Where to Go Running

Parent Q&A

  • Trail running in the dark/at dawn

    (1 reply)

    I have been trail running in the various regional parks for many years now during the day or just after dawn. My schedule shifted last year, and since then, I have been running with my headlamp during the wee hours of the morning and at dawn. It's sort of spooky, sort of surreal, and drenched in solitude, which I love. However, a recent sighting of a mountain lion in our front yard in the Kensington hills has me thinking more about their presence in the regional parks. I had seen one before in Redwood RP years and years ago, but never thought much of it. Then I started reading more about their habits and got a bit worried about my current regime. They are most active between dusk and dawn, and obviously harder to spot during this time as well.

    I run by myself. I do wear a strong head lamp and just purchased an additional blinkie light for my body and a yellow reflective vest, but I now run with a sense of trepidation that I never had before. It kind of puts a damper on an experience that was always calming and liberating for me. I have spoken with the RP people at a few of the parks I run in who report that there have certainly been more sightings of mountain lions in recent years, but that this is due to increased usage of the parks by people rather than a growth in their population (the mountain lions, that is). Are there others who run the trails at this time? Or who don't because of a similar apprehension? Thanks for your thoughts.

    I am a teeny woman who has run remote trails in EBRPD and EBMUD alone for 30 years. I have seen lions a couple of times during the day. They seem disinterested in contact. I have never run in the middle of the night, though. My best advice would be the headlamp and possibly something that jingles a bit, if you can hack that. Makes you seem different from usual prey. The other recommendation is idiosyncratic but works to prevent tigers attacking people working the rice paddy in Indonesia. That is to wear a hat with eyes painted conspicuously on the back. Because of the rain and the deer numbers this year, you are less likely to appeal! Best of luck, night-prowler.

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Good running track other than King?

June 2013

The track at King Middle School in Berkeley is undergoing renovation this summer and I'm wondering if anyone has any recommendations for a track to use while that is going on? I do varied runs, but really want a track for some training, and prefer to be closer to Albany/El Cerrito/N. Berkeley. Thanks for any suggestions?

Displaced Jogger

How about Cougar Field (and track) at Albany Middle School? Access is, I think, from Brighton Ave. between Key Route and Masonic Ave.

Even closer to King is St. Mary's College High School, off Hopkins near Gilman. I've been told there's a track there, but I've never used it and don't know about public access. Robin

The Golden Bear track at Cal is great. Not too crowded. Well-maintained. Just be careful about parking. That area is notorious for car break-ins so leave nothing (and I mean nothing) in view in your car. http://recsports.berkeley.edu/facilities/tracks/golden-bear-track/

I love the track that is at the top of Dwight Way. It's called Clark Kerr track, and you can see it on the Berkeley map via google. There's usually parking at the end of the street (steep hill) and then a dirt path from the road up to the track. There are usually a few people around so follow them up the path. Excellent views of the bay area and surrounding hills. There is also a track in North Berkeley off of Hopkins Street. It doesn't look like it has a name on the map. It's on Hopkins between Beverley Place and Colusa Avenue. Enjoy! K M

Running track with adjacent playground?

May 2009

With Summer approaching I am thinking about how I am going to continue with my fitness routine with two kids in tow. Does anyone know of a nearby running track (Albany, Berkeley, El Cerrito) that also has a playground that is within a stone's throw and also clear eyesight view from the track at all times? On a roll, would hate to stop now!

The track by King pool, Hopkins St. Berkeley is adjacent and within view of the playground there but it is a large track and you would be fairly far away at some points- I would suggest going with another runner/ parent and taking turns with kidwatch and/ or swimming at king pool with the kids. Also you could check in Kensington I haven't been there in a while but I think there was a smallish track , behind/ above the libary in an area they might be able to bike/ trike around a mom

El Cerrito Vista Park on Moeser in ElCerrito. Nice flat field with a track around it. Annie

Cerrito Vista Park in El Cerrito, on Moeser across from Potrero Middle School, has a playground at the far end of the park and a track that goes around the baseball fields.

check out Cerrito Vista Park on Moeser in El Cerrito. Its not an all weather track but there are always walkers, runners, and kids on the playground. Often teams practicing on the field in the middle - easy sight lines to the playground area. anon

Cerrito Vista Park in El Cerrito (Moeser @ Pomona) has a great track w/ an ok playground. pcooper

