Berkeley, and the East Bay as a whole, is one of the most coveted locations in California for finding scenic, challenging places to ride and run. In fact, many professional cyclists and triathletes consider the East Bay to be their stomping grounds and many still reside in the nearby area.
Almost every ride and run, unless otherwise noted, leaves from Kroeber Fountain, located on the UC Berkeley campus at the corner of Bancroft and College Ave (across from Cafe Strada).
For better or for worse, any solid ride out of or back into Berkeley requires hills. Wildcat at the end of a long day can easily turn into Bonk City… that being said, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and the wide variety of challenging terrain in the area really makes us dominate that stretch of the race between T1 and T2.
Check out this very comprehensive guide to rides put together by our compatriots at Cal Cycling. This routes link contains detailed turn-by-turn directions for all linked routes, which are very helpful to print out.
However, because triathletes are 3x more hardcore than our cyclist friends, we’ve decided to add to the list.
Bay Trail | Easy | 19.48 (however long you want) | As easy as it gets. Great for beginners because you can make it as long or short as you want, and it’ll all be flat. Mostly on a bike trail with minimal traffic and gorgeous views across the Bay and of the Golden Gate. We’ve heard that it often turns into a Taco Party on Friday afternoon rides by making a pitstop at the Mexican foodcart on the way back…
Joaquin Miller | Easy | 18.1 | Easy ride that allows one to get a taste of Berkeley hills and the standard ascent up Tunnel. Descends Skyline before taking Joaquin Miller into Claremont neighborhood and shooting out near Lake Temescal. The route can be traffic-heavy and there’s one stretch of road that feels like an asteroid field. Also, it’s easy to get lost once you’re in town so go with someone who knows it.
Grizzly Peak | Easy | 16.11 | Standard go-to easy or recovery ride that ascends Tunnel and Grizzly. Beautiful views across the entire Bay, but there are some rough spots in the road with rocky grooves and crevices. Instead of Euclid, one can drop off Claremont or Centennial for more fun and dangerous descents.
Redwood-Moraga | Medium | 33.81 | This is probably the most common route on the team, so learn to love it! There’s not quite any other route that works on your complete skill set as a cyclist – shallow climbs, steep climbs, flats, false flats, straight screaming descents, technical descents…it’s got it all. On top of that, the scenery ranges from majestic redwoods to the East Bay’s oak-studded hills, so you won’t tire of this route soon (which is good since you’ll be doing it a lot…).
The Three Bears | Medium | 36.68 | Another extremely common ride and a triathlete’s paradise. Flats, false flats, rolling terrain, hard hills, screaming descents and all conveniently circumnavigating two gorgeous reservoirs on nice, open roads. The 3 Bears themselves refer to 3 consecutive hills on Bear Creek Road (Miles 21-25) – Baby, Mama, and Papa which apparently increase in difficulty (though we swear there are about 5 Babies…) For the Three Bears Time Trials, go past the light on San Pablo coming off Wildcat and go a mile up the road (about where Mile 27 is) to a parking lot overlooking the reservoir.
Happy Valley | Medium | 41.31 | They call it Happy Valley, but we can guarantee that you’ll be anything but that when climbing it. Just before finishing up a standard Moraga ride, take a detour on Miner Rd, which will eventually lead you to Happy Valley. After this “bump”, Happy will drop you off halfway up Bear Creek, home of the 3 Bears, and from there you can make your way back home as per normal.
Oakland Zoo | Medium-Hard | 43.1 | Aptly named for its traversal of the Oakland Zoo at around Mile 28. Starts as normal but takes a right and continues on Redwood instead of turning on Pinehurst like most rides. Winds through Lake Chabot Park and includes a long, challenging ascent of the bottom half of Skyline before the end of Joaquin Miller takes you home.
Pig Farm | Medium-Hard | 47.59 | Perhaps not-so-aptly named, as the pig farm at the top of Alhambra Valley Rd (thankfully) doesn’t exist anymore. Nevertheless, a tougher ride that touches Moraga and Walnut Creek before circumnavigating Briones Regional Park and finishing up on Bear Creek a-la-3 Bears.
House of Pain* | Hard | 49.96 | NOTE: This route doesn’t leave from Berkeley! It leaves from the Peet’s Coffee in Danville at 9 AM every Saturday and usually brings out close to 50 local riders, including some ex-pro and pro cyclists and triathletes. Rated “Hard” not because of the route itself, but because you’ve got to be hardcore not to get dropped by the testosterone-fueled-cyclist-nuts-on-really-really-nice-bikes. Participating in this will make you feel like you’re participating in a great European stage race, complete with sprints, pelotons (big groups) and echelons (pacelines), and street-side cafes. Listed because some members of the team will head out every few Saturdays to throw some solid, challenging variance into the training routine and spread the Cal Tri name far and wide.
