The murders of David Robert Ruenzel on a trail in the East Bay Regional Park Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve around Thanksgiving last year, and of Luis Doctolero Fernando Perez on a trail in Vallejo’s Hanns Park around Christmas last year, as well as some muggings around Tilden and Grizzly Peak Blvd, left me looking for even more populated areas than usual for our daily hikes. Huckleberry Preserve is right next to the Skyline Staging area of Redwood Regional, my favorite place to escape. Tho I am not one to usually “hide” I do realize that the holiday season tends to bump up in crime, especially where I live. We deal with car break ins at all the hiking spots in the Bay Area year round, so I don’t leave anything in my car and leave it unlocked. Since I quit my gym to use hiking with Chico instead for exercise, that brought me to visit Point Isabel and The Bay Trail quite a bit over the Holidays. Point Isabel is all off leash, The Bay Trail is on leash only, and you will want to obey this as there is heavy bike traffic.
Many people call Point Isabel Dog Park, Disneyland for dogs. If you’ve never been there, it is the largest dog park in the country….So large that you can actually get about a 3 mile loop hike done in the park. It is 23 Acres and it also intersects with They Bay Trail in 3 or 4 easy spots to hop on it– I usually take the entrances at the far ends of Point Isabel and can easily extend our hiking time to 5 or 6 miles. Or you could just hike the Bay Trail for an in and out, and then finish by playing fetch at Point Isabel, or perhaps let your pooch take a dip, there are plenty of areas where dogs do their water sports.
The area offers fantastic views of San Francisco, The Bay Bridge, The Golden Gate Bridge, as well as some pretty marsh areas that are usually dotted with different kinds of birds. However, this is if you just look in one direction while hiking, the other direction you might see a warehouse or the freeway, but past that you can see all the houses nestled in the hills.
While some people tend to stay away from Point Isabel with their dogs if they need training, I found it to be the perfect place to train all sorts of things with Chico once he had his basics down, and was ready to learn with distractions. Weekends are of course really busy, but week days, some of the trails and paths will resemble the kind of traffic you will see on most hiking trails.
There are many excellent super friendly Dog Trainers that come here on the weekdays as well, who will offer advice if you ask. On the week days especially, people seem to understand if you are working on something with your dog. I have seen people working here with their dog’s leash agresssions, fears, ball stealing, and others volunteering to help out by doing things like walking by, etc. People don’t chastise you here for having your dog on leash, as there are so many reasons why you might have your dog leashed including keeping your dog out of the mud which can get quite crazy in some areas of the park after a rain, or leashing your dog near the 2 different parking lot entrances and The Bay Trail Entrances. Also, the park is so big, that many pooches that misbehave, get put on leash for a 5 min time out. Or say a dog is infatuated with the cute French Poodle that just walked by, most people will just leash their dog for a few minutes until a new more controllable distraction comes along. Overall people seem to get it here, and there is a wonderful community including the Point Isabel Dog Owners Group. You can see much better photos there:)
I brought Chico here to work on how super enthusiastic and excited he got when ever he saw another dog on the trail, and still work on this from time to time since he is still really young, and I also practice not having that super excited feeling of will he or won’t he. Because there are also dirt trails here, that resemble most hiking trails, we practice staying on the trail while off leash, as well as practice recall in a high distraction area. My favorite thing to practice tho, just might be his outdoor cafe manners, as we hang out at the Sit and Stay Cafe patio–they have tasty food including some good vegetarian options, or you can bring your own. There is the main paved path that wraps around the main part of the park, or there are less populated dirt paths, that you can take to the bridge to the park’s peninsula, On the Peninsula all the paths are dirt, and there is a big green plateau to play on. I usually take the path that runs straight from the bridge, to The Bay Trail, which has many informative signs about the history of the area and wildlife.
I usually like to begin at the Costco end, and take The Bay Trail to one of the benches set up for scenic views, and sit and play there for a bit. Sometimes I might get a coffee from the Sit and Stay Cafe first, and enjoy it while watching the birds or gazing at the bridges. There are rocks along this part that Chico and I like to Explore instead of staying on the paved path.
Then I come back down the same trail, and walk Point Isabel along the water, there is a small beach right where the park begins to play with your dogs, as well as a few other areas along this part of the waterfront. There is also a canal that runs between the main part of the park and the Peninsula, and this is where most dogs eagerly jump in the water after their balls.
I follow the path around the tip, and the walk down into the park on the paved path–Chico usually runs along the canal, and and then we go over the Bridge to the peninsula, walk the path in back to The Bay Trail again, and do a quick in and out here, then walk the path along the far side of the Peninsula, around the tip, sometimes going out onto a small leeway at the top, most of the time we will play fetch here for a bit. When we come back over the bridge, we take one of the dirt paths back to the parking lot area. This gives us anywhere between a 4 and 6 mile hike, the dirt paths do have small hills if you are looking for a bit of uphill and downhill, I see some people just walking back and forth on these. For Chico, it is of course longer, especially if we have played fetch. He loves The Bay Trail area, even tho he is leashed, because there are so many new smells there for him!!
There can be the occasional Jack Ass, but hiking 5 or so days a week I have learned that you will eventually come across a Jack Ass where ever you go –no, you can’t rely on hiking an out of the way trail to not see another person, it is a trail after all and some day you will run into someone–IMHO it is better to experience the Jack Ass for the first time in a place that both you and your dog feel comfortable, rather than on a trail miles from where you parked, where panic might set in, even if you don’t show it to the Jack Ass, your dog will feel it and want to react. On all levels, Point Isabel is a good place to practice remaining calm, and extending that energy, that feeling of calm trust, to your dog–he will pick up on this, and remember how happy you both were, and it should help him to have better trail manners, and to deal with the odd SUDDEN things that can happen on a trail lol. This has been my experience anyway:)