The grids and geography of the city of Berkeley have disrupted and affected each other since the city’s establishment. Parks remain an important way to bring natural green space into the urban environment. Berkeley boasts a huge number of parks, both large and small. Here are some of my favorites. All of them are great for a weekend trip or even just an afternoon study break. They’re all also easily accessible by main bus lines and a short walk, or by bike.
Aquatic Park is near Fourth Street, in Southwest Berkeley. It includes a wetland area and a lake, which make it a great location for bird- and fish-spotting. It also has good trails for walking and biking, including a connection to the pedestrian freeway overpass thats accesses the Berkeley Marina. Other amenities on land include a soccer field, picnic areas and even a Frisbee golf course. If you are interested in volunteering, it’s right next to the Berkeley Animal Care Services building, which is always looking for volunteers to take care of and play with cats and dogs in the pound.
César Chávez Park is the western endpoint of University Avenue, a rectangular projection into the sea, and is actually a former landfill reclaimed and converted into useful parkland. It boasts a large turf area with a variety of trails and a picnic area. There’s even a large earthen sundial that’s an ongoing public sculpture project. All of these areas offer stunning views of the water of the bay, the San Francisco skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Berkeley Hills.
To get to the Berkeley Rose Garden, you just have to head north from campus on Euclid Avenue. Have some of the great food there while you’re passing through. It’s a hilly but scenic walk through North Berkeley near the co-ops and custom homes nestled among North Berkeley’s hills and trees. The garden is most spectacular in mid-May, which is the peak of rose blooms. It’s also right next to Codornices Park, which has good trails through glades and forests of oaks, redwoods and bay trees. There are also amenities such as basketball courts, picnic tables and baseball fields. While the Rose Garden can offer more of a spectacle, Codornices is a great place to have a picnic or escape from the stress of student life.
If you’re willing to venture even farther north into the Northbrae neighborhood, you’ll get to Indian Rock Park, which is very popular and scenic. It has a bunch of paths and steps cut into rocks and also has rock climbing areas. The sunset view is really nice here. The rocks form a natural vista that you can see a panorama of the whole bay from. Getting up to and around this park is more strenuous than most of the others on this list, but the view at the end makes it worth it.
Ohlone Park starts just three blocks west of campus and stretches for four entire blocks, making it one of the longest parks in the city. It has facilities for softball, soccer, basketball and lawn volleyball, making it a great place to visit for a variety of recreational sports. There’s even an off-leash dog park, so both canines and humans can enjoy this lovely green area. Ohlone is interesting because the land was owned by BART and became a park when the BART tracks that connect to nearby North Berkeley station were laid underground. Community meetings in the 1970s heavily favored the development of the current park.
These six parks are just a small sampling of all the parks and green spaces that Berkeley has to offer. If you’re willing to venture outside the city limits, Tilden Regional Park offers more than 2,000 acres of natural beauty. You can hike, run, swim in Lake Anza and even golf on an 18-hole course. There are also many more parks within the city limits. No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a Berkeley park that can offer you an escape.