BerkeleyFilter: Where can I be outside alone?
April 23, 2020 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I live in an absurdly small studio apartment with no yard. Normally, I spend a lot of time at parks, but now they're either closed or overcrowded. Even the sidewalks in my neighborhood are too crowded to comfortably go for a walk when I want to be outside in the afternoon. Where could I go around Rockridge, Oakland or Berkeley to just sit outside without worrying about people walking by?

Are there good spots on the UC Berkeley campus? Could I rent a backyard for a couple of hours from someone, somehow? (I do know people with houses and yards who would probably let me temporarily use them by myself, but none in my immediate area).
posted by pinochiette to Health & Fitness (25 answers total)
Do you have a car? Sit out at a parking deck. Ideal? No. But at least it’s outdoors
posted by raccoon409 at 12:16 PM on April 23, 2020

Best answer: I haven't spent much time in town for years, and definitely not in the current circumstances, so perhaps things have changed, but there used to be a lot of open space around Centennial Drive / Strawberry creek, north of the sports center and on both sides of the road. Except for one hiking trail head, it used to be really low-traffic.

Satellite maps suggest the weird rock-garden in the center of McCone Hall is no longer there. (Damn!) But, there's a lot of woody areas just south of there around Observatory Hill that might be empty and are very nice.

There's also the Albany Bulb, but it's a long bike ride from Rockridge. I have no idea what access is like at the moment.
posted by eotvos at 12:27 PM on April 23, 2020

Best answer: Another idea if you have a car: Grizzly Peak Boulevard up in the hills has a bunch of overlook parking areas (here's one of them). Great views, zero foot traffic.
posted by theodolite at 12:28 PM on April 23, 2020 [2 favorites]

The parks in the Oakland hills are all open as far as I've experienced. They are more crowded than usual but if I walk 20 minutes or so in to any of the trails there are fewer people. I'm hearing the outer East Bay Regional Parks like Briones are pretty sparsely attended - I'm planning to check that out Saturday myself. Parking lots may be closed so you may have to walk. Walking at the Berkeley Marina is probably pretty safe even if crowded as the wind and sun are high there - although I'm not sure if that's open...
posted by latkes at 12:41 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Is the hike up the hill to LBL currently accessible? I used to do it coming down from the lab when I didn't want to wait for the bus, and it had good views and wasn't heavily used (at the times I would go-- it would generally only be other physicists on the trail.) Sometimes there were turkeys.
posted by nat at 12:42 PM on April 23, 2020

Response by poster: Thanks for all the good ideas. One other thing I forgot to mention- I did find a pretty deserted area to walk the other day but then heard from another person who was headed in the other direction that they'd seen a mountain lion! I probably want to avoid the most remote places...I know mountain lions have been seen around LBL several times, etc.
posted by pinochiette at 12:47 PM on April 23, 2020

We live right next to Wildcat Canyon. It's busier than usual these days but we've found that our old "trick" still works: just go uphill for a bit and it will thin out, guaranteed.
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 12:53 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Clark Kerr campus?
posted by stillmoving at 1:02 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is farther out than you want to go, but may contain useful information: I'm not outdoorsy but tagged along with my bf, who is, to get the fuck out of the house for a while. We went to the Falls trail off a residential street in Clayton, and I mention it because he said on trails like that, if you go near or after noon on a weekend you run into more people than is comfortable, but we went at maybe 9 and ran into I'd say under 10 people in two and a half hours. So early is your friend.
posted by less of course at 1:35 PM on April 23, 2020

Good point, the suburbs are pretty chill. I work in Walnut Creek sometimes. Their extensive urban trail network is quite crowded right now, but I peeled off to a residential street and there was hardly anyone. BART accessible if that's an issue
posted by latkes at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2020

I'm in the same place as you (more or less), and have found the Bay Trail (et al) to be an exhausting clusterfuck of non-distancers. But wider fire trails up in the hills are plenty roomy, especially if you go before mid-afternoon. I'm mostly walking around neighborhoods, though, admiring the architecture; traffic is sparse enough that I've started walking in the middle of the street again, like I did years ago in other cities and rougher neighborhoods. (Also: I keep wishing there were public squash courts in Berkeley!)
posted by tapir-whorf at 1:56 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

