Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks,
East Bay Regional Park District,

Alameda County
In brief:
6.1 mile loop up and down grassy hills at the edge of Fremont.

Distance, category, and difficulty
:
This 6.1 mile loop hike is moderate, with about 800 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 350 feet. The featured hike's highest spot is about 1160 feet. Some of the fire roads are steep.

Exposure
:
Mostly exposed, with a few pockets of shade.

Trail traffic
:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
:
3 hours.

Season
:
Spring is best.

Getting there
:
From Interstate 880 in Alameda County, exit Tennyson Road (exit 26). Drive east on Tennyson to the junction with Mission Boulevard. Turn right onto Mission Boulevard and drive south about 1 mile to Garin Avenue (look for brown parks sign). Turn left and follow Garin Avenue to the end of the road, about 1 mile. Once past the entry kiosk, bear left and park in the lot shown in the photo to the right.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://transitandtrails.org/trailheads/268

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3737'45.75"N
Longitude
122 1'43.89"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants available on Mission Boulevard. Garin has a reservable group campsite, but neither park has individual campsites.

Trailhead details:
There is abundant parking. $5 entrance fee collected when kiosk is staffed (mostly weekends). $2 dog fee. Maps are available from the entry kiosk or the Visitor Center. Restrooms at Visitor Center. Pay phone near Visitor Center. Water fountains at Visitor Center and near kite field. Two designated handicapped parking spots, and trails are wheelchair accessible. There are three other smaller entrances to the park(s), with very limited street parking; Calhoun (near Cal State Hayward), Zeile Creek (off Zeile Creek Drive), and Tamarack (at the end of Tamarack Drive). Visit the Transit Info website to plan a trip via mass transit.

Rules:
Most trails are multi-use. A few trails are open to hikers and equestrians only, and one trail is designated hiking only. Dogs are permitted. Park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Official Story:
EBRPD's Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer Parks page.
EBRPD headquarters 510-562-PARK

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from EBRPD
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Dry Creek hike.
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub, has good maps and descriptions of hikes in both parks (order this book from Amazon.com).

