Self-Guided Walks

Past Events




Northbrae Paths and Rock Parks Walk

This walk was led by Pat DeVito on 22 May 1999. This walk covers some of the paths and four Rock Parks in the Northbrae area of Berkeley. We begin at the Santa Barbara-Spruce bus stop, walk north on Santa Barbara Road to Grotto Rock, and walk counter-clockwise around the rock. There are easy steps carved at places to get to the top and an excellent view of the Bay. Unlike Indian Rock, few people use this vantage point so it usually offers a quiet, undisturbed place to sit and do nothing. We continue north until we come to Santa Barbara Path (18)-at present lacking signs or poles that have been replaced several times in the last 28 years. (I'll point out Florida Walk (22) that leads to Dorothy Byte Park-formerly Michigan-on Spruce.) Walk down the path to San Luis Road, turn right (west) to Chester Lane (12), down the lane and right again at Southampton Avenue. Continue to the top of John Hinkel Park and walk along the northeast portion of the park, following a path behind the clubhouse, across a small stream (after a good ran, a lovely urban waterfall cascades down the rocky side on the left); and along the path, bearing slightly to the right at the first fork, (avoiding concrete walk at the top and stairways), until we ascend on the southern edge of the park at San Diego Rd. This pathway may be part of Devon Lane (7 ~ 8) that once cut directly through the park but no longer is signed or visible as such. Turn right as we come out of the Park, cross Indian Rock Avenue and circle clockwise around Mortar Rock Park, so-called because depressions (barely visible today) in some perimeter rocks are assumed to have been made by Ohlone Indians grinding acorns or other seed. Exit the park at the steps (there may be people practicing rock climbing before "graduating" to the steeper southern edge of Indian Rock), walk down about a block and turn right on San Mateo Road to Mendodno Path (6). Cross the Arlington and bear left along Yosemite Road to Yosemite Steps (4), which is unsigned (top and bottom of top segment) and easy to miss. Down the steps and path to Contra Costa Avenue; turn leftnote the stream, nearly dry now, that comes down the hill and disappears under the street-and continue on to Contra Costa Rock. Walk clockwise around the Rock-again note the stone steps carved for easy ascent to the top, and a small grassy area behind the rock invisible from the street. Continue south along Contra Costa Ave. to Solano Avenue at the tunnel and turn east along an unmarked, but definitely city-maintained, path-a fence has been erected along the street side fairly recently and city crews have in the past cut back bash and weeds, keeping the path open and walkable. (This may be part of Black Path (9), but that seems doubtful from the map designating that path.) At the top of this unsigned, and probably unnamed path, turn left on Mendocino Ave. to Indian Rock Path (5), up the path for two blocks, and counterclockwise around to the right to get a "back" view of the Rock. The walk ends at Indian Rock Ave., across from Indian Rock Park (the map has these reversed). Key to Paths on Map Below:

2 Terrace Walk
3 Fountain Walk
4 Yosemite Steps
5 Indian Rock Path
6 Mendocino Path
7 & 8   Devon Lane
9 Black Path (?)
10 Laurel Lane
11 Tunbridge Lane
12 Chester Lane
13 Upton Lane

Northbrae, Berkeley In 1907, shortly after the earthquake that left many San Franciscans homeless, the Mason-McDuffie Company (with offices both in San Francisco and in Berkeley) started the NORTHBRAE PROPERTIES development in North Berkeley. The large tract consisted of 700 acres at the undeveloped northern edge of Berkeley (otherwise "compactly builded(sic) from the hills to the bay"), five parks, pink sidewalks, stone pillars with street names and designed by John Galen Howard, and Putnam Fountain (with a "splendid ten-thousand dollar concrete balustrade") at The Cirde. The original group of grizzly bears was modeled especially for the fountain by Arthur Putnam, "the celebrated animal sculptor." The developers originally intended to build three other fountains in Northbrae, at least two of which would be "never dying fountains fed by springs on the tract." Their brochure advertised, in part: "Berkeley of the green, rolling hills and wide, free spaces, Berkeley the beautiful, restful city of homes.... Overlooking the sparkling waters of the incomparable Bay of San Francisco, with a view through the splendid portals of the Golden Gate, NORTHBRAE, Berkeley, nestles in the foothills, sheltered and protected from the heat of summer and the chill of winter." Other enticements induded "no saloons" in Berkeley, and the presence of the University of California ("the West's greatest educational institution") constituted "a powerful influence for the upbuilding of worthy citizenship and civic pride." Berkeley-a place of solidity and refinement; "a city of homes. . . where children grow up in health and safety; where youth is protected from the hand of vice; where every influence is uplifting, and every prospect pleasing." Duncan McDuffie was an early member of the Sierra Club and promoted environmentally sensitive development. The streets were laid out "in graceful curves along the contours of the hills, in a general northerly and southerly direction, thus giving every house an unbroken view of the Bay on one side and the Berkeley Hills on the other." Fifty and fifty-plus lots were sold for $800, 900, 1000, and 1,750; with $25 down, one could begin building a home and was assured of no assessments, taxes or interest until 1910. And every Northbrae lot was convenient to either the Southern Pacific or Key Route; electric trains ran every five minutes, providing two hundred trips each way between Northbrae and San Frandsco for 5 cents. The five rock parks (Grotto, Mortar, Indian, Contra Costs and Great Stoneface) were given to the City of Berkeley. Some of the paths, such as Fountain Walk and Indian Rock Path, were set out to provide not only a walking experience but to provide quick and easy access to train stations-such as at Butter and Henry.


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Last updated: 29 January, 2012