You can also try Castro Park in El Cerrito, a small track, with a small play area that is visible from the track jj

Flat Trails to Run On

Oct 2007

I like to run but usually need to take along a jogging stroller. I'd like to find trails or nice places in the Oakland Hills (I live near Redwood Road) that are flat enough and safe enough to take one on. Does anyone have any favorite places to go running? Thanks. ruth

Ohlone Path is a nice paved flat surface, but you do have to keep an eye out for cars (though you have the right-of-way CLEARLY marked with yield signs) when crossing the streets. From her jogging stroller, my daughter used to love the sound of the BART (which at times felt to loud for me) and the driver would sometimes wave at her.

San Francisco Bay Trail that runs along I-80 is a great flat place to run. You can park on Buchanan (Albany) or at the Richmond Dog park and run all the way past the Richmond Marina. It is all paved, and there are at least two places you can stop for refreshments.

Keep running! :) Carrie

I'm interested to see what people post as well. I love trails and sometimes flat is so nice. I go to two places. Sequoia Bayview Trail is right off Skyline past the intersection with Joaguin Miller but before Roberts. There are always cars parked there on the side of the road. You can go about 3 or 4 miles (out and back) without any hills to speak of. I also like Redwood (the main entrance off of Redwood Rd.). The mist trail (pretty sure that's what it's called) goes pretty far without hitting any hills. Happy Running! Melissa

Safe places to train for a marathon

Jan 2007

I like to run and would like to train for a marathon next year. My problem is that I get creeped out when running in remote places by myself - like up in the Oakland hills, which I love. Does anyone have recommendations for places that are usually pretty populated, where a woman can feel secure running alone, and also get enough miles in? Alternately, are there any small running clubs to join? I already know about Team in Training, but I can't really adhere to their training schedule because of the irregularities associated with kids/work/husband's shift schedule (I've tried). Thank you! Itching to go

The San Francisco Bay Trail in Alameda is not only very safe and popular for running, it is breathtakingly beautiful, especially at sunset. The run is quite long, trails along the water of the bay with a view of San Francisco, and has ample parking for runners at the foot of the Bay Farm Island side of the Bay Farm Bridge right where the trail begins. The trail is by no means isolated - homes line one side of the trail. There is a dirt section alongside a paved section, so you won't be competing with cyclists or strollers, which are as popular on the trail as runners. I believe there is some information about the San Francisco Bay Trail on the Alameda-Oakland Ferry website - the trail is accessible by ferry. The more the merrier (and safer). Meg

I would recommend Redwood Park, Skyline Gate. There are tons of people and dogs and many miles of trails to run. There's also a running club called Pacific Striders, that runs often from there. They run every Sunday morning. Oakland Hills Runner

You can run where TNT does, which is along the Bay Trail starting in Emeryville. Park by the Emeryville Marina or Chevy's and the trail runs right along the bay and the freeway all the way to Point Richmond. You can veer off and go throught the Berkeley Marina/Cesar Chavez park/Albany bulb too. I wouldn't go incredibly early in the morning but it seems like there are always lots of people there running, biking, roller-blading, whatever. It's nicest on the weekends when traffic is less but I think people use it every day. anon

Like you, I don't feel comfortable going by myself on paved trails in Oakland/Berkeley. For this reason, when I'm by myself, I always go east of the Caldecott Tunnel. I'll either go to the Iron Horse Trail in Danville (www.ebparks.org/parks/irontr.htm) or the Lafayette Moraga Regional Trail (www.ebparks.org/parks/lafmotr.htm). The Lunardi's Market in Danville (formerly Andronico's) has a huge parking lot. I'll park there and go 5 miles to South Main Street in Walnut Creek. It's paved, flat, very suburban, and most important, safe. I'll then turn around and go back. For the Lafayette Moraga Regional Trail there are two parking lots off of Olympic Blvd. and Pleasant Hill Road in Lafayette. If they fill up (which they usually do), I'll park on Moraga Blvd. off of Moraga Rd. It's a 15 mile round trip, also paved, and uphill. The only drawback is that you have to cross over St. Mary's Road, Moraga Road, and Moraga Way which can be difficult because of the traffic. However, if you stop at Moraga Commons, you only have to cross over St. Mary's Road and you'll still be getting a 12 mile round trip. I always feel safe there when I'm by myself. It gets hot in both places during the summer, so it's best to go in the early morning or evening hours.

