Two for One
Garin and Dry Creek Pioneer Parks
Neil Wiley

Do you like your walks easy or challenging? Want a shady, short walk around a little lake and along a stream? Or do you want to climb up big hills to scenic views? You can choose the hike you like, or do both in one day at Garin/Dry Creek parks.

It’s a short drive off Interstate 880 in Hayward to the two adjoining parks. The first thing you notice is that Garin Park has lots of parking spaces in a series of parking areas, far more than you might expect.

As you drive in, you see a large circle of old farm implements. Walking a few steps from your car, you and your family may enjoy learning more history on weekends between Memorial and Labor days at the Garin Barn Visitor Center. It features a blacksmith shop, tool shop, and ranching-related displays.

Dry Creek Pioneer Park counters with its own bit of history, the two-acre Meyers Cottage and Garden dating back to the early 1900s where you can visit 200 native and exotic plants. The garden is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Garden and cottage are located at the end of May Road off Mission Boulevard in Union City.

Back at Garin Park, you walk over a bridge into a large, open field surrounded by picnic tables, benches, water fountains, restrooms, phones, and other amenities. You can also picnic around Jordan Pond or anywhere along the trails. Just be sure to remove any garbage. You can also reserve one of four large group picnic areas that accommodate from fifty to a hundred people.

More than thirty miles of unpaved trails throughout 4,724 acres in the two parks are open to hikers and horseback riders. (Horses are excluded from the picnic areas.) Many trails are also open to bicyclists. Dogs are welcome on leash in picnic areas, and under voice-control on trails. Children need not be leashed, but should be supervised. Service roads around the meadows and picnic areas are wheelchair accessible. Fishing is allowed, but anglers 16 and over must have a state fishing license.

When it comes to walking, you can choose a casual stroll around Jordan Pond with frequent stops to sit, eat, or take pictures. Distance: three-quarters of a mile on a smooth trail with the maximum grade of 8 percent.
Want to walk a little more? On the west side of the pond, walk up the High Ridge Loop Trail, and then take a right on the Ridge View Trail. From there, you can look down at the pond, and then continue down the trail back to the park meadow or back to your car.

Still more? From the east side of the pond, walk along the Dry Creek Trail. It takes you along a small creek, mostly in shade, with a total climb of 245 feet and a maximum grade of 10 percent. Most of the trail is single-track. Trails are not well-signed, so stay on the main trail. If you see a curving series of railroad-tie steps, follow them uphill to a Meyer’s Ranch gate. If you stop here, your out-and-back distance is about is about 2.2 miles.

Better yet, if you are warmed up and ready to see some pretty views, go through the gate and walk up a grassy hill to the Ridge Loop Trail. Turn right and walk the ridge through open country back to Jordan Pond. You’ll see beautiful hills to the west and south, East Bay suburbs, and San Francisco Bay to the east and north.
For a longer, more challenging hike, you might consider walking the ridges around the edges of Dry Creek Pioneer Park on the High Ridge Loop Trail. I haven’t walked this loop, but Jane Huber describes it in detail at Her version was a 6.1-mile hike with about 800 feet of elevation change. She warns that some of the fire roads are steep.

Another exploration would be hiking the Vista Peak Loop Trail that circles around the 984-foot Garvin Peak in the northern section of Garin Park. It looks as if it would be interesting to reach this trail from the northeast entrance on Ziele Creek Drive.

You could also visit the south end of Dry Creek Pioneer Park at the May Road entrance to see the Meyers cottage and garden, and then hike the Tolman Peak Trail.

To reach the Garin entrance, take Interstate 880, exit east at Tennyson Road, and right on Mission Boulevard. Drive south about one mile to Garvin Road, and then follow the signs into the park. When the kiosk is open, parking costs $5.

To reach the May Road entrance, exit from Interstate 880 on Whipple Road east to Mission, then straight on May Road.

To reach the Ziele Creek entrance, it’s best to use a GPS or Google map directions to 28111 Ziele Creek, Drive, Hayward. The directions involve eight different highways and streets, so some navigation help is necessary.

Whatever path you choose, Garin/Dry Creek offers an interesting range of hiking opportunities. If you are taking one of the longer hikes, be sure to get a map of Garin/Dry Creek Pioneer parks from the East Bay Region Park District website.