By Marguerite Richards
If you’re beginning to curse the magical mist of San Francisco, we understand. This is California, people. Sheesh! Where’s the sunshine? We know our fairytale fog can start to feel comedic or even tragic after a while. So if you’re getting a hankering for heat, we suggest you head over to the East Bay for a hike in the sun. Check out East Bay Parks for many great ideas.
A Perfect Day Trip
Just a stone’s throw from Downtown Berkeley, Tilden Regional Park is a woody wonderland away from SF’s summer fog. From San Francisco, rise early and catch BART to the East Bay with some hostel pals. Prep your picnic before you leave the city, or stop in Downtown Berkeley (your BART stop before catching a short bus to the trails) to grab some grub for a pack lunch outdoors. Spend the whole day in the woods, or head back for an afternoon in Berkeley. Have drinks on a sunshiny terrace near campus, or check out the shops on College Avenue. Choose a Saturday or Sunday for your outing and you’re sure to meet locals on the trails, and to find UC Berkeley students out enjoying the great outdoors, laptops locked away back at the dorms.
Navigating to Nature
Transit&Trails is a useful app with heart. The intention is to get city dwellers out into nature all over the Bay Area, especially young adults who don’t drive. The goal is to encourage a sense of independence through access to nature via public transportation. I don’t have a car myself, and find this app extremely useful for making my way to Bay Area parks.
Getting out to Tilden Park
An old-school PDF map of Tilden is also a useful tool. The Bay Area Transit Trip Planner (511.org) is integrated into the Trainsit&Trails App, which is the real beauty of it. If you don’t want to be glued to your device all day, use it to plan your transit to the park, and bring the printed map along for on-the-trail help.
The peaks and valleys of the Berkeley Hills are steep enough to get hearts pumping, but the heavenly bay views at each summit are worth it. By bus you’ll dip back further past homes to find the ridge backed by Tilden Regional Park In springtime air on the trails is pungent with fragrant flowers. If you slow down enough to smell them, you’ll come upon blue jays flittering by, hawks soaring above, and deer right on your trail. Watch out for huge banana slugs too, which are common to this area (they’re even the mascot of a nearby university)! These are generally quite yellow, but they can sometimes be deep brown and difficult to distinguish from dead leaves. Whatever you discover on the trails, be sure to linger into the warm early evening hours, when the sun creates beautiful shadows behind the Redwood trees.
Inside Tilden: Lake Anza & Selby Trail
Transit&Trails suggests different itineraries for different skill levels, and shows the length of each route. Walk along Selby Trail for an easy jaunt called “The Tilden Tour.” It’s just over two miles, with some great picnic spots along the southern edge of the park. If you’re a nature novice, know you’ll never stray far from the main road, but you’ll still feel totally immersed in green space. Veer off Selby trail to walk the perimeter of Lake Anza, a loop just over one mile, and a must stop for swimmers (open April–October) and sun seekers. Here, you’re sure to find the perfect picnic perch with a knockout view.
Where to Stay
If the drum of SF city life is your preferred backdrop, lay your head at HI SF Downtown or HI San Francisco City Center, both easily accessible to BART stations whenever you need to scratch a side itch for nature too. In addition to Tilden Regional Park, there are a hundred other hikes accessible by public transportation.
If you’d rather skip the city, you can still opt for dramatic cliff views and nature hikes along the roaring Pacific Ocean with the Golden Gate in view. We’ve got plenty of remote settings to hang your hat like HI Marin Headlands or HI Point Reyes.