What once carried massive locomotives transporting people and produce, the Iron Horse Regional Trail is now the most popular way to bike, walk, run and rollerblade in and around downtown, or on to other East Bay destinations.
Danville townspeople use the 20-foot wide, paved trail daily as a way to exercise, walk their dogs, relax, and visit downtown shops and cafes. On weekends residents can challenge themselves with a bike ride or hike on the trail that currently spans about 30 miles, from Concord to the north, and Dublin to the south. It even connects to schools and public transportation, such as BART, buses and park and ride lots.
The Iron Horse Regional Trail is named for the powerful locomotives that chugged through Danville from 1891 to 1977, along the Southern Pacific Railroad. The rich agricultural lands of the San Ramon Valley in the 19th and 20th centuries produced cattle, sheep, wheat, barley, onions, fruits and nuts. The railroad brought economic prosperity to farmers and ranchers, who were able to ship their crops to ports on San Francisco Bay.
By the 1940s agriculture was waning in the valley. In the 1960s Interstate 680 became the primary way to travel; the railroad was abandoned in 1977. The counties of Alameda and Contra Costa purchased more than 50 miles of right-of-way, eventually creating the Iron Horse Regional Trail in 1986 as part of the East Bay Regional Park District. Eventually the trail will stretch more than 40 miles, from Benicia to the north, down to Pleasanton and Livermore to the south.
In Danville the trail takes users through grassy fields, past backyards and schools, and through downtown. To the east are spacious views of the Diablo Mountains; to the west are the Las Trampas Hills. Along the entire span of the trail there are bridges over creeks, tree-lined stretches, parks, and plenty of other interesting sights to see. The trail also connects to other trails, including the Ygnacio Canal Trail and the Las Trampas-to-Mt. Diablo Regional Trail.
In downtown Danville the trail travels past numerous shopping opportunities along Railroad Avenue, including shops, markets, restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries. Danville Square, Iron Horse Plaza, and The Crossroads, are the main shopping centers adjacent to the trail. The trail is a perfect way to spend a weekend morning, walking or biking, stopping along the way at a favorite spot for coffee or a muffin. Or leave the car behind and use the trail to run errands, or visit your favorite downtown eatery.
Because it’s a multi-use trail, always remember to use rules of the road and common courtesy. Regional park regulations require that bicyclists must yield to pedestrians. Stay to the right, unless passing; when biking always let someone know when you’re about to pass to the left. Dogs must remain on a leash.
The Iron Horse Regional Trail is a true gem in the Danville community, and another reason why the town maintains a small town feel and an outstanding quality of life.