If you can get over to east Oakland you could go to the King Estates Open Space off the Keller exit of 580. It's just a big field on a hill next to a school and it has a nice view of the city.
Since it's in east Oakland not a lot of people from outside the immediate surrounding neighborhoods are popping in. There are usually people around but it's big and so far I've found people to be very respectful of distancing. Right now the grass is green (and high) but soon it will turn yellow and be full of foxtails, so if you want to check it out I'd do it sooner rather than later. Eventually goats will come and eat all the foxtails etc and it'll be pleasant again.
posted by smartyboots at 2:08 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

There's a mile-long stretch of Key Route Blvd / Ashbury Ave with a wide, grassy median that goes north from Solano Ave (Albany) until it hits Fairmount Ave (El Cerrito). It parallels the Ohlone Greenway, but unlike it, isn't overrun with non-distancing walkers and bikers. The median is widest at the southern end, and it has trees you could sit under. Street parking is plentiful at the southern end. If BART-ing, get off at El Cerrito Plaza and walk uphill (east) on Fairmount, then turn right on Ashbury Ave and head south.
posted by expialidocious at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You might possibly get shooed away by UCPD if you go walking on the main Cal campus (all the buildings are locked and faculty need to apply for permission to go on campus, which suggests to me that they’re patrolling). Clark Kerr should be pretty empty, though, and the grounds are extensive.
posted by ogorki at 2:28 PM on April 23, 2020

In my area, 9:30 to 10:30 are much more empty trail times. I know you may have a schedule to adhere to. However, going out just a bit after basically everyone has started working may get you some outside alonish time if you can manage it once or twice a week
posted by Kalmya at 2:41 PM on April 23, 2020

Early morning on a weekday is by far the best time to hit the East Bay parks if you don't want to see too many people. I went for a run last Wednesday in Chabot at about 8 am and only saw 4 people (plus a dozen each of rabbits and turkeys).

But you definitely want to hit the less-popular trailheads, while staying off the narrow single-track trails with no room for social distancing.
posted by suelac at 2:49 PM on April 23, 2020

What would you want? If you held sway with city or other planners, what would you tell them?
posted by Baeria at 4:58 PM on April 23, 2020

Response by poster: What would you want? If you held sway with city or other planners, what would you tell them?

I'm definitely down for cities shutting down traffic so people can walk and bike with plenty of room in the streets. Other than that, I'm not sure how much can be done right now. I wish more had been done to create affordable housing over the last few decades so I could afford to live somewhere with a yard.
posted by pinochiette at 6:44 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My local Rockridge park, Colby Park on 61st St., is open, quiet and never crowded (it's not big enough to go for an actual walk in, but nice for just sitting outside). For hiking, if you have a car, my go-to is Redwood Regional -- miles and miles of trails and people are good about keeping distance.
posted by hoist with his own pet aardvark at 10:03 PM on April 23, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mountain View Cemetery is great for this, especially the big mausoleums with seating areas.
posted by migurski at 10:55 PM on April 23, 2020

Came to suggest Mountain View Cemetery, if it's open. It's walking distance from Rockridge (ish) and lovely.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:57 PM on April 23, 2020

Best answer: Mountain View Cemetery is currently closed to visitors.

Have you been to Lake Temescal? It's spacious and peaceful. I could also suggest a bunch of trails, but Lake Temescal is where I go when I want to sit. (Note, the bathrooms and the parking lot off Broadway Terrace are closed.)
posted by aws17576 at 11:40 PM on April 23, 2020

If there's a business park near where you live that is primarily office space (e.g. few/no retail storefronts, restaurants or apartments nearby) you might try that. In the south bay the ones near where I live have been pretty deserted or sparse lately and I've been able to take hour long walks while only encountering maybe 2-3 other people at most (and easily having enough space for 6 feet at that). You probably should stick to the street sidewalks rather than risk someone bothering you about walking on private property, but it might be something to try at least.
posted by Aleyn at 12:10 AM on April 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

Aquatic Park in Berkeley may be good, especially if you walk to the disc golf area.
posted by Sophont at 1:07 AM on April 24, 2020

Berkeley Marina/McLaughlin Eastshore State Park/Cesar Chavez Park. This area is huge and you can certainly find a spot to avoid people. No mountain lions there either.

This might be a good time to look into community gardens to see if one has an open plot you could snag. Good place for sitting outside while maintaining social distance.
posted by Toddles at 10:32 PM on April 24, 2020

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