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.
The trails at Coyote Hills are fully exposed to the sun and wind. Pack sun protection, plenty of water, and a jacket. The Bay View Trail is paved and family-friendly, gently undulating along the perimeter of Coyote Hills. Trails are well signed.
There is one reserveable group campground at Coyote Hills, the Dairy Glen campground, for up to 50 people. The campground has restrooms, a fire pit, shade structures, picnic tables, and hand-washing stations. It is ADA compliant. Reservations must be made at least 14 days in advance. Call 1-888-EBPARKS for reservations.
From I-880 in Newark, take 84 west towards the Dumbarton Bridge. Take exit 37 for Ardenwood Boulevard, and then turn right to merge onto Ardenwood Boulevard. Drive 0.6 miles, then turn left onto Commerce Drive. Drive 1.8 miles to the Coyote Hills Visitor Center (the road turns into Patterson Ranch Road) and parking areas.
With recent wildfire damage and ongoing waves of COVID-19 infections and restrictions, National Forest, National Park, and other public land closures, restrictions, or social distancing guidelines may be in-effect.
If infection rates are on the rise, please do your best to remain local for your hikes. If you do travel, please be mindful of small gateway communities and avoid as much interaction as you can. Also remember to be extra prepared with supplies so you don't have to stop somewhere outside your local community for gas, food, or anything else.
Please be sure to contact the local land management agency BEFORE you head out, as these conditions are likely to change without enough notice for us to fully stay on top of them. Thanks, and stay safe!
Click here to read the current CDC guidelines for traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.