Garin/Dry Creek in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer Regional Parks are like two likable people in a happy relationship. Parking lotJoined together, both are enriched. These two lovely parks, seamlessly connected, make for numerous loop possibilities through the rolling grassy hills. Garin provides the infrastructure, with lots of parking spaces, picnic tables, and a visitor center. Dry Creek Pioneer is the wild half of the equation, no facilities to speak of, just a hunk of raw land with a great trail network. There are only two things I dislike about these parks, the presence of cows (making for muddy and uneven trails), and the popularity of the area near Jordan Pond as a teenage hangout on nice afternoons.
      It's amazing to witness the seasonal changes at Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer. Winter rains flush the hillsides with the green of vibrant new grass, and the numerous fruit trees call attention to themselves with a show of pastel blossoms. Visitor CenterBy late summer the hills are the blondest blonde imaginable, and folks arrive for the Garin Apple Festival, where the park staff offers tastes from fruit-bearing trees. This is a good place to educate children about the bay area's agricultural past. Kids are sure to love the old farm equipment on display near the parking lots, and parents can schedule monthly family visits to check on the progress of the fruit on the apple trees.
           From the parking area, look for a broad, palm-lined path heading south. Walk down the path to the Visitor Center, a red barn (open weekends in the summer). Here you can find a map and use the restrooms. When you're ready to start hiking, begin at the undersigned junction just past (south) of the barn. Take the second trail heading right. The flat path passes through pretty groomed picnic areas and by the kite field. A path heads right at 0.18 mile, heading to the west side of Jordan Pond. Turn right and cross over the spillway, then turn left. Jordan Pond
      Several benches in shady spots rim the pond. On a hot day the temperature feels much cooler near the water, where the breezes flutter leaves of cattails, willows, and other aquatic plants. Blue elderberry trees put out distinctive blue berries in autumn. After 0.36 mile, turn right at a signed junction onto High Ridge Loop Trail.
      This broad multi-use trail climbs just enough to give you a lovely view of Jordan Pond, and the hills north and east. High Ridge Loop Trail sweeps easily uphill through grassland, with some coast live oaks, buckeyes, fruit trees, and even some gooseberry shrubs down slope to the left. A gate at 0.53 mile marks the intersection of Ridge View Trail, from the northwest, and a hiking only trail from the southeast. The hiking trail parallels High Ridge Loop Trail for a while, then descends back to the valley floor to join Dry Creek Trail.High Ridge Loop Trail Continue on High Ridge Loop Trail, where on a visit on a hot September day, the grasshoppers were jumping all over the place and the air smelled like sage. In spring, you may see some California poppies and fiddlenecks. The trail begins descending slightly. Follow a spur trail that crests the hills, or stay on High Ridge Loop Trail around the hill; both trails meet on the other side. The next stretch of trail unfortunately features sounds and views of Mission Boulevard, and then the backyards of some houses abutting the park. High Ridge Loop T rail crosses Meyers Ranch Trail near the Tamarack entrance, at a signed junction at 1.67 miles. Bear right and then left to continue on High Ridge Loop Trail.
        Cows are prevalent in this section of the park. Some giant oaks stand sentinel on the summit of a hill on the left side of the trail. An old orchard is fenced on the right side, and the trees are a froth of flowers in late winter. On a late winter hike here, I spotted three wild turkeys at the edge of grassland, under the trees. At a signed junction near a small pond, at 2.17 miles, Tolman Peak Trail begins and continues to the east (the trail dead ends at the park boundary). High Ridge Loop Trail in autumnTurn left here and head uphill on a wide trail that runs along a creek bed. 
      Although this part of High Ridge Loop Trail climbs steadily, the trail is almost completely shaded by oak, buckeye, maple, sycamore, and California bay trees. You may see snowberry's blossoms in spring, and white berries in autumn. The wide trail gets muddy in winter. Pioneer Trail (open to hikers and equestrians only) heads out from the left side of the trail near a small pond at a signed intersection at 2.75 miles. (Option: to shorten your hike to about 4.6 miles, turn left on Pioneer. The path climbs through woods, then emerges into grassland and descends along a creek. You may notice a lot of kites and kite parts strung up in the branches of trees. I was confused by this, until I remembered the kite field down by the Visitor Center. Amazing how far those escaped kites make it! Pioneer Trail ends at an unsigned junction with Meyers Ranch Trail. Walk a few hundred feet to the left and at the signed junction with Dry Creek Trail, turn right. High Ridge Loop TrailCross a narrow bridge and meander along across Dry Creek on this peaceful and lush trail, where common snowberries and wild roses are prevalent in the understory. The trail turns to pavement and then ends at Jordan Pond. Stay to the right around the pond, past the beginning of High Ridge Loop Trail, and back to the parking area.) For the featured hike, continue straight on High Ridge Loop Trail.
     High Ridge Loop Trail continues to climb, although it soon leaves the woods, taking a sharp turn right and passing through sagebrush and poison oak on the steepest stretch of the trail. The grade eases up at 2.97 miles, at an undersigned junction with a trail not on the map. Bear left and remain on High Ridge Loop Trail. Ascending through grassland, a few oaks and great swaths of poison oak dot the hillside. On clear days, you likely have views west across the bay to the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as nice perspectives of the rest of Garin/Dry Creek, including Tolman Peak to the south. High Ridge Loop Trail pushes on uphill, cresting at a signed junction at 3.51 miles. Descending on High Ridge Loop TrailA semi-loop path to Gossip Rock begins on the right. A nicely placed bench provides the perfect spot for a rest break, although on a cool windy day you probably won't want to linger. Continue on High Ridge Loop Trail.
     The trail bisects the burrows of an active squirrel community. A pretty little pond nestles in the hills downslope to the right, and a bit further down the trail another pond sits downhill on the left. High Ridge Loop Trail nears the fenced park boundary, and begins an easy descent. Buttercups and suncups may be glimpsed along the trail in late winter, but the cows don't leave many flowers behind as they graze along the ridgetops. At 4.22 miles, Meyers Ranch Trail heads downhill to the left at a signed junction. Choosing Meyers Ranch will actually extend your hike a bit, but it's an option. Continue straight on High Ridge Loop Trail.
      As you descend, you'll have increasingly lovely views of Garin Peak and the surrounding area that makes up the northernmost section of the park. High Ridge Loop Trail passes through a cattle gate, then meets Newt Pond Trail at a signed junction at 5.32 miles. You can continue on High Ridge Loop Trail (which ends back by the Visitor Center), but on my last hike at Garin/Dry Creek, I decided to explore Newt Pond Trail. Bear right onto Newt Pond Trail.
     Cow paths make it tough to pick out narrow Newt Pond Trail, which despite its size, is open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists. The trail abruptly turns right, slipping through grassland. Switchbacks soften the descent. You may encounter cows on or around the trail, which passes under some oaks and then seems to split. A rough path heads to the creek on the left, and another continues straight. The whole area is scored with cow paths, so I don't suppose it matters much which way you go, so long as you pass through the creek at the obvious crossing. On the other side, turn left onto multi-use Old Homestead Trail, at a junction at 5.75 miles. Old Homestead Trail
     The flat wide trail soon meets up, at a signed junction at 5.83 miles, with Vista Peak Loop Trail, on its way to Garin Peak. Continue on Old Homestead Trail. You'll pass through a cattle gate and meet the road to the campground; bear left. The trail becomes a narrow paved road. Running along Dry Creek, Old Homestead Trail is particularly lovely in winter when numerous fruit trees bloom. The trail draws near to the Ranch Side picnic area, right across the maple and sycamore-lined creek. At 6.12 miles, Old Homestead Trail ends at a gate. Turn left, go around (or through) another gate, and you'll be back in the parking lot.

Total distance: 6.12 miles
Last hiked:  Friday, March 9, 2001