Wildcat Canyon Regional Park

Trail
N/A
N/A
Free
(4.00)1
(4.00)
(3.00)
N/A
Yes
Yes
No
Richmond
Contra Costa
More Info

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park is the northernmost park in a chain of parks and preserves that stretch from Richmond all the way down the backbone of the East Bay to Castro Valley. The mountain ridge provides a barrier that keeps much of the cool air and fog coming in from the Pacific in the SF Bay itself, helping to moderate the area's temperatures. The higher elevations combined with a very generous string of recreation areas mean that East Bay residents are not lacking for wonderful hiking experiences.

From this vantage point one can see Richmond, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and Mount Tam.
From this vantage point one can see Richmond, San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island, Alcatraz and Mount Tam.
Wildcat Canyon is somewhat overlooked compared to its more well known and visited siblings to the south. In some cases this is due to proximity to more populated areas or more amenities, particularly for visitors looking to do something other than hike. Wildcat Canyon is all about the hiking, or perhaps biking if you prefer. That means smaller crowds and a bit more solitude.

Near the park's main trailhead Wildcat Creek Trail is mostly paved. This provides an odd sensation of walking through rough terrain on a sometimes wide road with shoulders that seems like it should be going somewhere. It's not entirely clear what the purpose of the road was years ago. As the name implies this trail roughly parallels, but does not hug, the creek and so presents some of the smoothest, easy to navigate terrain in the park.

Coppertone hikes along the San Pablo Ridge Trail. Though we paid a price with a steep section for each peak, we were rewarded with ever greater views.
Coppertone hikes along the San Pablo Ridge Trail. Though we paid a price with a steep section for each peak, we were rewarded with ever greater views.
The Belgum Trail is named after Dr. Hendrik Belgum, founder of the Grande Vista Sanatorium that was situated within the park's current boundaries. From 1914 through the early 1960's a mansion here served as home for the area's mentally afflicted. All that remains today are a few stone walls and foundations for structures that were burned down by vandals in the 1970's. Look for an information display along the trail and for stone walls and foundations amongst the thick collection of trees that marks the area. The Palm trees are also a dead giveaway.

The path up Belgum Trail and along the San Pablo Ridge Trail contains some of the steepest trail segments you'll find in the Bay Area. It's surprising that soil erosion is not more of an issue than it is given the steeply inclined hard pack dirt paths that are found here. Though there are some gullies forming along the path, they are not yet any impediment to walking along the trail.

Though a price is paid for ascending to the peaks along the ridge one is amply rewarded by the views in all directions once at the top. Depending upon which peak one is on it may be possible to catch a glimpse of San Francisco, San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz, Angel Island, the Golden Gate Bridge, Richmond, Mount Tam, San Pablo Bay and Mount Diablo. In some cases, all of these at once!

When visiting Wildcat Canyon, bring plenty of water and sun screen. Much of the terrain is open grassland and so is fully exposed to the Sun. A sunburn is possible even if the weather is cool.

Photos
Many of the trails on the upper elevations are wide open grassland. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Only part way up and the views are already looking nice. The clump of trees below marks the general location of the Grande Vista Sanitarium that used to operate in the area. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Looking down into Wildcat Canyon. You can see SF Bay to the right, just over the ridge. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Some trail segments at Wildcat Canyon are among the steepest we've encountered in the Bay Area. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Richmond to the left and SF Bay is giving way to San Pablo Bay to the right. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Bay Views are not the only thing at Wildcat. Here's an inland view with San Pablo Reservoir and Mount Diablo in the distance. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Looking from Mezue Trail into Havey Canyon that opens into Wildcat Canyon. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Recommended Item
Recommended Item Moon 101 Great Hikes San Francisco Bay Area (Moon Outdoors)
Ann Marie Brown
List Price: $19.99 Your price: $13.38 Buy Now
Moon Travel Guides: Your Adventure Starts Here

Whether you're trekking through the wildflowers of the South Bay or the redwood forests of Marin, get a breath of fresh air with Moon 101 Great Hikes San Francisco Bay Area.

  • Flexible Hiking Options: Hikes range from short, flat routes suitable for families to day-long, steep treks for more ambitious hikers, with options to extend or shorten many routes
  • Explore the Trails: All hikes are marked with difficulty ratings, features (such as dog-friendly or wheelchair-accessible) and highlights like waterfalls, beaches, historic sites, wildlife, and wildflowers
  • Maps and Directions: Follow easy-to-use maps and point-by-point navigation for each trail, including driving directions to trailheads, GPS coordinates, and public transit options when available
  • Top Hikes: Strategic lists like " Waterfalls," "Short Backpacking Trips," "Peak Vistas," and more will help you choose the right hike for you in Napa, Sonoma, Marin, the East Bay, San Francisco, the Peninsula, and the South Bay
  • Trusted Advice: Ann Marie Brown shares the experience and knowledge she's gained from hiking, biking, and camping in and around the Bay Area more than 150 days a year
  • Tips and Tools: Find essentials like health and safety information, trail etiquette, background on the landscape and history of the trails, and volunteer opportunities so you can help keep the trails as beautiful as you found them
Whether you're a veteran or a first-time hiker, Moon's practical tips and comprehensive coverage will have you ready to lace up your boots and hit the trails.

Looking for hikes beyond the Bay? Try Moon Northern California Hiking or Moon California Hiking. Ready for an overnight adventure? Check out Moon Northern California Camping or Moon California Camping.