Northern California day trip: Clayton's a classic

In Contra Costa County, find spring hiking and historic charm

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Downtown Clayton is a little quieter than it was in the mining days, but this month it almost bustles during the Clayton Art & Wine Festival (10-7 Apr 30, 10-5 May 1; 925/672-2272). And you can stroll and admire the historic buildings anytime, including a church (today Endeavor Hall) and a number of homes. Two of these have been combined to house an elegant restaurant, Elysium ($$; dinner Tue-Sun, brunch Sun; 6115 Main; 925/672-1333). Other dining options include Clayton's Cup of Jo (7-3 Mon-Fri, 8:30-2 Sat; 6054 Main; 925/672-5105), for coffee and baked goods, and Skipolini's Pizza ($; dinner daily; Main at Diablo St.; 925/672-1111), a popular local chain. For true town spirit, check out the Clayton Club Saloon (from 11 a.m. daily; 6096 Main; 925/673-0440), where dozens of cowboy boots dangle from the ceiling. "The cowboys still come," Rehr says, "but mostly by motorcycle and pickup. Once in a while, you still see a horse tied up there."

East Bay visit

Clayton is about 30 miles east of San Francisco and about 5 miles northeast of Walnut Creek. From I-680 in Walnut Creek, take the Ygnacio Valley Rd. exit and continue 7 1/2 miles; turn right on Clayton Rd. and go 1 1/2 miles to the town center.

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