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Benicia State Recreation Area

This 720-acre park lies along the narrowest stretch of Carquinez Strait, and nearly 70 percent of the park is tidal marsh wetlands. Several miles of Bay Trail, some of it on a ridgetop, overlook grassy hills and marshes. In 3.5-acre Forrest Deaner Native Plant Botanic Garden, set on a hillside, you can meander on hard-packed dirt paths around...
This 720-acre park lies along the narrowest stretch of Carquinez Strait, and nearly 70 percent of the park is tidal marsh wetlands. Several miles of Bay Trail, some of it on a ridgetop, overlook grassy hills and marshes. In 3.5-acre Forrest Deaner Native Plant Botanic Garden, set on a hillside, you can meander on hard-packed dirt paths around displays of native trees, perennials, shrubs, and grasses.

At the eastern end of the park, a level, paved .75-mile section of the Bay Trail travels alongside Military West Road past marshes with stands of willows and cattails. From the park’s entrance you can hike or drive 1.5 miles down the road, which skirts a salt marsh in a sheltered cove of Southampton Bay, passing wooded picnic sites on the way to the road’s end at Dillon Point. For more of an off-road experience and great views of Southampton Cove, Benicia Bridge, and Mount Diablo, you can follow a two-mile, gravel and decomposed-granite section of Bay Trail.

Trail/Pathway Details

Bay Trail

Trailhead: About a mile from the park’s entrance, take the right-hand fork in the road uphill to the first parking lot.

Length: 2-4 total miles

Typical Width: 30 in. to 4 ft.

Overgrown grasses narrow the trail to less than 30” at its start.

Typical Grade: Mostly level or gentle

Terrain: Moderately Firm

The trail is badly eroded in places and can be quite bumpy.

Description

This 2.2-mile section of the Bay Trail was designed to be accessible, but erosion and overgrown grasses, which have narrowed the trail to less than 28 inches in places, now make it a challenging hike, especially for manual wheelchair riders. In spite of its challenges I found the views worth the effort, but suggest visiting with someone who can provide assistance. You can make this a loop hike or a longer out-and-back trek––I chose the shorter, more challenging loop.

At the first intersection (just a few hundred feet from the trailhead), stay left along the ridge; the trail to the right climbs steeply over rough terrain (I returned on this trail). In early June the hillsides were covered with dried grasses that made a lovely rattling sound in the gentle breeze. There is no shade and summers can be hot, so bring a hat. The trail climbs gently uphill before leveling off; after about .3 miles it turns inland. You can see the C&H sugar factory across Carquinez Strait and the Carquinez Bridge to the west. Immediately after turning inland you come to another intersection; the steep dirt path to the right travels uphill to a spot with a 360-degree view. On a previous trip I followed this path in my power wheelchair, but those with manual wheelchairs may find it challenging.

I continued along the main trail for less than a quarter-mile to the next intersection, where I veered right and looped back to the start. This stretch travels downhill and has rough terrain and a steep cross slope that I found unsafe—I had to rely on my companion to keep my chair from slipping. If you don’t take this loop and instead continue northwest for .75 miles along the peninsula, you will reach Glen Cove Waterfront Park (I did not check the accessibility of this stretch). We encountered few people on our visit, and were delighted by the views and abundant birdsong.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Immediately past the entry station is an area where you can parallel park off the sides of the road; spaces are unmarked and the surface is gravel. The upper and lower lots at the trailhead (1.5 miles from the entrance) and the lots clustered near Dillon Point have accessible spaces. Outside the park, there are accessible spaces in the lot off Military West Rd. and street parking is at the trail entrance on South Regatta Dr.

Accessible Restroom: Limited Accessibility

Partially accessible restrooms are in the parking lot that serves the trail and the one at the park road’s end, at Dillon Point. At both, the stall is too small to close the door, there's only room for a front transfer, and only the sides have grab bars. An accessible portable toilet is in the lot off Military West Road.
There are several small picnic areas throughout the park. The most accessible is by the trailhead restroom; others require travel across rough terrain to reach them.

Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, June 7, 2014

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East end of park
East end of park (Sonsheree Giles)

Features icon key

  • bicycling
  • hiking
  • particularly good for families
  • picnic
  • wildlife viewing

Additional Information

View Map  
Website: www.parks.ca.gov/
Managing Agency: CA State Parks
Address: 1 State Park Rd.
Nearest City: Benicia
Phone: (707) 648-1911
Hours: 8 am to sunset
Fees: Entrance
Dogs: In restricted areas
Not allowed on marsh trails
Public Transportation: SolTrans
Useful Links: Benicia State Parks Association

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