Tilden Regional Park
Tilden Regional Park website. Off Grizzly Peak, along Wildcat Canyon Rd. Free.
This beautiful, well-developed 2,079-acre park has 35 miles of hiking trails as well as numerous picnic spots, many with tables and barbecues.
A 5-minute walk takes you to a popular lookout point. The Nimitz Way Trail is paved for 4 miles, great for biking and hiking, and offers panoramic views of San Francisco Bay. It is flat and popular with families. Be sure to bring water, as there is none available.
This low-key swimming area has a beach covered in clean sand imported from Monterey. Lifeguards are on duty, and the Lake Anza Beach Club dispenses simple foods and fancy coffees.
One of only four classic four-row carousels remaining in Northern California, this restored antique gem is located in the center of the park. Built in 1911 by the Herschel-Spillman firm in New York, it spent time before it settled here at Urbita Springs Park in San Bernardino, at Ocean Beach in San Diego, and at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A menagerie carousel, in addition to horses it sports an assortment of other colorful animals, including a stork, a dragon, and a frog. Rosie–a white horse with a rose above its ear–is the lead steed, at which point the parade begins. The horse next to her is the most valuable animal in the herd and is insured for $35,000. The carousel’s large band organ operates like a player piano and is regarded as one of the finest examples of its kind.
Native Here Nursery
101 Golf Course Rd.
Tucked across from the golf course, this non-profit nursery is the largest in the Bay Area that specializes in native plants. Its mission is to save plants that are native to Alameda and Contra Costa counties. More than 300 varieties are available, all grown from gathered seeds and some cuttings. Plants are arranged so that you can easily find those that are native to a particular city.
Regional Parks Botanic Garden
Located across from the carousel, this 10-acre garden was established in 1940. It offers the opportunity for a leisurely, quiet walk. The garden is devoted to collecting, growing, displaying, and preserving native California plants. More than 3,000 drought-resistant species and subspecies are displayed, and native plants are also featured. Notable among them are extensive collections of the state’s conifers, oaks, shrubs, grasses, and bulbs.
Steam Train/Redwood Valley Railway
Grizzly Peak Blvd./Lomas Cantadas. Fee.
Started in 1952 by the late Erich Thomsen, a career railroad man, and now operated by his daughter Ellen, this miniature train concession is described as “a hobby that got out of hand.” The replica 15-inch gauge, 5-inch scale narrow-gauge, oil-burning miniature steam train (whew!) follows a scenic route through tall redwoods that includes one tunnel and two trestles. The ride covers 1¼ mile and lasts 12 minutes.
Tilden Park Golf Course
Featuring mature trees and beautiful views, this scenic 18-hole course has all types of holes permitting all types of shots. It’s a little more challenging than other courses, with narrow fairways and a par-4 straight up the hill on the first hole. Golf carts and a restaurant are on site.
Tilden Nature Area
At N. end of Central Park Dr. Free.
This 740-acre preserve is located just north of Tilden Regional Park. It has more than 10 miles of hiking trails, including both the self-guided boardwalk trail to Jewel Lake and the vigorous climb up 1,211-foot Wildcat Peak for panoramic San Francisco Bay view.
●Environmental Education Center
This is a good place to get oriented and obtain current general information about park attractions. Exhibits stress local natural history. Educational programs and naturalist-guided walks, many designed especially for families and children, are scheduled regularly.
600 Canon Dr. Free.
The Red Barn here was built in 1955. The well-maintained working farm is home to cows, chickens, rabbits, pigs, and assorted other barnyard animals. Several heritage breeds are preserved here, including Milking Shorthorn cattle, Black Welsh Mountain sheep, and French Alpine goats. Visitors may bring lettuce or celery (but nothing else) to feed the animals.
Located at the entrance, this colorful playground is usually quite busy.