Hiking in Northern California hardly needs an introduction.
Majestic mountains, luminous coastal views, and gorgeous redwood forests – there is no place like it to get your fill of the outdoors. Whether you’re seeking ocean views at Land’s End or a sea of fog rolling in on Mt. Tam, the Bay Area has an abundance of outdoor adventures for whatever strikes your fancy.
If you’re craving a change of scenery and something a little more off-the-beaten-path, consider hopping over to the East Bay for a hike!
Cities such as Berkeley and Oakland have some of the best hiking trails in the Bay Area, with some of the most underrated and spectacular views, which will have you seeing the Bay literally in a new light.
Note: Within the current context of Covid-19, all of the below trails are open. Please make sure to wear your mask and practice social distancing and keep 6 feet distance between yourself/your group and other hikers on the trails.
Best East Bay Hikes
Wildcat Gorge to Meadows Canyon Trail Loop, Tilden Regional Park, Berkeley
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Distance: 3.3 miles
Time Required: 1 hour 40 minutes
Parking: Free, available at Lake Anza parking lot
Directions: Follow Lake Anza Trail and turn left onto Wildcat Gorge Trail until the Meadows Canyon Trail. Follow onto Curran Trail and descend back to Wildcat Gorge Trail
Tilden Regional Park is one of the original regional parks in the East Bay and a classic hiking spot in Berkeley.
Beyond some amazing trails, the park has a carousel and farm, and Lake Anza offers seasonal swimming, making it a destination for families in particular. Tilden is just a short drive from downtown Berkeley but once you’re there, you’ll feel far removed from the bustling college town.
There’s plenty of shade on this beautiful East Bay hike, and a creek and lake along the way as well. If you can, go early.
Beyond avoiding the crowds, hiking in the morning as the fog is lifting gives Tilden an unreal and enchanted feel. Make sure to stop by Cheeseboard in North Berkeley on your way back for a morning pastry or afternoon slice (who are we kidding? – get the whole pie!).
Note: All Tilden Park attractions, including the Merry-Go-Round, nursery, picnic areas, and Lake Anza, are closed until further notice because of Covid-19. Most trails are open but please check the park’s website for updates.
Huckleberry Nature Path, Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve, Oakland
Distance: 1.7 miles
Time Required: 1 hour 45 minutes
Parking: Free, available at Skyline Blvd. staging area. If the parking lot is full, park along the road
Directions: From the staging area, follow Huckleberry Path
A gem nestled in the Oakland Hills, the preserve is abundant with plants and flowers found nowhere else in the East Bay.
This path is a self-guided tour within the reserve – think of it as a two-for-one nature walk and learning adventure (there are plaques throughout the trail explaining the different plants).
This beautiful East Bay hiking trail is shaded with a canopy of evergreens with some views of the valley, and you’ll gradually encounter a mild incline. The path has an upper and lower trail – stay on the upper if you want to take it easy, take the lower if you’re up for a little more of a workout.
Besides the namesake huckleberries, you’ll wander through many kinds of ferns, bay laurels, and manzanitas, just to name a few. Each season will showcase different plants and flowers, so don’t limit yourself to just a one-time excursion.
For more information, see the park website.
Stream Trail to French Trail, Redwood Regional Park, Oakland
Distance: 5.2 miles
Time Required: 3 hours
Parking: Free, Skyline Gate staging area
Directions: From the staging area, take the Stream Trail, make a right onto Fern Trail, and continue onto French Trail. Make a right onto West Ridge Trail.
The name says it all – come here if you want to see California’s coastal redwoods, right in Oakland!
It’s a great and quieter alternative to going to Muir Woods north of SF, which gets crowded with tourists and locals alike.
Redwood Regional Park is filled with many trails to choose from, and this one is moderate enough that you can admire the abundance of 150-foot redwoods and ferns as you go.
This park is also a great place for spying animals such as deer, rabbits, and even the rare golden eagle. Once you’re deep in the heart of the forests, you’ll notice the air around you is cooler and milder thanks to a refreshing stream of air flowing in, making this spot great for the summer months.
For more information, check out the park’s website.
Mt. Diablo Falls Trail, Mt. Diablo State Park, Clayton, East Bay
Distance: 6 miles
Time: 4 hours
Parking: free, limited parking available on Regency Drive
Trailhead: Regency Gate at the end of Regency Drive
Directions: Follow Donner Canyon Road, following it until Meridian Ridge Fire Road and make a right. Continue until Middle Trail, make a left and follow until you reach Falls Trail.
A little further east in Clayton, Mt. Diablo State Park offers over 40 trails to explore, some of which offer the most spectacular views of the East Bay.
