Benicia: Vista Point-Arsenal District-Downtown Waterfront

Friday, December 26, 2014

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This ride crosses over Carquinez Strait from the Benicia-Martinez Bridge to the Vista Point followed by a short tour around the quaint waterside town of Benicia. It meanders through some of the attractions around the Historic Arsenal District and continues to the Historic Downtown waterfront area and to the Benicia Point Pier at the end of 1st St. The tour concludes with a jaunt along the Bay Trail around the Benicia Marina before heading south across the bridge back into Martinez.

I head north on Morello Ave to the outskirt of town on Pacheco Blvd towards the refinery on Shell Ave.

The Bike/Ped path on the Benicia-Martinez Bridge crosses Carquinez Strait with scenic views of the blue waterway and Franklin Hills. The path climbs up to the center span with an average grade of 4%.

DSCN8140-PANO carquinez

Near the north side of the bridge, I take the Carquinez Strait Scenic Loop Trail to Benicia-Martinez Bridge Vista Point; it goes under the southbound section of the bridge up to public parking lot. The trail winds up to the hill top point with a large compass and picnic tables.

It provides magnificent close-up views of Suisun Bay, the Mothball Fleet, Mount Diablo, the train trestle and the Benicia-Martinez Bridge!

I reverse my way back on the trail and continue across the bridge to Park Rd in Benicia.

Park Rd north goes under I-680 to the “Outer Arsenal” at the Benicia Historical Museum off Fir Rd. “Located in the Benicia Arsenal Historic District, these 1850’s military sandstone buildings became known as the Camel Barns.  The Camel Barns Complex, part of the Benicia Historical Museum, derives its name from Benicia’s contribution to U.S. Military history. In the 1850s and 1860s, the US Army experimented using camels, imported from the Mideast, as pack animals. After the advent of the Civil War, the experiment was abandoned and the animals were shipped to Benicia for auction”. (

Park Rd continues pass the Amport car lots before dropping down under the Valero refinery pipelines to Bayshore Rd.

Bayshore Rd runs south around the “Outer Arsenal” along Union Pacific Railroad’s tracks to Army Point towards the Port of Benicia.

It provides excellent bay-side views of the train trestle bridge and the underbelly of the northern and southern spans of the bridge.

Adam St leads up to the “Upper Arsenal” area to Johansen Square Commandant’s Lane on Washington St. The counter-clock wise loop on Washington leads to the Clock Tower Fortress. ” 1189 Washington Street: Built in 1859, this sandstone military bastion was strategically built atop Army Point to control the key passageway of Carquinez Strait to the gold mines of the interior and was designed to protect the post from Indian attacks, although the “Old Fort” never fired a shot in anger, even during the alarms of Civil War days”. (

Washington St continues on to the Commanding Officer’s Quarters Mansion on Commandant Lane. “Built in 1860 by Col. Julian McAllister, the two-story, 20-room Greek Revival mansion was used as a residence for the Commander of the Benicia Arsenal”. (

Washington drops down onto Grant St to the “Lower Arsenal”. Take the time to view the historical old buildings around the former military base. “In 1850, the military reservation known as “The Arsenal” became the first ordnance supply depot on the West Coast, supplying equipment and munitions for conflicts from the Civil War through the Korean War. Now it’s home to some of the Bay Area’s most noted artists and craftpersons”.  (

Grant St becomes Military E as it exits the Arsenal area to First St.

First St leads to Benicia’s downtown waterfront area where you can view some of the town’s historical sites.

St Paul’s Episcopal Church & Rectory:

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park: “Benicia Capitol State Historic Park is the site of California’s third seat of government (1853-54). It is the only pre-Sacramento capitol that survives”. (

Fisher-Hanlon House: “In 1849, Joseph Fischer, a Swiss immigrant, came to Benicia. After joining a butcher partnership, Fischer purchased this lot on July 1, 1858. The house, reputed to be an old hotel was relocated here. The converted building is an outstanding example of East Coast Federalist styling, which illustrates architectural diffusion during the Gold Rush”. (

Carriage House and Gardens:

Other historic sites on First St: hotels, lumber yards, stores, houses and train depot.

Benicia Point Pier:

Gorgeous views of Mt Diablo, the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, Carquinez Bridge, Carquinez Strait and the Franklin Hills!

The ride continues on B St along First St Green and exits onto the Bay Trail; the trail gently winds around the beautiful Benicia Marina and Yacht Club.

E 5th St leads me back to Military E onto Jefferson St; this road goes through the “Upper Arsenal” along the former officers quarters.

Jefferson St ends at the Jefferson Street Mansion; “1063 Jefferson Street: Built in 1861 and designated as the Captain’s Quarters, this fully restored three-story Arsenal building, surrounded by an acre of formal gardens and garden pavilions, is used for weddings and social events”. (

Adams St military buildings:

Park Rd takes me back onto the Benicia-Martinez Bridge trail.

Enjoy the stunning views of Carquinez Strait:

I exit the trail and reverse my way on Shell Ave to Pacheco Blvd and Morello.

This is a fun short leisurely tour around the beautiful waterfront and some of the historical sites in Benicia. There is no shortage of places to stop for a quick snack or coffee/tea. Get on out there and enjoy-it’s only a bridge crossing away!

Garmin Stats:
21.02 Miles with 994′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 154′
Max grade: 7%
Terrain: Flat with a few low hills

Weather: Clear blue skies with plenty of sunshine. Temps ranged from the mid to high 50’s. NE winds with 31% humidity.

View the interactive RGPS route map & profile

Benicia Ramble

Follow this route for today’s ride:



  1. In the picture with the carriage w/ yellow wheels there’s a sign of FJ Stumm in the background. That was the sign on the jewelry store owned by my great-great grandma’s sister and her husband. How fun to see it! Love your blog 🙂

    Brad, Thanks for sharing a bit of your wonderful history-What a small world we live in! Nancy


  2. Most people don’t realize how well Benicia has restored their downtown and other historical buildings. Your ride really showed how much the town has to offer.

    Carole, Thanks! There’s so much more to explore in Benicia-it’s a fun town to ride around! Nancy


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