Tilden Regional Park - Berkeley, CA (Submitted by Danville Mike)

Tilden Regional Park has been called the jewel of the East Bay Regional Park system, and for good reason. If any single urban park has something for everyone, and a beautiful setting to boot, this is it. Tilden’s 2,079 acres offer a variety of attractions, including a lake with swimming facilities, botanic garden, miniature steam train, an old-fashioned merry-go-round, an 18 hole golf course, a nature preserve, a small farm, and a lovely setting for weddings and other events. The park also offers picnicking and camping at numerous sites, plus plentiful hiking, biking and equestrian trails. Note that each attraction has its own days and hours of operation. Most attractions also have their own dedicated phone number for information. Be sure to check the park’s official website in advance to make sure the attractions you want to see will be open during your visit. We've included links to the official park site and several of the attractions on this web page.

Tilden Regional Park is located in the Berkeley Hills just north of Highway 24. You can take the Fish Ranch Road exit from Highway 24 just east of the Caldecott Tunnel. Drive uphill and turn right on Grizzly Peak Blvd. From there you will pass 3 park entrances. You can also enter the park from the West side in Berkeley at the intersection of Wildcat Canyon Road and Grizzly Peak Boulevard. From Canon Drive, you can access the Environmental Education Center and Little Farm, the Carousel, and Lake Anza. The park is large enough that it makes sense to study a road map of the park before setting out on your journey.

The slide show I’ve prepared includes a view of San Francisco from Grizzly Peak Blvd leading to the park, shots of Lake Anza, the Brazil Building, the Botanic Garden, the Tilden Nature Area, Jewel Lake, the golf course, and the miniature steam train.

The park measures about 3 miles long and ¾ mile wide. Once inside, signs at the major intersections point the way to the attractions. Detailed park maps are posted at many locations, where you can also pick up handy brochures. You can download maps on the official park website. Camping and picnic areas are also clearly marked, and parking lots are located throughout the park.

Much of the park is wilderness, crisscrossed with trails that allow city dwellers to escape their urban surroundings and reconnect with nature. The trails are well marked and they are popular with hikers, joggers and bicyclists. Park temperatures tend to be cool in the mornings, even during warm summer months. Eucalyptus and Redwood groves provide shade and a genuine “woodsy” experience. To see even more trees and plants, visit the Botanic Garden which contains dozens of native California species segregated into 12 geographic ranges, from desert to coastal rain forest.

Tilden is a great place to take kids, and one of the most popular attractions during summer months is Lake Anza, which offers a picnic area, a sandy beach, changing areas, restrooms and drinking water. Surrounded by woods, a visit to Lake Anza is like returning to your favorite childhood swimming hole. Lifeguards are on duty during peak hours in season. There’s a small fee for admission to the swimming area. The lake is not stocked, but it does contain fish, and fishing is permitted, outside the swimming area, with an appropriate license.

Children and adults also enjoy the miniature steam train known as the Redwood Valley Railway. The train operates on weekends and on weekdays during school spring and summer vacation and it is pulled by a genuine steam engine that takes you back to years gone by. There is a small fee to ride the train. Tilden also offers old fashioned carousel for the kids. The carousel is closed for renovation as of this writing in mid July, 2008, however it will re-open soon. Check the park’s website for more information. The Little Farm is another children’s favorite. This miniature farm has cows, horses, goats, chickens, and other farm animals, and the kids can get up close and pet them.

If you like to dine alfresco, Tilden offers more than a dozen scenic picnic areas with over 700 tables. Sites can be reserved by calling the number on the official Tilden Park website. Family, equestrian and group camping is also available.

Tilden’s Nature Area includes an Environmental Education Center. The Nature Area is a 740 acre preserve with over 10 miles of hiking trails. If you’re up for some exercise, the hike up to the top of Wildcat Peak is worth the effort. From the top you’ll enjoy sweeping panoramic views of San Francisco Bay.

For grown-ups, Tilden offers a beautiful 18 hole public golf course with a driving range, pro shop, practice green and restaurant. Fee and reservation information is available on the golf course website, linked from this page.

If you’re looking for a scenic location for a wedding or other event, the Brazil Building may fit the bill. Set among tall trees, the site features a broad front lawn with sweeping views from the patio. This is also where you will find the bust of the Park’s namesake, Charles Lee Tilden, an attorney and founding Regional Park Board member in the 1930s who purchase the land so that it could be preserved. We owe Mr. Tilden a lasting debt of gratitude for his foresight and generosity in making this wonderful park available to us all.

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Botanic Gargen
Brazil Building
Golf Course
Nature Area
Official Tilden Site
Steam Train

Related Categories
Active Adventure, Active Adventure, Biking, Hiking, Parks, Regional Parks
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