Hikers clamber to Mt. Diablo for these panoramas, but if you’re looking to chase waterfalls, the Falls Trail is your best bet!
You’ll meander through grasslands and oak savannahs with waterfalls (yes, plural) along the way. The waterfalls are of course best after rainfall, so going in the winter or spring means the waterfalls are flowing and the hills are at their most vibrant.
The path can be quite muddy and slippery after rainfall, and once you hit Falls Trails, there are some steep sections, so take care. If you go during the summer or during dryer months, the landscape won’t be as lush but you’ll still spy some gorgeous wildflowers and amazing views of the valley.
A word of caution, especially to any arachnophobes out there: Mt. Diablo State Park is known for its tarantulas, which come out in full force for mating season in late August through early October! If you spy a tarantula, they’re not out to get you and they’re actually harmless – their venom isn’t poisonous to people.
For more information, check the park website.
Springhill Loop, Briones Regional Park, Berkeley
Distance: 3.9 miles
Time Required: 2 hours 30 minutes
Parking: Free, available at Springhill Road
Directions: Follow Springhill Road to Springhill Trail and follow to Lafayette Ridge Trail. Turn right onto Briones Crest Trail and keep right and follow to Sunrise Trail. Turn left onto Buckeye Ranch Trail to finish.
Northeast of Berkeley, Briones Regional Park is 6,000 acres of open space with miles upon miles of rolling hills. The park has grazing land with cows and horses, and a research center for UC Berkeley.
This loop is a series of trails with some uphill sections interspersed and is mostly unshaded, so make sure to pack a hat and sunglasses. Be prepared to climb and work up a sweat, but the steep inclines are well worth it for the views.
Once you get to the ridge, you’ll be rewarded with a bird’s eye view of Walnut Creek and the surrounding areas, as well as unparalleled views of Mt. Diablo.
There’s a bench right where Sunrise Trails starts, a perfect spot to enjoy the views and munch on a snack before finishing the trail. In the springtime, the hills are an unbelievable green and the wildflowers are in full bloom. If you want to make the most of the sweeping views, go during sunrise or sunset!
For more information, check the park website.
Panoramic Hill and Strawberry Canyon Fire Trail, Berkeley
Distance: 6.2 miles
Time Required: 3 hours 30 minutes
Parking: Very limited street parking near Stonewall Road
Directions: Start at Stonewall Panoramic Trailhead, follow to Panoramic Hill behind Claremont Hotel. Follow Panoramic Ridge via Upper Strawberry Canyon Fire Trail to Chaparral Peak and down to lower Strawberry Canyon Trail
A must-do East Bay hike if you are looking for unforgettable views of Berkeley, Oakland, and all the way across the bay to San Francisco. Right off campus from UC Berkeley, this hike is also favored by students looking for a study break (or an excuse not to study).
The trail has some tough climbs and it’s a workout no matter how fit you are, but you’ll get perhaps the most sweeping and breathtaking views of the Bay.
Don’t be shy in taking breaks, as you’ll have great views throughout your hike up – no need for delayed gratification here. In the spring, plenty of California poppies will be blossoming along the trail. This is another great hike for sunrise or sunset, or go in the evening to admire all the city lights.
Note: A stone’s throw away from the trailhead is Star Grocery, which has an amazing deli bar in the back with tasty sandwich offerings. Stop by for a sandwich as either fuel for your hike or your reward for finishing.
For more information on the hike, read up on the park website here.
Round Top and Skyline Loop, Robert Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve, Oakland
Distance: 3.5 miles
Time Required: 1 hour 40 minutes
Parking: Free, available at Sibley Staging Area
Directions: Start on Overlook Trail, make a left onto Round Top Loop Trail, following for Volcanic Trail
Surprise – there’s a volcano in the Bay!
Round Top is the most prominent feature of the Sibley Volcanic Preserve: an extinct volcano that dates back 10 million years and is the source of all the volcanic rock in the park.
The trails will lead you to a peak with sweeping views of the Oakland hills. You’ll also stumble upon man-made labyrinths around the park, arranged out stones.
The park is small, so it’s great for a short hike that won’t wear you out and locals love bringing dogs along for the hike.
Pin These East Bay Hikes for Later!
Allison Green is a travel blogger, writer, and podcaster who grew up in the Bay Area of California. She has spent time living in New York, Prague, and Sofia, where she currently calls home in between visits to California. She has traveled to 60 countries before the age of 30 while running several digital travel businesses. Her writing and podcast have been featured in Forbes, CBC Canada, National Geographic, the Huffington Post, and CNN Arabic, amongst others. She’s obsessed with dogs, wine, and anywhere she can see the ocean.