Briones is a hidden wilderness surrounded by the towns of central Contra Costa County, with its rolling, grassy hills and secluded, shady canyons. Despite its proximity to Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Concord, and Martinez, the park contains peaks from which you can see nothing but park and watershed lands for miles in every direction.
From Briones Peak, the park's highest point, you can see Mount Diablo and the Diablo Valley to the east, the Sacramento River and Delta to the north, the East Bay hills and Mt. Tamalpais to the west, and Las Trampas Regional Wilderness to the south.
The area that is now Briones Park and the Russell Reservation was part of the 1842 Mexican land grant of Rancho Boca de la Canada del Pinole to Felipe Briones' widow. The Briones established a cattle ranch in the area, which is still in operation today. The Briones family sold the ranch in 1870.
Happy Valley Road, which runs along the edge of Briones Regional Park, was the main thoroughfare from Martinez south to the Pueblo of San José, and then up to San Francisco, by 1850.
The Peoples' Water Company, forerunner of the East Bay Municipal Utility District, purchased the land for watershed protection in 1909.
The Russell Reservation, a 283-acre (1.15 km2) parcel of land in the Briones Hills, has been used as a research center by the University of California since 1966.
The East Bay Regional Park District established Briones Regional Park in October 1967.
Briones' 6,255 acres are home to a diverse range of animals and birds that forage on the grasslands or seek refuge among the oaks and bays. You might see black-tailed deer, coyotes, squirrels, red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, and, if you're lucky, other more solitary animals. In season, there are stunning wildflower displays. Naturalists from the Park District frequently lead walks through the park to showcase the park's natural and historic features.
Briones is an excellent park for hiking, running, and horseback riding along the park's scenic trails, as well as picnicking, birdwatching, and other similar activities, and informal recreation such as kite flying, photography, and nature study. The two most developed access points are the Alhambra Creek Valley Staging Area off Reliez Valley Road near Martinez and the Bear Creek Road Staging Area near Orinda and Lafayette.
Briones Archers archery range is located off the Crescent Ridge Trail, near the west-side Bear Creek Road entrance to Briones.
Briones Regional Park has a number of first-come, first-served picnic areas with tables and grills at the Bear Creek and Alhambra Creek staging areas. At the Bear Creek Staging Area, the park also has two larger, reservable group picnic areas: Oak Grove, which can hold 50 people, and Newt Hollow, which can hold 150. Crow, a new 50-person reservable picnic site at Alhambra Creek Staging Area, is fully accessible.
Briones Regional Park is nestled in the East Bay Hills, with its rolling hills and narrow creeks. The park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including squirrels and deer, as well as turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks, and California newts. Hikers should also be on the lookout for rattlesnakes and the occasional mountain lion. The park contains six species of native oak trees, ranging from Valley Oaks to the more rare Blue Oaks. Briones serves as a transitional habitat for species from both the California coastal habitats and the interior habitats of the Central Valley and Sierra foothills.
The California Newt is one of the most unusual species found in Briones Regional Park (Taricha torosa). With a brown dorsal and a bright orange belly, they resemble another amphibian found in the park, the rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). Their coloring isn't just for show. Poisonous California newts exist. They contain the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, or TTX, which is also found in pufferfish. The toxin acts as a deterrent to predators, but scientists recently discovered that one predator, the garter snake, has discovered an advantage. Stanford evolutionary biologist Charles T. Hanifin and colleagues studied 20,000 garter snakes and 500 newts in Pacific Coast habitats. They discovered that garter snakes had developed a resistance to the newts' poison in four different areas. Briones Reservoir, which is adjacent to Briones Regional Park, is one of the areas. The term "co-evolution" refers to this toxic arms race between species.
Pleasant Hill, California is blessed with some of the area’s most interesting attractions that you shouldn’t miss. Here’s a list of some of our favorites:
Dinosaur Hill Park
Lindsay Wildlife Experience
Briones Regional Park
Pleasant Oaks Park
Six Flags Hurricane Harbor
Heather Farm Dog Park
Lime Ridge Open Space
All of these wonderful attractions are located just a short distance from our location at 609 Gregory Lane, Suite #220 in Pleasant Hill! Stop by for a visit anytime!