For a running group, try Transports on College Avenue in Oakland. I think they have a running group (www.transportsrunswim.com). Also you can try Pacific Striders (www.pacificstriders.org), Lake Merritt Joggers & Striders (www.lmjs.org), and Golden Bay Runners (www.goldenbayrunners.org). Good luck! Anon

Have you contacted the sports store, See Jane Run? It's on College in Oakland, but they had running groups and tons of resources for women runners and athletes. Good luck on the marathon! Lupine

1. Fire Trail behind the Lawrence Berkeley Lab - pretty populated on weekends, not as much during the day mid-week

2. Berkeley Marina - you can do laps at Cesar Chavez Park and/or run to the other side of the Marina, down to Emeryville along the water. If you need to extend the run as your mileage increases you can include a jaunt to the Emeryville Marina down where Trader Vic's and Hong Kong East Ocean are located.

3. Lafayette Reservoir - I've always felt safe there running alone mid-week and weekends. Mid-week there are so many new parents strolling their babies.

4. Tilden Park - One of my favorite spots is Inspiration Point as they've got the mileage markers posted for you. As it's an out and return you just increase how far you go out as you're increasing your mileage with your training runs. This is a pretty populated walking/jogging area too.

I have to say that the only time I felt un-safe while training for my marathon was a run I did in Tilden Park near the nature center/little farm. My friend and I did an out and back run (10 miles so it was 5 miles out and we were way past Jewel Lake or any area where kids are with their families) and there was an individual on a bike that just didn't ''feel right''. I've learned to trust my gut instincts so we turned around, picked up the pace, and headed back to the nature center. So, I wouldn't recommend running in this location alone.

If you're interested in a running partner please contact me. I'm training for a 1/2 marathon later this year. Kristy

I trained myself to run marathons and have been training in through Tilden Park for the past 4 years without any problems (animals or humans). I start in Alvarado Park (off McBride in El Sobrante) and run the Wildcat Canyon Trail to Berkeley, loop around Botanical Gardens up to Inspiration Point trail, along the Nimitz and then back to El Sobrante. The rolling hills are an excellent workout (especially for neglected hamstrings), as well as quite beautiful. At first, I was a little nervous about being up there by myself and carried my cell phone (uneven coverage) and pepper spray, but 4 years later I don't bother with the pepper spray (which is iffy anyway, because the breeze can blow it back into your own face).

As extra insurance, you can take a self defense class for women. I've taken cardio kick boxing and have confidence that I can use my powerful running legs for a few well placed kicks (right in the groin) as needed. But again, I've never had any cause for alarm running in the park. Never run with headphones on and tell someone your route for the day and time you plan on returning home.

Frankly, I think one is in more danger running on the punishing hard surfaces of city streets, where you are more likely being hit by a car.

When Tilden is too muddy, I park at Costco in Richmond and run the Bay Trail through Albany, behind GG Fields, along HWY 80, loop around Berkeley Marina, along 80 again to loop around the Emeryville Marina and then reverse the course back to Costco. Several water fountains along the way eliminates the need to carry water. There are a few miles of dirt trails along the pavement, but mostly you'll be pounding your joints on pavement. But even with all the cars and people along that urban route, I don't feel as safe as I do alone up in the hills in Tilden.

Good luck with your training. The marathon is an awesome challenge/acheivement...welcome to the club! vicki

Running tracks that are open to the public?

April 2006

Hi, I am getting back into running after some knee troubles. I prefer to run on rubber/plastic tracks. Does anyone know which East Bay tracks (Berkeley High/Laney College, etc) are open to the public and when? I tried various Googlings, but the info was not all in one place. Is there a Bay Area Runner's Guide or something that might have this info? thanks!

