Friday, February 9, 2018

Tilden Regional Park - The Seaview and Big Springs Loop

Distance: 3.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 740 feet
High Point: 1,630 feet
Difficulty: Moderate
Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Fitness: Walkers, hikers, runners
Family Friendly: Yes
Dog Friendly: Yes, off-leash walking is permitted.
Amenities: Picnic benches and a portapotty are available at the Quarry Picnic area where the hike starts and ends. A few other benches are found along the trail.
Contact: East Bay Regional Park District
37° 54' 1.4868'' N 122° 15' 0.2952'' W

Map to: Quarry Picnic Site, Wildcat Canyon Road, Berkeley, CA
Strava Route: 

About Tilden Regional Park:
Once Ohlone ancestral land, this area then was used by the Spanish and then Mexicans who began ranching here. Americans continued the ranching tradition and eucalyptus forests were planted around 1910 by Frank C. Havens' Eucalyptus, Mahogany, & Land Company.

Tilden Regional Park became a park on July 16, 1936 and was named for Charles Lee  (1857-1950), an attorney and businessman. In the 1930s, he championed the creation of a system of regional parks, and became the first president of the East Bay Regional Park District Board of Directors.

Today, the 2,079-acre park has almost 40 miles of trails, some of which allow not only just hikers, but bikers, and horses, too. (Dogs are allowed off-leash on all trails, but are not allowed in Tilden Nature Area.) Tilden also features a number of other attractions including a steam train, a botanic garden, an antique merry-go-round, an entertainment space called The Brazilian Room, and an 18-hole golf course. The park is situated just south of the Tilden Nature Area, a separate 740-acre park.

The Seaview and Big Springs Loop reminds me of the three bears in Goldilocks—and not just because you can see part of the much-loved "Three Bears" biking route from the trail—it's because in many aspects it's "just right". It's short, but moderate. It includes both open meadows and periods of shade and trees. It climbs enough to give you views of San Francisco, the bay, the San Pablo Reservoir, but it doesn't tire you out too much.

Route overview
Get Moving:
Locate the trailhead for the Quarry Trail in the back of the Quarry Picnic Site. Turn left to follow the trail uphill.

At 0.1 miles, reach a junction with the Seaview Trail. Stay straight here and continue uphill. After 0.3 miles total, you'll see a singletrack trail on your right, the Big Springs Trail. Stay on the Seaview Trail here, but you'll be on the Big Springs trail later on on this route.

Even though you haven't climbed very far yet, if you turn around, you should already see great views of the San Francisco skyline. Continue to follow the trail. It will be tree-lined and shaded, which will make the climb nice during summer. If you look left as you climb, you'll eventually see the San Pablo Reservoir.

San Pablo and Briones Reservoirs

At 1.1 miles total, reach a low concrete wall in the shape of a circle. There is a bench here and in front of the bench is a small stone inth. At this stage, you're at 1,600 feet of elevation—almost at the high point of this hike. This—and the views of the San Francisco skyline and bay make this a perfect spot to rest and take in the views.

Overlook. A good place to rest and check out the views.
The small labyrinth has great views of San Francisco and the bay.

The trail's elevation tops out at 1.2 miles where you'll find another bench overlooking the bay. You should also be able to see both the San Pablo and Briones Reservoirs on your left as well as Mt. Diablo.

From here (despite one small climb of 20 or so feet), you start a long descent. At 1.6 miles, you'll reach a trail marker where you turn right on the Upper Big Springs Trail (the other way is a continuation of the Seaview Trail that is also part of the: East Bay Skyline Trail, the Bay Area Ridge Trail, the American Discovery Trail, and the Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail.

Over the next 0.7 miles, you continue to descend, losing 400 feet in elevation. Here you arrive at briefly at South Park Drive, a road with a few parking spaces along it. Continue along the side of the parking area. As the parking area ends, pick up the Lower Big Springs Trail.

In less than 0.1 mile, you reach a junction with the Quarry Trail. Stay right to head slightly uphill on the Lower Big Springs Trail. As you climb, you'll go through some eucalyptus groves and start to get views of Mt. Tamalpais and eventually the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco's Sutro Tower and the Salesforce Tower.

This climb will take you 0.7 miles to 3.1 miles total, at which point you cross the Quarry Trail again. Here, turn left to take the Quarry Trail downhill a final 0.4 miles back to the start.

Go Farther
Check out the nearby Tilden Nature Area.

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