Spring is in the air and it’s a great time to head outdoors and enjoy a picnic in beautiful settings. Whether it’s for family bonding, rekindling a relationship or even a large company event, a picnic is one of the best ways to unwind from the daily stresses of living in the Bay Area. Within the country’s largest regional urban park district in the East Bay, there are plenty of scenic and spacious picnics areas to choose from. The following recommendations are some of the best picnic spots in the East Bay.
2537 Reliez Valley Road
Martinez, CA 94553
This sprawling 6,117-acre park northwest of Walnut Creek offers both free access and reserved picnic areas equipped with tables and barbecue stands. First-come, first-served picnic areas can be found at both the Alhambra Creek and Bear Creek Staging Areas, located near two of the five major park access points. Alhambra Creek also offers reservable picnic spots, along with Newt Hollow, Crow and Oak Grove. The latter two can accommodate up to 50 people, while Newt Hollow is large enough for a party of up to 150 people. Although dogs are allowed off leash at Briones Regional Park, they’re required to remain on leash at picnic areas and some trails bearing on-leash signage.
7000 Del Valle Road
Livermore, CA 94550
Located 10 miles south of Livermore, Del Valle Regional Park’s top attraction is the five-mile-long lake popular for fishing and surrounded by 4,300 acres of oak-covered hills. The park offers a number of picnic areas with barbecue pits and tables, in addition to two swimming beaches, boat rentals, fishing and campsites. Many of the park’s picnic areas are reservable for large groups and may be reserved by the Wednesday prior to the weekend. Weekday reservations must be made at least 72 hours in advance. Group campsites for 11 or more people and individual campsites are equipped with picnic tables and barbecue units.
Lake Chabot Regional Park
17600 Lake Chabot Road
Castro Valley, CA 94546
One of the most popular recreational areas in the East Bay, Lake Chabot is a 315-acre lake just north of Castro Valley. First-come, first-served picnic areas with tables and barbecue pits and group reserved picnic spots are conveniently located near Lake Chabot Marina. Although the lake is open to camping, fishing, boating and other activities, no swimming is allowed since the man-made reservoir serves as a standby emergency water supply for East Bay residents. Adjacent to the lake is the 5,067-acre Anthony Chabot Regional Park, another popular destination with campsites and several more picnic areas, including group reservable spots.
7867 Redwood Road
Oakland, CA 94619
Beyond the northern border of Anthony Chabot Regional Park lies the popular Redwood Regional Park featuring the only remaining stand of old-growth redwood trees in the East Bay. Located in the hills just east of Oakland, the 1,830-acre Redwood Regional Park offers a number of first-come, first-served and four reservable group picnic areas. Among the most popular picnic sites are at Roberts Regional Recreation Area, an 82-acre subsection, located within one of the two groves of historic redwoods in the park. Also near Robert Regional Area is another great spot excellent for a reservable picnic outing at Redwood Bowl, with two sites equipped with tables, barbecue pits and drinking fountains. Just minutes away is the Chabot Space and Science Center and the City of Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park, another great location for picnics. Redwood Regional Park only requires admission fees near the southern border at the Redwood Gate on weekends and holidays April through October.
Tilden Regional Park
2501 Grizzly Peak Blvd.
Orinda, CA 94563
The “jewel” of the East Bay Park District, Tilden Regional Park is a vast recreational area spanning 2,079 acres in the Berkeley Hills. The park has a sizable amount of first-come, first-served and reservable sites with barbecue pits at most areas. Reservable sites range from 35 people at Carousel, near the park’s historic merry-go-round, to up to a party of 200 at Mineral Springs, above Lake Anza. Groups traveling with children will enjoy the 1911 menagerie carousel with its hand-carved horses, the nature programs at the Little Farm and the stream train near South Park Drive. Outside of the Herschell-Spillman Merry-Go-Round are a few unadvertised picnic tables, along with restrooms, drinking water, plenty of parking and a snack stand. First-time visitors should not miss the spectacular views of UC Berkeley, the Oakland Bay Bridge and San Francisco Bay along Wildcat Canyon Road, on the park’s western border.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.