Ron Horii's Bay Area Back Pages - Bay Area Biking
Coyote Hills Regional Park

Coyote Hills Reg. Pk, Main Marsh
Main Marsh at Coyote Hills Regional Park

The Coyote Hills look like a small group of mountain peaks that got lost on their way to join the Diablo Range. The hills seem to pop straight up out of the Bay, surrounded as they are by flat expanses of water and marshland.  Actually, they are remnants of an ancient mountain range. At one time, they were islands, but the channel to the east of the hills gradually filled in and became marshland. Coyote Hills Regional Park, which encompasses most of the Coyote Hills, is near Fremont and Newark, right at the edge of San Francisco Bay, just north of the Dumbarton Bridge. It consists of 1200 acres of rolling rocky hills, meadows, freshwater marshes, salt ponds, and Indian shell mounds and village sites. It got its name in the 1880's for the coyotes that howled when they heard the whistles from the trains that ran by here. You won't find many coyotes here anymore, but there's still a tremendous variety of birds and plants to be found among the hills, meadows, and wetlands. Alameda Creek runs along its northern boundary, flowing into San Francisco Bay. The Alameda Creek Regional Trail follows along the creek banks to the historic town of Niles. Trails lead south from Coyote Hills to the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which also has trails through the hills and along levees near the Bay. The combined network of trails makes for many miles of bike riding along mostly flat (if not always paved) paths, away from automobile traffic. If you like hill-climbing with a mountain bike, there's some challenging hill trails here too.

Coyote Hills Main Marsh  & visitor center Indian village site
Main Marsh and Visitor Center area near base of hills Ohlone Indian shell mound and village site

Coyote Hills Regional Park has a complex network of trails, some paved, some hard-packed dirt. Most of them are accessible to bicycles. You can park at the visitor center, which has a museum with exhibits on the human and natural history of the area. It has park information, including brochures on all the East Bay Regional Parks. The visitor center area also has restrooms, green lawns, and picnic areas. Across from it is the Main Marsh. Boardwalk trails lead over and through the marsh at the water's level. On the southeast side of the Main Marsh is a restored Ohlone village, built from reeds and constructed on an Indian shell mound. The village is fenced-off, but may be visited on guided tours. At the northeast edge of the Main Marsh, near Alameda Creek, is the DUST (Demonstration Urban Stormwater Treatment) Marsh. This 55-acre freshwater marsh is an experiment in seeing if marshlands can be used to help detoxify stormwater runoff.

Boardwalk over Main Marsh, Coyote HIll Reg. Park
Boardwalk over Main Marsh, Coyote Hills Regional Park

The Bayview Trail is a paved 3.5 mile loop. You can take it starting at the visitor's center. It runs parallel to the main park road, next to the Main Marsh, then turns south at the Quarry Staging Area. This area is a along a rugged section of the hills with red rock outcroppings.

South Marsh and red rock outcroppings South Marsh and Dairy Glen Camp
South Marsh and hills with rock outcroppings Dairy Glen Camp, South Marsh, and Meadowlark Trail going up the hill

The trail runs around the hill and starts a gradual ascent around the Dairy Glen group camp. It then drops down to the west end of South Marsh. At the fork, a paved trail continues south and up the hill as the Meadowlark Trail.

Bayview Trail, Coyote Hills Reg. Park Dumbarton Bridge and salt pond
Bayview Trail along salt ponds, Coyote Hills Regional Park View of salt ponds, levees, and Dumbarton Bridge from Bayview Trail

The Bayview Trail turns towards the west. As it nears the salt ponds, the Apay Way Trail branches off to the left and follows the base of the hills, crosses over Highway 84 on an overpass, then heads to the headquarters of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The No Name Trail is a dirt trail that heads due west along the salt pond levee. It eventually reaches San Francisco Bay. It turns north to meet up with the end of the Alameda Trail. It also joins up with the Shoreline Trail, which heads south along the Bay to Marshlands Road. The Bayview Trail continues to the right. It climbs up the banks of the hills at the edge of the salt ponds, offering great views of the Bay and shoreline. It gradually descends and winds in and out along the contours of the hills. It crosses several steep trails that lead up to the tops of the hills. At its northernmost point, a short connector trail joins up with the Alameda Creek Trail. The Bayview Trail then curves south and loops back towards the Visitor Center.

Apay Way Trail looking north Apay Way Trail looking south
Apay Way Trail from its highpoint, looking north towards Bayview Trail Apay Way Trail, near Bayview Trail looking south

If you take the gravel-covered Apay Way Trail south, it runs along the curving edge of steep hills and along the edge of a salt pond. The trail gradually ascends. At the highpoint of the trail, you can walk out onto a promontory and get a good view of the surrounding salt ponds, Hwy 84, the Dumbarton Bridge, and the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge across Hwy 84.

Rock quarry at Coyote Hills Salt pond at Coyote Hills, SFBNWR in background
Rock quarry near south end of Coyote Hills Regional Park Salt pond at south edge of Coyote Hills Park, Hwy 84 & SF Bay National Wildlife Refuge in background

The trail drops down and curves around Red Hill. Suddenly a most astonishing sight comes into a view. There's an enormous hole in the ground on the left side of the trail on the east side of the hills. This is a rock quarry pit, which is on private land outside of the park. The pit is so deep, you can't see its bottom from the trail. It seems to go way below sea level, as it looks much deeper than the surface of the bay, which is on the right side of the trail. The steep, bare, colorful rock walls of the quarry are in sharp contrast to the surrounding grass-covered hills.

Soon the concrete bridge built on top of the tollgate of the Dumbarton Bridge comes into view. Crossing over the bridge, you leave Coyote Hills Regional Park and enter the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Click here to go to my Bay Area Biking page on the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Here are some more links on Coyote Hills:

Click here to return to my Bay Area Biking Page
Click here to return to my Bay Area Back Pages Home Page

Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 11/27/98