Tilden NatureStudy Area, Tilden Regional Park, CA
A view of Mount Tamalpais rising from San Francisco Bay will be the reward for hiking to the top of Wildcat Peak in Tilden Park. This trail loops through eucalyptus and oak forests, up moderately steep hills, then back to one of the best nature study areas in the Bay Area.
Be sure to pick up a Tilden Nature Study map at the Environmental Education Center (EEC); it contains a legend of trail symbols to help you follow the right paths. The trail begins at the edge of the eucalyptus forest directly behind the EEC. Look for the Jewel Lake Trail sign and the Sylvan Trail marker.
This trail affords an excellent opportunity to compare different biomes. The first part of the hike is a gentle climb through pungent eucalyptus, abruptly yielding to oak woodland as you near Peak Trail. Then hikers climb moderately steep switchbacks through grassy hills (covered with wildflowers in spring) and chaparral slopes to Wildcat Peak at the top of the loop.
Here there is a spur(.10 mile) which leads to the top of Wildcat Peak,high above the tops of the eucalyptus trees. You will find a circular stone observation plaza at the top. On a clear day hikers can view San Francisco Bay with Mt..Tamalpais rising above the bridges in the west, and Mt.. Diablo looming above rural Contra Costa County to the east.
To descend and complete the loop, retrace your steps on the spur back to Peak Trail. At this point continue on towards Nimitz Way. About 30 yards before the paved road the trail makes a right turn and begins to weave through a lush canyon.
When you come to the fire road (Laurel Canyon Road) follow it to the right until you come to the marker for Laurel Canyon Trail. Going left, you'll follow switch backs and cross tiny streams in the shade of large oaks and laurels. The trail continues on the other side of the next fire road, but about 10 yards to the left.
The last leg of your trek takes you out of the oaks, back into the eucalyptus grove, across one more fire road and finally deposits you back in the meadow behind the EEC.
The trail described above is probably the most interesting and scenic route to the top of Wildcat Peak, and back again. See the Tilden Nature Study Area brochure and map for other ideas.
Historical and Natural Features
Tilden Nature Study Area has had a long history: first as a nature camp for Oakland school children in the 1930's, then as part of the East Bay Regional Park District. Since the 1960's Tilden has operated a wonderful nature study program with professional naturalists.
The Nature Study Area consists of many habitats: Eucalyptus and oak forests, grasslands and shrub areas.
Before it was a nature study area it was a cattle grazing area, and in the 1930's trees were plated in what was once open grasslands to preserve the watershed.
East Bay Regional Park District
2950 Peralta Oaks Ct.
PO Box 5381
(510) 635-0135 (general information)
(510) 636-1684 (group camping reservations)
(510) 525-2233 Tilden Nature Study Area
Distance: 2.5 miles
Time: Allow about 2 hours
Elevation gain: peak is 1250 feet high
Grade: mostly gently with some moderately steep grades near the peak
Suggested age: Wolf Cubs through Webelos. There is quite a bit for non-hikers tot to do as they wait at the EEC for hikers.
Suggested season: All seasons. Late winter and early spring for a rewarding view and full streams; spring for wildflowers; relatively cool in summer
AAA "Alameda-Contra Costa Counties," "Oakland."
Tilden Nature Study Area Map, distributed by EBRPD, available at most EBRPD Parks.
By Car: From Highway 24 take the Fish Ranch Road Exit (just east of the Caldecott Tunnel); go north about 1 mile to Grizzly Peak Blvd., turn right; stay on Grizzly Peak about 12.5 miles; turn right on Canyon Drive, go about .10 mile and veer left on Central Drive, following signs to the Little Farm and Nature Study Area. There are no fees.
By Public Transit: AC Transit #67 bus stops in the parking lot near EEC, weekends only.
Limitations and Cautions
Be sure each and every member of your party is familiar with poison oak in its various forms before you start your hike. It is abundant here, but not a problem if everyone stays on the trail.
Long pants will help protect against poison oak and thistles which may grow close to the trail.
In the rainy season some parts of the trail can be very muddy; wear shoes that can take the muck.
Environmental Education Center (has toilet facilities)
Tot Lot playground
Non-reservable picnic area
Activity suggestions and other comments
Also located in Tilden Park are a swimming area at Lake Anza, Botanic Garden, antique merry-go-round, ponies and model steam trains to ride, and more.
Achievements: 7a, 8e, 10b and Electives 13a, 13d, 18a, 18b, 18f, 18g
Achievements: 5d, 10a, 12b, 12c, 12e, and Electives 11a, 11b, 12a, 12c, 12f, 23e
Forester, Naturalist, Traveler, Family Member
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