Ron Horii's Bay Area Back Pages - Bay Area Biking
Alameda Creek Regional Trail

Alameda Creek near Coyote Hills
Alameda Creek near Coyote Hills Regional Park

The Alameda Creek Regional Trail runs for nearly 12 miles from San Francisco Bay to the mouth of Niles Canyon in Fremont. The south side of the creek is paved and is intended for bicycles, skaters, and pedestrians. The north side of the creek is a gravel road and is intended for equestrians, though bicycles and pedestrians can use it. You can cross from the north to the south side by crossing over the bridges on the major roads that cross the creek. Sequoia Bridge, in the Quarry Lakes Area, is a non-vehicular bridge. Past Union City Blvd, there is no access to Coyote Hills from the north side of the Creek. Even though the creek runs downhill from Niles to the Bay, the drop is imperceptible. In the afternoon, however, stiff bay breezes tend to blow towards the east, making it easier to ride up the creek than down it.

Near mouth of Alameda Creek Straight section of Alameda Creek Trail
Sloughs and wetlands near the mouth of Alameda Creek at Coyote Hills Straight flood control channel section of the Alameda Creek Trail in Fremont

The most scenic parts of Alameda Creek are ironically at its two ends. The lower portion has views of salt ponds, marshlands, the Coyote Hills, and the Bay. The creek here is a slow, tidal estuary, with marsh plants and sea birds. The upper portion, as it approaches Niles, is dammed up by a series of rubber dams, forming a string of lakes. The most scenic part of all is where the trail ends in Niles Canyon. Here the creek looks its most natural, running over a rocky bed, surrounded by riparian vegetation. In-between the two ends, the creek is a wide, artificial-looking, ruler-straight flood control channel, lined with riprap boulders. In the summer, the creek here may be a series of mud puddles or may dry up completely. Still, the trail here is lined with trees and is away from traffic. The wilder upper portions of the creek in Niles Canyon are planted with trout and offer good fishing. However, salmon and steelhead can still be found running up the highly channelized creek. There are grassroots efforts underway to improve the creek's habitats for these fish and other species.

Alameda Creek near Niles Canyon Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon
Alameda Creek and trail near Niles Canyon Alameda Creek in Niles Canyon

A good stopping point on the north side of the trail is at Shinn Pond  in Niles. The pond has been developed into a park, with paved pathways, park benches, lawns, and wooden fishing piers. Trees and bushes surround the pond, giving it a more natural feel than the other nearby percolation ponds.

Shinn Pond
Fishing Pier on Shinn Pond, Niles District, Fremont

Niles is an historic town at the head of Niles Canyon. It's biggest claim to fame is that it was the original "Hollywood." It was the site of the West Coast headquarters of Essanay Studios from 1911 to 1916. Hundreds of silent movies were filmed here, including some starring Charlie Chaplin. He made the classic movie The Tramp in Niles. Chaplin's image appears in the windows of some of the stores here. The quaint, downtown area is a popular tourist destination. It preserves its turn-of-the-century small-town feel with its antique stores, art galleries, saloons, old hotels, and restaurants. It's quite a contrast to the rest of booming, high-tech Fremont, which is becoming an East Bay branch of Silicon Valley. An historic railway line also runs through the canyon.

Click here for transit information on how to get to the Alameda Creek Trail.

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Ron Horii, San Jose
Created 11/26/98