Coyote Hills Regional Park’s trademark mounds rise nearly 300 feet above the southeastern edge of the San Francisco Bay in Fremont. The surrounding wildlife refuge and wetlands make it a birder’s dream, while reflective salt evaporation ponds and Bay Area mountain ranges provide a fulfilling dose of nature. This introductory hike circles the park on a clockwise loop of Coyote Hills, with an optional hike to its summit.
Waters to the west and south of Coyote Hills are part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Trails connect the refuge to the park, and you can even hike right into the heart of the salt evaporation ponds on the No Name and Shoreline Trails. Visit on a partly cloudy day to see epic cloud reflections in what feel like football field-sized ponds. To the east of Coyote Hills, boardwalks and trails weave through peaceful marshes for more exploring options.
Begin your hike at the Coyote Hills Visitor Center (10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Weds-Sun). In the foyer are a whiteboard with the latest wildlife sightings and information about naturalist programs. Further inside are a full-scale tule boat, a basket-weaving display, Ohlone culture and history exhibits, and a gift shop. In October each year, Coyote Hills hosts a Gathering of Ohlone Peoples, where you can experience Ohlone traditions like singing, dancing, games, and tule-boat making. Tours of a 2,000-year-old Tuibun Ohlone Village Site in the park are also free and open to the public. Check the EBRPD event calendar for details.
Exiting the visitor center, head northwest towards the Quail Trail and picnic area. Next door to the visitor center is the Nectar Garden (10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Weds-Sun), an oasis of plants that provide food and shelter for birds and butterflies. Signs identify plants and their value to insects, and there is a picnic table and benches inside. Skip it if you have Fido with you; this one of the few “no doggie” areas at Coyote Hills.
Past the Nectar Garden, pick up the wide gravel road heading southeast—the Quail Trail. Almost immediately on your right is the Glider Hill Trail, an optional 1.0-mile round-trip, 240-foot elevation gain hike to Red Hill, elevation 292 feet. At the summit, benches face west and east, with 360-degree views of the San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains, Diablo Range, and lake-like marshes. I recommend saving it for the end to take in everything you see at nearly eye-level along the Bay View Trail from a bird’s eye view.
Hiking southeast on the Quail Trail, sunny grasslands and occasional oak woodland surround the hills. You may also see outcroppings of reddish Radiolarian chert and greenish-black greenstone, part of a group of rocks formed millions of years ago called the Franciscan Assemblage.
At 0.4 miles, bear right at a paved bend in the road onto the Bay View Trail. On your left is the Dairy Glen campground, a reserveable group campground. At the next junction, bear right again to stay on the Bay View Trail.
Rounding the southern part of your loop, you can see the salt evaporation ponds stretching west. Cargill manages 8,000 acres of the ponds, which produce everything from table salt to road salt. Their colors vary based on the salinity of the ponds—algae and bacteria in the saltiest ponds produce deep reds and pinks while other organisms produce oranges, blues, and greens.
Hiking north on the paved trail, yellow grasses and fennel provide a warm contrast to the algae greens and aqua blues of the ponds. Egrets, pelicans, ducks, and migratory birds feast on invertebrates in the shallow ponds. The Santa Cruz Mountains dominate the skyline to the west. Planes fly overhead, heading towards San Francisco International Airport on the northwestern edge of the bay. In winter and spring, the hills turn emerald green with pockets of orange poppies. To the south is the Dumbarton Bridge and to the north is the San Mateo Bridge. The faint outlines of San Bruno Mountain and Mount Tamalpais are visible on clear days to the northwest.
At 2.3 miles, arrive at a vista with benches and interpretive signs. This is the northernmost point of the hike; the trail curves south from here to views of the marshes and Diablo Range on the eastern side of the hills. On a clear day, you can see Mount Diablo to the north and Mission Peak to the east.
Finish your loop at the 3.2 miles, back in front of the visitor center. If you have more pep in your step, head to the Glider Hill Trail/Quail Trail junction and hike 0.5 miles to the top of Red Hill. The Glider Trail to Red Hill is straightforward; hang a right at the first two junctions to reach it.
- Park hours vary seasonally. Check the Coyote Hills Regional Park webpage for the latest hours.
- Entrance fee is $5 per car.
- Leashed dogs are allowed on this hiking route. They are not allowed on the marsh trails, Chochenyo Trail, or in the Nectar Garden. Fees are $2 per dog. Service dogs are free.
- A pay station is located on Patterson Ranch Road before the visitor center. Parking, trailer, and dog fees can be paid at the pay station via exact change or with a credit card.
- Coyote Hills Visitor Center and Nectar Garden are open Wednesday – Sunday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
- Restrooms and water fountains are available inside the visitor center when it is open. There are also port-o-potties and water fountains outside the visitor center.
Tags: Coyote Hills Regional Park, Diablo Range, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, east bay, East Bay Regional Parks District, San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Cruz mountains, wildlife