When it comes to trails, Benicia is blessed. Instead of one or two, this city can boast of four major trails that run through its boundaries, said Teri Davena, Benicia’s Economic Development specialist.
I like that we appear on all four important trails,” she said. “The land trails offer spectacular views and access to Benicia’s waterfront, and peaks for people on foot or on bikes. You can literally bike or hike from bridge to bridge or take a loop around the Carquinez Strait.”
Two trails are land-based: The San Francisco Bay Trail, a 500-mile walking and cycling path through all nine Bay Area counties, and the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which eventually will encircle the Bay Area. Two more focus on water: The Great California Delta Trail, with six separate trails, river walks and loops along the Sacramento-San Joaquin river delta; and the San Francisco Bay Water Trail, for kayakers, kite boarders and outrigger sailors, with launches throughout the Bay Area. One of those is in Benicia, too, at Ninth Street. “Some of our frequent users include Benicia Kite & Paddle Sports and Benicia Outrigger Canoe Club,” Davena said.
If the four trails give Benicia residents a chance to go out and explore, they also provide a way for those living elsewhere to discover Benicia. “Because we have unique, independent businesses, visitors can experience specialty shops with great customer service, from fashion to gifts to vintage. Our restaurants are excellent and offer such a wide variety of dining for our little town,” she said.
Benicia also is a good destination for history buffs among the hikes and cyclists, she said.
“We are one of the oldest cities in California—third incorporated city and third state capital, plus an arsenal authorized by Abraham Lincoln,” she said. “There are unique museums and historical sights to explore with every visit.” Or they can take in the city’s arts community, she said, whether individual artists or its landmark studios in the Benicia Arsenal or on First Street. “Finally, there’s our beautiful waterfront. Did you know we are one of the few cities in the Bay Area where you can walk right to the waterfront and dip your toe in? Other coastlines have private waterfront properties. But in Benicia, we prize our stunning views and public access.”
The city is an ideal stop on Valentine’s Day, Davena notes. Couples might order a picnic from Crossroads Smokehouse and Deli or One House Bakery; stop in and sample specialty toasts and locally roasted coffee at Farm and Flour, or choose from numerous other eateries before strolling along the waterfront. “I think Benicia is where memories are made,” she said.
If anyone is familiar with Bay Area trails, it’s Bob Berman. For 27 years, as a member of the Solano Land Trust Board, he worked with trail proponents. Then he joined the Bay Area Ridge Trail Board of Directors. When it’s completed, the Bay Area Ridge Trail will be a 550-mile circle. Of this, 375 miles are complete. Additionally, the Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop takes in the Carquinez and the Benicia-Martinez bridges, with longer and shorter loop options. Berman said the system gives hikers, bicycle riders and equestrians easy, nearby access to outdoor experiences.
“It’s the cheapest form of mental health insurance—to get out on a hike, take a bicycle ride or go on a walk,” he said. “You’ve got a horse? Go and enjoy the outdoors.”
Last May, the Bay Area Ridge Trail organized a hike for about 20, Berman said. Starting in American Canyon near Newell Ranch, they went to the Hiddenbrooke Trailhead and camped overnight at McIntyre Ranch. Like true campers, they dined on s’mores. The next day, they hiked through the Benicia-Vallejo buffer zone and into the Benicia State Recreation Area.
“In two days, we did a 20-mile hike. It was magnificent. It was like you were a thousand miles away from anything,” Berman said. “That’s the type of thing we’re trying to give people the opportunity to do—close-in recreation that feels miles away.”
Visit these websites to learn more about the four trails that transverse Benicia