A Brief History
Opened in 1936, Tilden was one of the 3 original parks in the district (along with Temescal and Sibley Volcanic Regional Parks). The park is named after Major Charles Lee Tilden, one of the founding members of the district and its first president of the Board of Directors.
The park remains a favorite with locals for its stunning views and wide range of available activities.
All Inclusive Hike
Our hike in Tilden Regional Park took us on most of the trails for a moderate 14-mile hike with 1,900 feet of elevation gain.
Starting at the Southeastern entrance (near the Steam Trains), we headed up the paved Seaview Trail and followed it around to Vollmer Peak, the highest peak in the Berkeley Hills. From here you will see San Francisco and Oakland as well as much of the Bay Area.
Retrace your steps and follow the Bay Area Ridge Trail/East Bay Skyline National Trail/Seaview Trail until it intersects Wildcat Canyon Road. Cross the road and follow the Meadows Canyon Trail until you reach the Lone Oak trailhead.
From there, the Loop Road will take you to the Little Farm and Environmental Education Center (see the Lazy Sunday Options section).
As a side excursion, make a loop out of the Packrat and Upper Packrat Trails to Jewel Lake. The Packrat Trail, cut through dense riparian vegetation is rather different than the woodland and exposed trails in the rest of the park. The Lake itself is a gem and a haven for ducks.
Take the Loop Road back to Lone Oak and from there, take the Wildcat George Trail. This is a must hike trail. Not only is this the place to observe the newt migration during the winter (unfortunately with the dry year we didn’t see any), but the canyon itself is impressive. Steep cliffs, riddled with wind caves, bound it to the West. The gorge was once home to a 90-foot waterfall.
Today, in its stead, you will find Lake Anza. There are still waterfalls here, but nowhere near the 90-foot glory.
We followed the Wildcat Gorge Trail until it wrapped around into the Shelby Trail which leads back to Lake Anza. We hoped to tour the Botanic Garden and check out the Brazil Building, but stubbornly, the trail does not have connectors up to Wildcat Canyon Road where these are located. It’s still a tranquil loop and worth taking.
Back at Lake Anza, take the Mineral Springs trail and walk north along Wildcat Canyon Road. There’s traffic, so be careful, but the shoulder is quite wide.
Cross the road at the Quarry Trailhead and take the Quarry Trail a bit over a mile until you reach South Park Drive. Here you’ll have to walk along the road again, but it is closed from November 1st until March 31st for the newt migration.
You’ll only be on the road for a bit over a tenth of a mile before making a left and heading back to the trailhead via the Vollmer Peak Trail. Hope you left some energy for the final climb.
Get Into Shape
For longer/more challenging hikes, connect with Wildcat Canyon Regional Park on the Wildcat Creek Trail. Wildcat Canyon, offers not only more trail miles but also more climbing.
East Bay Municipal Utility District has land adjacent to the park which is open to hiking (with a permit) as well.
The 31-mile East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail starts in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park and winds through Tilden, ending at Anthony Chabot Regional Park. Do it as an epic day-hike or make camping reservations for an over-night trip.
Many of the trails in the park are open to bikes; respect closures during wet weather.
For more information on the East Bay Skyline National Recreation Trail and Wildcat Canyon Regional Park, check out our blog.
For more information on hiking on EBMUD land, check out their webpage.
Lazy Sunday Options
If you are just looking for a spot to catch the sunset, stroll up the .5-mile steep, paved trail to Vollmer Peak. From here you will be able to enjoy a view of the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges as well as the Marin Headlands.
Lake Anza offers swimming, sunning, and picnic space. Parking is off of Lake Anza Road, just a short walk from the beach. As such, it is a busy spot in the park. Note that the park is very busy in general.
If you have a family or a love of farm animals, drive straight to the Tilden Nature Area. The small farm is home to many chickens, cows, goats, and sheep. Bring lettuce or celery to feed the friendly animals. Be sure to walk around the Environmental Education Center to learn about the ecology and biology of the area.
The Merry-Go-Round and Steam Train are other options for families; fees apply.
Check out a complete list of activities here.
For more hikes in the area, visit our East Bay Regional Park District Agency Page.