I used to run at the Merritt College track for similar reasons. I just parked in their lot and walked onto the track and ran. The track was almost always nearly empty. I don't know if this was officially OK, but it was friendly and open and no one seemed to care if I was a student or not. - liked Merritt

Piedmont High has a nice rubber track. It's open to the public on weekends and after school whenever the track team's not using it - about 4pm to dark, I think. The exact hours are posted on the fence. I think Edwards Stadium at Cal may also have a rubber track, and it's open to the public when the track team's not using it. I couldn't find a single resource for this info, either - maybe you should start one! Gonna run again if it ever stops raining

The best running track around is at King Middle School on Hopkins / Cross Street Colusa (approx). Lots of good trail running in Strawberry Canyon above the campus in the hills. Head up from Memorial Stadium & park in the dirt lots to your right. runner for 30 yrs

You can get on the track at Piedmont High and Berkeley High in the evenings. We use Cal often. The hours are posted on the gate outside the track. We use it in the evenings between 5:30- 7 although it supposedly closes at 6 or 6:30, rarely do they actually get around to locking it until 7. There's also a dirt track on the Clark Kerr campus behind that's open almost any time. jane.run [at] gmail.com

Piedmont High has a great track. anon

Whitter Field, Piedmont High School, has a beautiful track and field that's open to the public during non-school hours and when there are no track and field competitions. The track/field is in a sheltered bowl, great for winter and foggy mornings, but can get hot during the summer mid-day and afternoons. When your knees/thighs are ready, there's also a dirt track around Shepard Canyon Park in Monclair that can be used at anytime. Lots of folks like to run Bay View Trail, in Joaquin Miller Park, off of Skyline Blvd. Beautiful woods, wide trail in good condition, gentle slopes. recreational runner

Piedmont High School has an all weather rubber track that is open to the public.

Trail running in Berkeley

Sept 2005

My husband and I are new to the East Bay but we've lived in the Bay Area for almost 10 years. We love trail running- especially on Mt Tam. We bought the ''Trails of the East Bay'' map and have tried a few but they've been all up hill or all down hill. Can someone recommend a few awesome trail runs around the Berkeley area with great views and a variety of terrain? (some hills and some flats) We've done the Nimitz trail and it's great although it's paved. Also, what about 5-10 mile runs around Berkeley? Any suggestions or favorites out there? (obviously not trail runs) Thanks! Julie

Wildcat Creek trail starts in Tilden, near the Little Farm, and then rolls along, relatively flat, into Wildcat Canyon Regional Park for a total of about 4.5 miles. It gets very muddy when it rains, so run it now.

If you want to make a loop of it, and you can stand some hills, you can start at Lone Oak Rd. in Tilden, take either Gorge (to Curran) trail or Meadows Canyon trail up to Nimitz, do 2 or 2.5 miles on the Nimitz, then take one of the trails (Laurel Canyon? Conlon?) down to Wildcat Creek trail and back to where you started. Meadows Canyon is a steady 1.5-mile uphill, with no shade, but it is stunning.

Selby Trail, which parallels Wildcat Canyon Rd., is relatively flat, at least from Park Hills Rd. to the north end. robin

The fire trail behind Strawberry Canyon rec center has access both at the top and bottom. The bottom is about 2 miles uphill, the top is about 2 miles flat. You can access the top above Lawrence Hall of Science and run 4 miles flat (2 out, 2 back), or you can start at the bottom and go 2 up, 2 down. If you are really ambitious, you can run the whole thing, 8 total. The turn around point is obvious going either way -- from the bottom going up, it gets flat where you turn around, from the top going flat, it starts to go down. Nice views of the bay from the top part...Happy trails! D. M.

I'm sure you will get lots of posts about this - but there is a fire trail above UC Berkeley. It is about 4 miles long total (as someone told me) with the upper half being mostly flat (and great views) and the lower half being hilly. The lower half starts in Strawberry Canyon above the pools in UC Berkeley (I think it is Centennial Dr.) and the upper half starts near the Lawrence Berkeley Labs on Grizzly Peak. Lots of runners and dog walkers and it is very peaceful.

There are also tons of trails in Tilden Park that I have not explored yet that you can look into. I'm sure you will get lots of posts about this - but there is a fire trail above UC Berkeley. It is about 4 miles long total (as someone told me) with the upper half being mostly flat (and great views) and the lower half being hilly. The lower half starts in Strawberry Canyon above the pools in UC Berkeley (I think it is Centennial Dr.) and the upper half starts near the Lawrence Berkeley Labs on Grizzly Peak. Lots of runners and dog walkers and it is very peaceful.

There are also tons of trails in Tilden Park that I have not explored yet that you can look into (you will probably get lots of responses about this, too).

Happy running! running mom