North Berkeley has plenty of them perched in the hills overlooking the San Francisco Bay. Some are quiet spots for contemplation and inspiration while others are terrific places for kids? play, a family picnic or a rollicking game of softball. Here is a rundown of a few of the parks in Berkeley and nearby Kensington that offer show-stopping vantage points:
The Berkeley Rose Garden and its neighboring Codornices Park have it all: top-of-the-world views, hundreds of gorgeous roses and oodles of recreation possibilities for kids and adults alike. Located on Euclid Avenue near Eunice Street, the rose garden was built in 1937 as a joint effort of the federal Works Project Administration and the city of Berkeley. A plaque at the site informs visitors that native stones were used to construct the numerous terraces that form the garden?s bowl-shaped amphitheater. Plantings were arranged by colors, starting with red at the top and ending with yellow at the bottom. Just off Euclid, the recently rebuilt patio offers an incomparable view directly across the bay to the Golden Gate Bridge. A stroll through the garden – a gate has been installed to keep both dogs and deer away – is a delight for both adults and children. Rose fanciers will get to view and sniff from among 3,000 specimens bearing such names as Double Delight, Angel Face and Lavender Lassie. Kids probably will prefer exploring the crisscrossing paths and steps that lead down to Codornices Creek. There are three tennis courts and a backboard adjoining the garden. Nearby, a pedestrian tunnel runs under Euclid Avenue to Codornices Park on the east side of the street. (Kids have tested the tunnel?s terrific echo-making capabilities for decades.) Codornices is probably best known for its long, twisty concrete slide. It can provide amusement park-style thrills with a small bit of cardboard and a big dose of courage. The park has plenty of lawn area, creekside picnic tables and playground equipment for both toddlers and bigger children. Just up the hill is a baseball diamond.
Glendale-La Loma Park also combines great scenery with top-notch play opportunities. Located on La Loma Avenue at Glendale Avenue, the park has a fenced-in tot lot with a small climbing structure, a train, baby swings and a spectacular view. A steep path leads down to a second sand lot with climbing equipment for older youngsters. On a warm day, either play area would make a nice setting for a low-key birthday party. Because of its exposure, the park can get chilly breezes on cool days. Still farther down the path lies a baseball field where a well-hit homer looks as if it would splash into the bay. There are picnic tables and a basketball court here as well. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and dogs must be kept on a leash.
Cragmont Park, at the intersection of Regal Road and Easter Way, is another little-known neighborhood gem. It features lawn areas with bay views, a basketball court and picnic tables. There are several paths around the huge rock that forms the park. The park is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and requires that dogs must be kept on a leash.
The Blake Garden is a 10-acre secret garden set in a forested hillside of Kensington. The park?s Spanish-style mansion serves as the private residence to the president of the University of California. And while the home is closed to the public, the grounds are not. The garden holds roughly 2,500 species of plants from around the globe laid out in five distinct botanical settings. It begins with a stunning, formal garden designed around a long reflecting pool. The home and garden were constructed in the early 1920s by Anson and Anita Blake, owners of a local paving business. The Blakes bequeathed their estate to the university in 1957. Located at 70 Rincon Road off the Arlington, the garden is used as an outdoor classroom for landscape students at both UC and Oakland?s Merritt College. It?s open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, but closed on weekends and holidays.
Indian Rock Park, on Indian Rock Road off the Arlington, is a huge outcropping of stone that offers spectacular views of the bay. The boulder is a favorite practice grounds for experienced rock climbers. Less seasoned climbers can summit the boulder by taking a series of stairs carved into the rock?s face. Even this route can be a bit scary and probably is not appropriate for younger kids or adults who are uncomfortable with high places lacking safety railings. But for those who do brave it to the top, Indian Rock provides some inspirational scenery. It is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Across Indian Rock Road, there is an open space featuring a tamer set of rocks, a small lawn area and picnic benches.
Though not a park, the UC Berkeley campus and a ride to the top of the Campanile can substitute for a trip to one. The observation platform of the 307-foot-tall bell tower offers sweeping views in all directions, but the scenery directly west is probably the most breathtaking. Built in 1914, the Campanile is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays. The elevator ride costs $1 for children ages 3-11; $1.50 for ages 12-17 and $2 for those 18 and older. Concerts on the tower?s 61-bell carillon are performed daily at 7:50 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. and are quite loud. Longer concerts take place at 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Guest Blogger, Chris Cohn, Broker Associate – Pacific Union