The overlooked sister to the Golden Gate and scourge of Bay Area rush hour traffic is the Bay Bridge. It consists of two spans that connect the cities of San Francisco and Oakland through Yerba Buena Island. In the last few years, the eastern span (the one whose upper deck collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989) has been replaced by a brand-spanking new one.
For those who aren’t Bay Area residents, the eastern span of the Bay Bridge has opened a pedestrian trail that now leads to a vista point out on Yerba Buena Island (before it just led to nowhere). The local news made a big “whoop-dee-doo” about it, so I got curious and decided to check it out.
There are three entrances to the Bay Trail that takes you across the Bay Bridge: Yerba Buena, Oakland, and Emeryville.
- The Yerba Buena entrance does not have parking. You have to park on Treasure Island and take the shuttle, but I don’t know their schedule.
- Oakland‘s entrance to the trail does offer some parking with a limit of 5 hours. Make your way to the Bridge Yard and follow the signs to the lot.
- The entrance to the trail from Emeryville is across the street from the IKEA Store but don’t park in their lot. They have signs warning that they’ll tow cars of people who aren’t actively shopping at IKEA.
I took the Emeryville entrance, only because I knew where it was and I knew I could cheat a little on parking. I’d rather not out myself on how I cheat on parking. You can park at the Emeryville Marina (and the signs at IKEA advise you to do so), but it’s really far from the entrance to the trail. I’m thinking a good mile.
Anyways, the time estimate posted on the entrance to the Bay Trail in Emeryville is pretty much on point. I walked at a leisurely pace, and it took me about 3.5 hours roundtrip from the start of the trail back to my car.
There isn’t much to see along the trail before you get to the bridge. The trail winds underneath what locals call “The Maze,” which is basically where three freeways cross and one of the main reasons why traffic is such a nightmare. You get a beautiful view as above of the EBMUD Wastewater Treatment Plant. PRO TIP: There is almost no shade along this path. Be smart and wear sunscreen and adequate protection from the sun. I apparently missed a couple of spots and I’m currently nursing a minor sunburn.
So up to the start of the bridge, the trail is a shared path for both pedestrians and bicyclists, and there is one lane for each direction. I would discourage the use of headphones up to this point. Once you get to the bridge, the path widens and there is a specific lane for pedestrians and a divided bicycle lane with one lane for each way.
Once you’re on the bridge, the view is quite pretty. I was lucky that I went on the day when Karl decided to not obstruct my view (Karl the Fog, look it up on Twitter).
A couple of hours later, I made my way to Yerba Buena and followed the signs to the vista point. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the vista point is a lot smaller than I thought it would be. It’s literally a small standing area with a couple of plaques about the history of the bridge, and stairs down to a strip of faux grass.
Overall, the Bay Trail is nice for a morning walk. I would recommend going early, only because by the time I made it back to my car, it was noon and quite hot. There’s not much to see until you get onto the bridge, but I did see quite a few families enjoying a morning walk or bike ride together, so I guess it’s good for that kind of thing. There is no sense in the whole “whoop-dee-doo” about the vista point because it’s basically nothing. Nice view though. But visit and make the judgement for yourself.
Oh, and they were talking about making the trail a pathway for commuters to bike from Oakland to San Francisco, but surprise surprise, there is no pathway for bikes on the western span. I guess you could take the shuttle, but I feel like taking the local commuter train would be faster.