Where to Go Walking

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Places to walk near Pill Hill

July 2008

I work on Pill Hill (30th and Telegraph area, near Summit Hospital) and am looking for low traffic, pretty places to walk during my lunch hour. I would prefer not to drive anywhere, but it seems hard to find spots to walk to that don't involve a significant amount of time on streets with heavy traffic (Telegraph and Broadway). Is there a less congested (cleaner air) area to walk to that doesn't involve driving, or somewhere I can drive to within 5-10 minutes and then walk for 45 minutes or so? I have only an hour for lunch, so the less time in the car the better, but it's worth a drive if it means I don't have to inhale car exhaust. Thanks! -Want to breathe clean air

I like the paths and roads of Mountain View Cemetary at the end of Piedmont Ave (above Pleasant Valley/51st st.) or the other cemetary at the end of Howe (one street west of Piedmont). It is roughly 2 miles from Pill Hill, very little traffic in the cemetaries, lovely trees, easy to challenging terrain, depending on what you want, birds and occasional other wildlife, fountains. Downside is the lawnmowing noise from their ongoing maintenance. brenna

How about Lake Merritt. That should be just about exactly a 5 minute drive and a 45 minute walk around the lake. If you can't make it all the way around in that time you can just walk as far as you can in 20 minutes and turn back. anon

I used to live and work on Pill Hill and my suggestion would be to cross Broadway on 30th Street, which turns into Richmond Boulevard and has a picturesque area along a creek, with a vintage stone bench at one spot. It is within walking distance, but near the freeway, though you might not know it once you're there. The obvious option if you drive is Lakeside Park and Lake Merritt. The less obvious option is Mountain View Cemetery at the end of Piedmont Avenue -- a peaceful setting, local history and a great view. Both are less than 5 minutes away. Former Pill Hiller

Neighborhood walks with pretty gardens

May 2008

My friend who's an avid gardener is visiting at the end of this month from Alabama and one thing she enjoys when she's here is walking around the neighborhoods looking at peoples' gardens - flowers, walkways, trellises, garden sculpture, and other stuff that you don't see much where she is from. When she was here before we walked around the Elmwood and she was blown away. I thought I'd take her to the Berkeley Rose Garden and Berkeley Hort, but does anyone have other good suggestions about nice neighborhood walks we could go on to see pretty gardens?

I love to check out gardens wherever I walk in Berkeley. The problem is that in most places you'll see only a handful of interesting gardens during a several-block walk. My best bet for spectacular gardens in a relatively small place are in the Berkeley Hills between the Arlington and Spruce, north of Marin. Especially Santa Barbara Ave. and San Diego Ave. If you want to see an over-the-top sculpture garden, visit Marcia Donahue's garden on south side (near Halcyon court? possibly Deakin Street), which is open to the public one day a week (maybe Sunday's). I don't have the address but you could probably Google it. Her ex-husband is Mark Bullwinkle, who does a lot of sheet iron sculptures but she is an artist in her own right. Francesca

I highly recommend the book, Hidden Walks in the East Bay. I have done several walks in this book and loved looking at the architecture and gardens of the houses we come across. The ones that really stick to my mind are the Alvarado Loop (close to Claremont Hotel) and the Indian Rocks walk. Really, you can't go around w/ any of the walks up on the Berkeley Hills. There is also a map you can buy that titled Berkeley's Pathways. It lists a lot of the hidden stairs around Berkeley/Albany hills area. Check out http://www.berkeleypaths.org anon

Early morning walks in nature

Oct 2006

Can anyone recommend places of beauty where I can walk alone safely in the very early mornings. I live in Southwest Berkeley and know from experience that I cannot do so here. I deeply love the early morning hours (prior to 6:30AM when I need to be helping my kids) and I long for the natural beauty in which I grew up. While I wish I were otherwise, I actually really dislike the harsh, glaring mid-day sun or I'd give up my early-morning-walk dream and go at lunch. I feel trapped in my home, resentful of my husband who does not want to move, and sometimes fear for my life or my marriage over this issue. Many thanks. Feeling trapped and discouraged

Is it really important for you to walk alone, or would you accept a (quiet) companion? That's an immediate way to feel safer. I might be up for an occasional 5:00 am excursion. (A dog would do the trick as well, but I imagine you don't have a dog or you would have thought of that.) But if the solitude is a vital thing, you might consider Tilden. I would imagine that it is very safe (more chance of encountering mountain lions than people), and one trail I really enjoy has its head by the parking lot across from the pony rides. It's about a two mile loop through a gorgeous canyon and in the hills. There are other trails there as well.

