Hike or Bike the Nimitz Way Bike Trail
September 24, 2014 | Mary Corbin
Years ago before I became a resident of Berkeley, I was on vacation in San Francisco and spent two days with a friend living in the East Bay. The first place he took me was Inspiration Point and I remember the drive along Wildcat Canyon Road to the Nimitz Way Bike Trail outlook being a surprise of open beauty. (To see where the trail lands in relation to town, click here.)
Ample parking allows for easy access to one of the most magnificent vista spots this town has to offer. On a day of blue skies and fluffy clouds, one is inspired to view life through a wide angle lens of vast and endless possibility. Mount Diablo rising to the East; the hillsides and waters of the San Pablo Reservoir; and the beckoning of an easy paved pathway on the west side of the parking lot remind me why the Nimitz Way Bike Trail is a destination to treat out of town guests as well as a staple for those of us who became Berkeley locals.
The paved length of the Nimitz Way Bike Trail is 4.1 miles of mostly flat trail with an average grade of 3% making it accessible for all ages. And that is who you will see here; babies in strollers, college students, and old-timers on foot or in wheelchairs. It’s truly a favorite for families, not just for its ease of access but for the stunning views from beginning to end. Prepare for breezy to windy conditions in a fairly sun exposed, ridgeline route.
On the Nimitz Way Bike Trail, you are likely to catch snippets of intimate conversation between women friends or glimpses of visiting in-laws taken on a post-prandial stroll. I’ve met many puppies out on their first big walk and veteran dogs of every shape and size. Local Berkeley kids learning to ride their bikes here with attentive parents jogging alongside contrast with serious cyclists passing by en-route to bigger challenges beyond. If you have mountain bike tires on your ride, the options are many for connecting onto dirt for wide loop or out and back adventures. Hikers and runners can also veer off onto dirt just a few miles in to pick up Wildcat Peak Trail through the Peace Grove and eventual 360 views up top.
If you’re staying on pavement, it’s a pleasant ramble and a series of welcoming benches emerge on the sidelines every mile or so to provide respite with a spectacular view of Berkeley, San Francisco Bay, Mt. Tam or Mt Diablo, depending on which side of the path you’re on. Walk out and back as far as you want to go from Inspiration Point for up to 8.2 miles total paved walkway.
If you’ve made it as far as Conlon Trail, hit the dirt for a brief climb to a bench for a magnificent perch overlooking the reservoir. Continue about one half mile more to another bench for a stunning view of San Francisco and the Bay. I once sat on high watching a coyote meticulously burying a treat in a glen below, and sightings of wild turkey are not uncommon. It’s also a great bird watching area, so bring your binoculars and scan the skies for kestrals and hawks, or perchance, a migratory eagle. You may be treated to a rare sighting of a Lazuli Bunting if you’re lucky.
Flying solo always feels safe here due to the popularity of the Nimitz Way Bike Trail, which also means you’re sharing the road with all manner of outdoor Berkeley recreationists so keep alert to who is coming and going. Whichever way you choose to explore this outing, breathe in those expansive views and delight in meeting others along the way. The point is, indeed, Inspiration!
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