Residents of West Contra Costa County are lucky enough to have this waterfront park in their backyard, but unless you live nearby, you’ve probably never been to Point Pinole. It’s time to visit this sprawling promontory, which sticks out into the San Pablo Bay. The park still houses some structures and foundations from the gunpowder and dynamite factories that used to be located there, so keep your eyes open for these historical structures. Offering views of Mt. Tam from its 15 miles of relatively easy trails, and spanning over 2,300 acres, Point Pinole could easily become your family’s favorite place to play by the bay.

When to go: Year-round. Mornings can be foggy, but it’s gorgeous any time of year.

How to get there: Exit from Hwy 80 at the Richmond Parkway exit. Take the Richmond Parkway to Atlas Road, then turn right and head down to the park. Parking is free in the lot on weekdays, with a $3 charge per car on weekends and holidays.

What to bring: Sturdy walking shoes, trail strollers, bikes for the paved trails, fishing poles for the quarter-mile long fishing pier (no license required if you fish on the pier!), a picnic lunch, binoculars for bird-watching, and a camera for photo ops!

What to wear: Layers (since the weather often changes from foggy to sunny, or from warm to windy and cool), sunscreen, and snacks.

What to do: Hang out on the bridge over the train tracks and wait for an engine to chug by, a thrill for any lover of choo-choos. Then head over to the play structure for some climbing and sliding, digging in the sand, and general monkeying around. Then hit one of the hiking trails (all are kid-friendly and relatively flat, but the Bayview Trail rises over steep cliffs) or bike along the paved trail. There’s also a shuttle that leaves hourly from the parking lot that heads out to the fishing pier.

Insider Tip: In the summer months, there are blackberry bushes to forage from. Our favorite brambles include the patch just east of the playground, or the one adjacent to the pond.

Lunch spots: A favorite of the many picnic spots are the tables under the giant eucalyptus next to the play structure.

Cost: Free to cheap.

Online: ebparks.org/parks                

— Sarah Bossenbroek

Photo credit: Polytelis via flickr