Tour de Peet’s/Danville | Hard | 57.22 | Starts the same as Moraga and ends the same as Happy. Named because it travels past Domingo Peet’s on the way up Tunnel and turns around at the aforementioned Peet’s in Danville. Good place to stop and refuel if it’s been a rough day in the saddle so far. Not sure if two stops really qualifies this as a Tour, but this ride touches on two Peet’s coffee’s, which incidentally are WAY more “Euro” than Starbucks. (3’s a crowd, but you could hit Vine St Peet’s in Berkeley on the way back in, I suppose…)
McEwen | Hard | 59.97 | An extension of the popular Pig Farm route, this route brings you to Cal Cycling’s home road race course in Crockett up in the North Bay. Start as if you were doing the 3 bears loop, but take a left on Alhambra Valley bringing you through Pinole and Hercules to Crockett, where you will encounter the fabled McEwen climb, known to shatter pelotons and select champions year after year at Cal Cycling’s home race. After your lungs and legs have recovered from this brief but intense effort, head southward and take a right on Alhambra Valley to return to Briones Regional Park, where you join the Pig Farm route and the bears.
Fruit Stand | Hard | 61.22 | One of our longer rides, but fairly flat besides the way in and out of Berkeley. At the corner of San Ramon Valley and Crow Canyon, there’s a neat little fruit stand that should provide all your Bonk-free essentials mid-ride. Passes through the three municipalities of San Ramon, Danville, and Walnut Creek before coming back to Berkeley.
Palomares | Very Hard | 84.92 | Palomares is really just an extension of Fruit Stand, and by extension we mean a little extra climbing and a long descent past wineries. The route takes you tangentially through Fremont and returns as per most rides that travel that area. This is the best way to rack up saddle time and base miles as well as view different parts of East Bay without any major climbs.
Morgan Territory | Very Hard | 92.86 | Like Palomares, this is a pretty flat ride with the except for the Morgan territory climb. You start out as if intending to climb Diablo from North Gate, but instead head north into Clayton, where you turn south onto Marsh Creek Road. This takes you onto a very long, secluded rural stretch of road (Morgan Territory) around the backside of Diablo which proceeds to climb in a rolling, stepwise fashion through some farms and woods up to the peak at a little over 2000 feet. From here follows a 5 mile, roller-coaster like steep descent right up to the edge of Livermore, where you follow some of the HOP roads back to Danville and then return to Berkeley as if completing the Fruit Stand ride. This ride can be done in reverse for a very different Morgan Territory experience. Peripherals like Pig Farm, Palomares, or even Diablo can also be added to this ride to kick up the mileage to well over a hundred and make it a real “Tour d’East Bay”, but in and of itself this is an epic and very challenging ride.
Mount Diablo | Diab(l)olical | 73.59 | There are three major peaks and climbs in the area – Diablo to the East (3848 ft), Hamilton to the South (4360 ft) and Tam to the West (2572 ft) Diablo is the closest to Berkeley and also happens to have the most rewarding views. In fact, legend holds that the amount of land mass visible from it’s summit is 2nd in the world only to Mount Kilimanjaro, which is almost 16000 feet higher. We’ll take Cal Cycling’s word for it – that one can see Half Dome in Yosemite, the Farallon Islands 35 miles past the Golden Gate, and Mt. Lassen all from the top. This climb is so historic that the Pro Cycling Amgen Tour of California climbed it in 2012 and 2013 (Cal Triathlon was there to witness it). As for the climb itself, be prepared for a difficult day, especially once you pass the Ranger Station and the grade steepens. Still, this ride is a classic in the region, and much like a quinceanera, completion marks the transition from childhood to (wo)manhood.
* = Does not start at UC Berkeley
Note: Often times there’s different ways back and ways to join routes together (i.e. Redwood – Moraga – 3 Bears). Likewise, there’s many ways out of and back into Berkeley (Tunnel and Euclid are used most often, but one could just as well use Centennial or Claremont for more challenging ascents/descents, or Spruce for variety from Euclid as well). Once you get to know the area well enough, be creative and make up new rides as you go (not by getting lost though…).
This collection of rides was assembled with help and reference from:
The surrounding Berkeley area has plenty of great places to run, if you know where to look. Below is a list of runs around Berkeley’s campus (distances, unless otherwise noted, are from Kroeber Fountain), most of which take place on roads. However, there is no shortage of trails in the area, including ones you can reach on your own two feet (Strawberry Canyon and Tilden) and some other nearby locations that offer great places to run if you’ve got a car or an exceptionally sadistic mindset for going long.
