In the hustle and bustle of the Bay Area, it sounds implausible: a wilderness sanctuary spanning more than 2,000 acres, rife with wildlife, offering panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. But that’s what makes Berkeley’s Tilden Park, nestled between the Berkeley Hills and San Pablo Ridge, so special. It takes its name from Charles Lee Tilden, a Bay Area attorney and businessman who purchased much of the land in the 1930s to preserve it for the public. He went on to become the first president of the Park District Board of Directors.
Today, activities at Tilden Park abound for all ages: Visitors can take to its network of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding or stroll through the botanical garden. Small children will gravitate toward the Redwood Valley Railway’s miniature steam train, old-time carousel, and the goats, pigs, and cows that they can feed at Little Farm. (Tip: Bring your own lettuce and celery.)
There’s also an 18-hole golf course and a lake nearly 1,000 feet long, perfect for an afternoon dip and picnic (to get a handle on the park’s layout, see this map). On a clear day, set off on the East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail, which offers views of the San Francisco Bay to the west and Mt. Diablo to the east. Though it’s only a few miles from the city, it feels half a world away.
Know before you go: Tilden Park is most easily accessed by car, but the AC Transit bus #67 provides access on weekends and holidays and runs about every 45 minutes. There are few food options once in the park, but it’s the perfect place for a picnic, so stop by one of Berkeley’s many farmers' markets before arriving. The park is pet-friendly, but the city’s leash laws apply.