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Tilden Park is for Nature Lovers

BY Trevor Cheitlin February 02, 2018

Take a walk on the wild side in Berkeley's Tilden Park.

Escape hatch: Berkeley’s Tilden Regional Park is a sprawling wonderland of forested hills that ring the San Francisco Bay’s eastern cusp.

As one of the East Bay Regional Park District’s “OG” parks, Tilden occupies a special place in the heart of many Berkeley residents, a symbol of the city’s accessibility to nature and commitment to environmental sustainability.

While it’s just minutes from the city’s downtown district, Tilden is most easily reached by car. We can point the way and help you find transportation at our Visitor Information Center, located on Addison Street in Downtown Berkeley.

It’s worth it to get an early start into the hills. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit the park just as the morning fog is lifting, an eerie and utterly enchanting experience that makes Tilden’s woods feel like a fairy tale. Prepared visitors can experience this spectacle from the links at the challenging Tilden Park Golf Course. By the time you hit the back nine, chances are the course will be bathed in sunshine.

As you venture through the Berkeley Hills’ charming residential areas, you may notice something subtle that makes these winding streets feel different: many of these neighborhoods had their utility poles removed and their power lines put underground in the decade following the devastating 1991 Oakland Hills fire. Beyond its practical application, putting their power lines underground helps blur the line between these residential areas and the park at their doorstep.

Tilden is home to numerous things to do in Berkeley.  There are hiking options for every age and fitness level. Many of these trails, which will guide you through forests of fragrant eucalyptus and grassy meadows that shift with the seasons, are accessible from the staging area at the aptly named Inspiration Point. Nimitz Way’s paved path is a particular favorite for families, bicyclists and trail runners.

Tilden Park has sparse food options, but is a magnificent place for a picnic. Stop at one of Berkeley’s numerous farmers’ markets or independent grocery stores in the morning, and you’ll thank yourself when you settle into one of the park’s many picnic areas - just make sure to dispose of your trash when you’re done. Future picnickers, and Tilden’s thriving wildlife, will thank you for it. The raccoons really don’t need that last bite of organic kale. 

Head over to Lake Anza for a digestive walk around a local favorite. The lake’s sandy beach and swimming area buzzes with activity during the summer months.

In the mid-afternoon, make your way north to the Tilden Nature Area for more strenuous hiking options, like the Wildcat Peak Trail. Kids will enjoy the nearby Environmental Education Center and Little Farm. Bring some extra lettuce or celery from your picnic basket to feed the farm’s adorable animals.

Another option for the afternoon is the Tilden Park Botanic Gardens, where you can experience a huge variety of native California plants, or simply sit and let your nose lead you on an aromatic journey.

As the late afternoon sun hangs low in the sky, stake out a spot along Grizzly Peak Boulevard for one of the most spectacular sunset views in the entire Bay Area. Behold the famous Golden Gate Bridge as it shines in the dimming light. Perhaps you’ll catch a glimpse of Karl, San Francisco’s famous fog, as it pours in from the Pacific Ocean and settles like a blanket over the city’s picturesque skyline.

But wait, you’re not done yet. Wrap up the perfect day with a stop at the Tilden Park Merry-Go-Round, an antique carousel that comes alive at night. Bonus fun is had in December, when the carousel and its adjacent grounds are decked out in festive garb to celebrate the holiday season.