Briones Regional Park mistletoe hike
Uh oh, who's under the mistletoe?! Anyone who hikes a certain 4.8-mile (round-trip) trail in the East Bay's Briones Regional Park. The holiday-smooching staple is prevalent on a section of this rolling hike that goes through open hills, oak and eucalyptus groves, and offers expansive views stretching from Mount Diablo to the Delta. Starting from the Alhambra Creek staging area, climb the Diablo View Trail as it makes its way up to an open grassy hill. At a signed junction that reads, "Not a Through Trail," fork left and enter a canopy of coast live oak, valley oak, and blue oak. Upon emerging, take the Spengler Trail and descend under a thick canopy of bays, bigleaf maples, and buckeyes. When the path splits, take the high road climbing through a forested canyon. Keep an eye overhead for the holiday highlight: mistletoe. Large bushels of evergreen oval leaves grow off the baring winter oak, sometimes ornamented with waxy white berries. Pucker up! Descend the Old Briones Road Trail, which edges a steep canyon and overlooks the park's highest peak, Briones Crest. Approaching a parking lot, tuck left to follow a singletrack trail (an unmarked continuation of Old Briones Road Trail). Merge with the Pine Tree Trail—lined by Monterey and Coulter pines—before reaching the hike's homestretch on Orchard Trail. This final, animated leg features a hillside inhabited by hundreds of squirrels and bluebirds vying for seeds and nuts. Sealed with a kiss!

From Highway 4 in Martinez, take the Alhambra Ave. exit and go a half-mile south to Alhambra Valley Rd. Turn right and continue 1.2 miles to Reliez Valley Rd. Turn left and go 0.5-mile to the Alhambra Creek Valley entrance. Turn right and follow the entrance road about a mile to the parking area. The park charges $3 to park and $2 per dog. Dog-friendly!