Living in Berkeley means I can be on my bike year round, whether for recreation, commuting or running errands. And for recreation, we have world class rides that take us up into the hills for both physical challenge and spectacular views of the Bay Area. I love both road riding and trail riding and living car-free means most rides are a combination of both. Here is a great road/trail ride that blends both worlds seamlessly into a pleasurable outing any day of the year.
Starting the morning with a meet-up with friends at Peet’s on Solano Avenue, we head east towards the hills by cutting over at The Alameda and up Los Angeles to pick up our first leg of the ride at The Arlington, alertly navigating The Circle, a hectic roundabout ala Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, with cars coming and going every which way. For a few miles, we’ll stay on this fairly easy climb into Kensington, a mild-mannered, academia rich hamlet just northeast of the Berkeley flat lands with street names like Oberlin, Cambridge and Purdue.
As a side note: Another option for a starting point is from the village here, grabbing a homey breakfast at the Inn Kensington. At around mile three, we pass the Kensington Park, a multipurpose recreation center, on our right. At nearly mile four, we take a right onto Rifle Range Road until it dead ends at a park entrance to Tilden Park’s trail head for Rifle Range Road Trail.
Get ready for some fun as we cut loose on this downhill introduction into Tilden Park’s via a lesser traversed access point. At the bottom of the trail we pick up Wildcat Creek Trail to our left at about mile five, cross the idyllic bridge over the creek to find the cattle gate at Mezue Trail in front of us, the gateway to getting reacquainted with our grit.
Our road ride was a warm up to this grand challenge that is meant for the seasoned trail biker as the climbs, the wind, the cows and the technical aspects are indeed rigorous. But you will feel like you are riding upward into the open skies of heaven, in between those gasps for air, I promise you!
I mention the cows as they are not only part of this bucolic rolling hills scenery but because they leave their mark in patties and deep, weathered ruts and cracks all about the trail increasing the challenge ten-fold. But forget about it, just test your mettle and get on with it. The scenery is spectacular as we get to the crest eventually, topping out with sweeping vistas and valiant, heroic euphoria.
While this area can often be windswept, finding a spot to tuck in for a snack or rest break is not without possibility as we do on this particular day, taking in the majesty of this shangri-la and refueling for the next leg.
As we continue to amble onward through the hills, we find the connector Fire Trail Number 3 which intersects into Nimitz Way, which will eventually meet pavement again, and hence, the masses. It feels like a roller coaster ride now with excellent payoff views of Mount Tam to the west and Mount Diablo to the east, incredible beauty all around and a sense of communing with others out recreating in all manner of ways.
At mile 11, yes, mile 11, we exit the park at the popular Inspiration Point and turn right out of the parking area onto Wildcat Canyon Road to finish the ride back into town. It all seems easy-breezy now, and once we hit Spruce, it is literally all downhill from there to complete this feat at 16.5 wonderfully diverse miles!
Such an accomplishment deserves a prize and re-entry into the flats will land you at any number of great eateries in the Gourmet Ghetto or downtown. And this is just one of many great outings like this in our great town of Berkeley, a cycling playground.
For a map reference of the route starting from Peet’s on Solano, click here
Check here for any trail closures prior to your ride
This post will also appear on YourBerkeley.com in Summer 2016