Another place closer by is the Albany shore -- you can park by the racetrack and head out along the trails to the bay. There are loops that take you through grassland, lots of birds, etc. I believe that it is safe; there were homeless people living there in the past and occasionally I would see someone on my morning run who made me a bit nervous, but I was never accosted, and since then things have improved, with dog walkers predominating after 9am.

I also run along the trail that goes along the bay north of the Albany shore park. It is not very scenic to start out with (runs parallel to I-80, but it loops into Point Isabel park and goes along the shore up to Richmond. It has always felt safe to me.

One way to check safety would be to contact the Berkeley (and/or Albany) police and ask for the crime records for Tilden or the bay. That would give you a notion of whether crime is an issue.

Good luck with seeking your peace! L

Your message is asking for more than your original question. To answer your first question, no, I don't think there is a place that is safe to walk alone in nature at 5:30 a.m. because it is pitch dark at that hour. Can you find a friend who wants to walk then? Even that might not be very safe.

To go beyond your question, it seems that you have some deeper issues going on about resentment towards your spouse and feeling trapped. I can understand how you feel, because I also have a visceral need to breathe fresh air and find that when I get out of my house I am a much better person and mother. When I don't get out, life seems dark indeed.

You don't mention the ages of your children, but can you get out with them? Backpacks are wonderful, and can hold kids up to 40 lbs. There are trails in Tilden that kids love to explore. There are some stroller-friendly paths as well. Bigger kids can learn to enjoy hiking, too. Try to connect with other moms to form a regular hiking group.

And then you should make it a priority to get out and hike at least once a week on your own or with a friend (in the early morning, after the sun rises). Explain to your husband how much you need this. The East Bay Regional Parks are full of challenging trails with incredible views that will make you feel like you are far away from the city.

Be good to yourself. I hope this helps Hiker

Here's a walk I really like to take at dusk or later, though I have never done it at 5:30 a.m. Take Shepherd Canyon Road in the Montclair district (Oakland) to Paso Robles Drive. Turn into Bishop Ct. (immediately after entering Paso Robles) and park. Walk into Montclair Village and back. Takes about 35 - 40 mins. Slight incline on the way back. It's not a dirt trail, but there are deer, squirrels, lots of birds, oak and evergreen trees, and it is a very peaceful walk. The trees sort of enclose the trail in a arching way in many places. I have also walked alone at dusk in Redwood park (off of Skyline) and been surprised to see several others out strolling as well. Not so many as to make it seem crowded in the least, but enough to feel relatively safe. Perhaps that would be the case in the early a.m., too. Redwood is a notch up on the nature immersion than the Montclair path. Both may be too far for you, not sure. Good luck. I really understand the need you have walking momma

Could you find a friend or two to walk with you? Perhaps through BPN? Then you would have many more options, in my opinion. Walking in the east bay parklands alone at 5:30 in the morning is not a good idea due to the presence of mountain lions. We seldom see them. They typically like to stay well away from us and stay well hidden. We needn't be freaked out by the fact that they are there, BUT we should hike in a wise manner when they and their prey (deer) are very likely to be out and about (early morning hours Cautious Cougar Lover

I was assaulted while jogging at daybreak (6:45 am) 3 years ago. So if you get any replies to your post, I hope you take just this one piece of advice: DON'T DO IT! It is NOT worth it!

No place is ever safe. Not to mention that as much as we like to think that all BPN readers are sweet, good-hearted people, there may be an ill-willed reader that will see replies to your post and now know where to prey on women at 5:30 in the morning.

Some will say that it's not fair to live in fear, but we don't drive without seatbelts because it's unfair to live in fear. It sounds like your sensable enough to stay out of bad neighborhoods, but an isolated trail is no safer. After he attacked and threatened to kill me I ran to a road where at least 10 cars would not stop for me - so even the presence of others does not make it safer.

And for anyone who does walk or jog alone and refuses to heed my advice, or even if you just want to feel safer in your neighborhood at least consider taking the women's self defense class through IMPACT Bay Area (formerly Bay Area Model Mugging - www.bamm.org).

After self-defense classes, counceling, and time I can still say that I will never be the same and I will never completely heal. The person was never caught. eastbayrunner