your children can spot among the woodpeckers, chickadees, bluebirds, hawks, owls, quails, turkeys, blackbirds and great blue herons.
In addition to its wildlife-viewing opportunities, this regional park is minutes from Sycamore Valley Park. This small family-friendly park has bocce courts, ball fields, barbecues, picnic areas and a playground.
Best Place to Retreat: Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Park
Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Park is located in San Ramon. It stretches across both Alameda and Contra Costa counties and Las Trampas and Bollinger faults. Due to its grand size and uneven terrain, visitors have described the park as both remote and rugged. This East Bay Regional Park offers privacy and a gentle reminder of a slower pace of life. The combination of crisp, clean air with its tranquil backdrop has soothing effects for its visitors. Escape the bustle of daily life, and retreat to this place of refuge.
It’s also home to Little Hills Picnic Ranch, a facility you can reserve for 50–1,400 people. It’s an ideal place to host a reunion or retreat with its covered picnic area, playfields, barbecues, picnic areas and pool.
If you’re looking for a place to rejuvenate and recharge, Las Trampas Regional Wildness Park promises to boost your mood and energy.
Best for Water Fun: Del Valle Regional Park
Are you looking to soak in more nature? In warmer months, instead of a trip to the pool, opt for fun in the sun at Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore. Like other East Bay Regional Parks, Del Valle offers hiking, biking and horseback riding. Its lake grants you the opportunity to take part in various water-related activities. After a hike, take a refreshing dip in its cool waters. You may also fish or rent boats.
Best Place to Explore Nature: All Tri-Valley Parks
This state is characterized by choice, so lean into the opportunity and follow every whim when you start your adventure living in California.