One of the best things about living in the East Bay is that a beautiful regional park is usually only minutes away. Next time you need to commune with nature, check out Briones Regional Park between Lafayette and Martinez. Off Highway 24 at Orinda from the western approach, this 5,756-acre park is easily accessible and offers some of the Bay Area's lushest and most expansive views: The 360-degree panorama from Briones Peak includes Mount Diablo and the Diablo Valley, the Sacramento River and delta, the East Bay Hills and Mount Tamalpais, and Las Trampas Regional Wilderness. The terrain is rolling hills, high ridges, and forested canyons; at the Bear Creek entrance off of Camino Pablo in Orinda you can enjoy coast live oak, California bay laurel, willow, madrone, and bigleaf maple that line the creek bed. Red-tailed hawks are common; listen also for northern flickers or California quails. Although Briones is especially verdant in the spring, when the winter rains have turned the hills green and wildflowers like California poppy, winecup clarkia, and Ithuriel's spear bloom, the park offers heart-stopping beauty in all seasons.
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