Strawberry Canyon Fire Trail | 9.12 (7.5 for Trail Only) | One of the most beautiful runs in the Bay, hands down. The run starts by heading up Centennial Way behind historic and just-renovated California Memorial Stadium, home of the Cal Golden Bears Football Team. The trail itself begins about a mile from campus. The first almost-two miles are mostly uphill, and include an quad-crushing, heart-pumping .2 miles deemed the Connector that link the Lower and Upper Fire Trail. With each turn, the trail opens up a greater view of the entire Bay, and when the uphill finally ends at the Bench, one gets a gorgeous view (LINK) (especially sunrise or sunset) of the entire Bay, the Campanile, and the Golden Gate. From there, the next ~2 miles are flat and follow the ridge, ending at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab at the top of Centennial. There are some gorgeous lookout viewpoints from here as well, especially from Lawrence Hall of Science. From there, just take the trail back down the way you came. There are also many offshoot trails, including the Spiral Rocks, Panoramic Way (which leads into the backside of the Clark Kerr track), or for a truly epic run, a path straight into the Tilden Park trails once you cross Grizzly peak. We shall leave you to explore these.
Lake Temescal | 6.73 | Temescal is a pretty neat lake over the Hayward Fault that happens to play host to Golden Bearathlon in the Fall. The mapped route incorporates one loop around the Lake, though this is a great place to do repeats, tempo work, or however much mileage you want. The route back on College Avenue can be frustrating due to traffic, stoplights, and pedestrians everywhere, so just enjoy it for what it is, which is the permeating wafts of good food.
Tilden Park* | Variable | Tilden Park is a runner’s mecca, with numerous routes that vary in length, difficulty, and destination. It is possible to run to and into Tilden from either Grizzly Peak or the Fire Trail, though driving there to get the most of the trails is the best way to enjoy a solid run there. There are endless routes, many that culminate at the majestic Inspiration Point which overlooks the eastern Berkeley Hills and beyond. Tilden also features the trail to Vollmer Peak, which is the highest point in the nearby ridge.
Indian Rock | 5.09 |Great for an evening run as it features a great rock from which you can look out at the entire Bay as it lights up. Return from the rock features a jaunt through Berkeley’s Northside Gourmet Ghetto where we guarantee your stomach will crave for a mid-run pitstop, especially as you pass world-famous Cheeseboard and Chez Panisse.
Berkeley Marina | 9.90 | The Marina just out about 1/2 mile into the Bay and is a truly unique place to run. It almost feels as if you can run all the way across the water into SF, and it seems that at some point in the past you could. Nevertheless, on a nice day you get some truly spectacular views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate in addition to an easy, base-mile building run.
Bart Tracks/Ohlone Path | However Long You Want | Once you’re on the Ohlone Path, you can literally run for miles and miles and miles. You’ll probably get bored a couple miles in though, as the only view (and sound) you get is of the Bart running periodically over your head.
Lake Merritt | 11.66 | A great way to explore the far reaches of College Avenue and come to a little oasis of a lake in the middle of Oakland. The loop around the lake itself is about 3 miles and populated with hordes of people, some in the water on boats but many just on a stroll or jog.
Big C | – | The Big C is as Berkeley as it gets. Built in 1905, it is to this day one of the campus’ most storied landmarks and even has its own fight song named after it. More than that, it overlooks the campus and offers breathtaking views of both Berkeley and the Bay. It’s only a short ~1 mile to get there from the trailhead behind the Greek Theatre, but that mile is steep. You can’t really get a run in, but hill intervals at the C are a must, as the reward from the top is unparalleled.
Nimitz/Inspiration Point* | 8.2 | Technically this is still Tilden, but instead of starting from the ridge floor, you can park at Inspiration Point (top of the attached map) and run from the top. Mentioned earlier, Inspiration Point sits at the top of Wildcat Canyon Rd, one of the most common ways back into Berkeley for most rides. From here, you can either do downhill first and uphill later (as opposed to starting from the bottom) or Nimitz Way provides a relatively flat paved and dirt trail that serves well for tempo work.
Briones Reservoir/Regional Park* | Variable | From the Bear Creek Staging Area (located on Bear Creek near the intersection with Happy Valley), there are numerous, exciting trails to be explored, including Bear Creek Trail and Oursan Trail. The terrain here is challenging and diverse, and views include out to Mt. Diablo and over the picturesque Briones Reservoir. EBMUD does require permits for some of these trails, so be sure to keep that in mind.
Redwood Park* | Variable | Another runner’s paradise, with a multitude of trails stretching for miles. One can start from Skyline Gate and connect the Steam Trail with the East or West Ridge Trails for a great run that meanders through redwoods (redwoods in East Bay?!) and offers some hilly terrain.
Lake Chabot Park* | Variable | This is the complement to Redwood, as the two are both adjacent and connected by the famous Bay Area Ridge Trail. As opposed to the shaded, towering redwoods of Redwood Park, Chabot provides wide open routes including the Goldenrod Trail, which takes you all the way down to the lake.
* = Does not start at UC Berkeley
This collection was assembled with help and reference from:
- Socko http://www.socko.com/bayrunning/trails.html