DIY Hike: Point Pinole

A dynamite place to hike and play

Jutting out into San Pablo Bay at the north end of Richmond, Point Pinole Regional Park comprises meadows, woods, shoreline and marshland. This 2,300-acre expanse offers 12 miles of trails for hiking, biking, bird watching, and dog walking. A 1,250-foot fishing pier at the tip of the point has stunning views.

The serene landscape belies the park’s explosive past. It was once home to four dynamite manufacturing companies that produced more than 2 billion pounds of explosives from 1880 to 1960. The largest, Giant Powder Co., moved to the point in 1892 after major explosions in San Francisco and Berkeley forced the firm to seek more remote territory. In 1915, Atlas Powder bought Giant Powder Co. and introduced safety features such as earthen embankments and rows of eucalyptus to reduce the effects of the explosions.

The factory closed in 1960 and the land was sold to Bethlehem Steel in 1964. Later, it was acquired as public land, and in 1973 Point Pinole was opened to the public. As you stroll, you will find many remnants of Point Pinole’s colorful past – discarded bricks, railroad ties, wooden pilings and half-buried rusty objects.

What you’ll find
Pick up a brochure at the information sign near the parking lot. This brochure includes a detailed trail map. The most direct route to the pier is the 1.5 mile Point Pinole Road, which is paved and suitable for walkers, parents pushing strollers, wheelchair users, skaters and bikers. You will find ample restrooms, fountains, picnic tables and a children’s playground. Views of San Pablo Bay surround you on three sides.

Depending on your interest, you may wish to veer off on a side trail, perhaps to the freshwater pond or to the Whittell salt march, overflowing with pickleweed. From the Marsh Trail, you can see the Carquinez Bridge as well as Napa and Vallejo. On your ramblings, you may spot hawks, herons, egrets, red-winged blackbirds, meadowlarks and western bluebirds.

The pier
Stretching almost a quarter of a mile into San Pablo Bay, the pier offers unsurpassed views, benches for relaxing and great fishing. People catch sturgeon, striped bass, flounder, perch and kingfish. Clean restrooms and shady benches in front of the pier make this area a perfect spot for a picnic lunch.

Getting back
For the best views, return to the parking lot via the Bay View Trail, which is part of the San Francisco Bay Trail system. Starting high in the bluffs, then dipping down to the shoreline, the trail offers views of Mount Tamalpais, China Camp State Park and Point Richmond. You will also find beach access at several points. To add to the excitement, the Hayward Fault runs through here.

Things to know
There is a $3 parking fee and a $2 dog fee when the entry kiosk is attended weekends and holidays. If you don’t want to walk, a shuttle van is available to take you from the entry kiosk to the pier daily except Tuesdays and Wednesdays ($1 round trip for ages 12-61, 50 cents for children ages 6-11, free for seniors, disabled persons and children under 6).

No fishing license is required to fish from the pier, but California Fish and Game regulations apply for the number and size of fish that may be taken. A California state fishing license is required for persons 16 or older to fish from the shoreline. Dogs must be on leash on trails and picnic areas. They may be off leash (under voice control) in open areas. They are not permitted at all on the pier or in the marshes or pond.

Getting there
By bus, the AC Transit 70 bus goes to the Point Pinole entry kiosk. You can catch it at the Richmond BART station.

By car from San Francisco, go over the Bay Bridge and merge onto Interstate 80 east. Take the Richmond Parkway exit, turning left on Richmond Parkway. Cross San Pablo Avenue and turn right at Atlas Road. Then turn left at Giant Road and right into Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park.

Photo: Gerry Brush via Flickr

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