Our visit started at Little Farm, located on the west end of the park not far from Jewel Lake. Free parking is available a short walk from the farm, or you can take AC Transit #67 from Berkeley BART on the weekends. Little Farm is open every day of the year, 8:30 to 4, and is free. You can bring celery and lettuce to feed to the Shorthorn cows, French Alpine goats, Black Welsh mountain sheep, pig, and ducks and chickens (who prefer lettuce). You can also visit but not feed Dutch rabbits. Turkeys roam the farm as well, though we didn't see any this time. We took one bag of celery, which was soon gone, and the animals' attention quickly turned to new arrivals, hands full of fresh produce.
After Little Farm, we decided to take advantage of Tilden Nature Area's 10+ miles of hiking trails. We chose the Jewel Lake Nature Trail to Jewel Lake, traveling much of the way on a magical boardwalk. Trees and brush enclosed us, forming a green roof over our heads. When we arrived at the lake, a tree that had fallen into the water was covered with turtles sunning themselves. As we were walking away from the turtles, my sister noticed a crawfish in the brush at the side of the trail. This remains the coolest creature I've seen in the wild in California. If you enjoy hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding, there are nearly 40 miles of trails in Tilden Park proper. Nimitz Way is wheelchair accessible and paved.
Our next stop was the Botanic Garden, open year round, 8:30 to 5:30 during the summer. The garden is 10 acres and is divided into 10 geographic regions, and the paths wind down into Wildcat Canyon. It felt like wandering into a secret world, and as the gate disappeared from site, my sister and I joked that we might possibly get lost, which didn't bother either of us much. According to the East Bay Park's website, the garden "contains the world's most complete collection of California native plants," including a large collection of manzanitas. We walked along a creek, and as my sister crossed a bridge, I noticed a tiny creature zip under her. It stopped on the side of one of the bridge's boards, and I noticed it was a lizard. We blinked at each other as I leaned close for a better look. As we made our way through the garden, we could hear other creatures zipping off among the plants, and I assume they were more gorgeous lizards.
We called it a day after the Botanic Garden, but there is so much more to explore. At Lake Anza, you can swim for a small fee, and there are lifeguards on duty during the summer. There's also a carousel (small fee), steam trains (small fee), camping, horse camping, picnicking areas with barbecues, and even a golf course.
Tilden Regional Park is hands down one of the most enjoyable, affordable places in the Bay Area. Perfect for families, for individuals wanting to get away from the crowd, for birdwatchers, plant enthusiasts, animal lovers, photographers...there's something for everyone. This park is definitely at the top of my Bay Area Miss-Me-Nots.
|Jewel Lake Natural Trail|