Ken Dyleski helps Save Mount Diablo with mapping and on-the-ground stewardship work. He collaborated on producing the first edition of the Mt. Diablo map published by Save Mt. Diablo. His GPS enabled digital trail map of the Diablo Grand Loop was published on the National Geographic Topo site. He has a California State Certificate in Geographic Information Science from Diablo Valley College.
Mr. Dyleski's previous articles on the outdoors have been published in Sierra magazine, Northern California Explorer, and the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
Forests and Woodlands
Whether you’re looking for a first time exploratory hike of Tilden Regional Park or returning to find some of its previously missed gems, this is the hike to take. Tilden is already known as one of the best Bay Area locations to take kids for a nature experience on a tight budget, but this is an all day hike for in shape adults minus even a parking fee. Take a leisurely diversion to socialize over coffee or an ice cream under the umbrellas at Lake Anza open between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Public transportation is available on AC Transit #67. Early morning starts especially during the week will give the best chance of seeing wildlife and the many species of birds around the lakes. As the navigation is a little complicated, either download the free Tilden Park map from the EBRP site at www.ebparks.org/parks/tilden.htm#trailmap beforehand or pick up a free map at the park trailhead or Education Center. Cell phone coverage is spotty in the park.
From the end of the Central Park Road circle near the Environmental Education Center find the trail sign for the Packrat Trail. Enjoy the dense vegetation tunnel, bird sounds, and perhaps a packrat nest in the underbrush as you walk easy trail to Jewel Lake, built in 1921. Many water birds call this lake home as well as turtles enjoying the sun from their raft floating mid-lake. Wildcat Creek flows through Tilden from its origination on Vollmer Peak filling Jewel Lake and Lake Anza on its way to San Pablo Bay. This hike explores much of the Wildcat Creek watershed in Tilden Park and visits the viewpoint at the summit of Wildcat Peak.
Follow the shore of Jewel Lake staying right on the signed Jewel Lake Trail, then left briefly on a road to connect again onto the Jewel Lake Tr. now on the right. Stay right at a fork to another road which is signed “to Sylvan Trail”, and bear left to an immediate trail junction and take the Laurel Canyon Trail. At the next fire road junction, go right, the sign says “to Laurel Canyon Trail” and “to Pine Tree Trail”. Take the next left, signed as the Pine Tree Trail and follow this single track uphill. The woodlands begin to thin and give way to chaparral allowing views left of park highlands in the distance. At a fork take the signed branch “to Nimitz Way”. At a road junction go left following the sign directing “to Nature Area”. The open area is the signed Rotary Peace Grove. Climb a bit more on the road to the rock walled summit of Wildcat Peak. It’s a good place for a break or lunch to take in the park view.
Descend back down the road a short distance to the single track trail signed Nature Area on the right. Stay right at a “Y” and switchback down to the Sylvan Trail junction. At the next junction turn right, reach a road in about 100 yards and then take the left turn rejoining the previously travelled Jewel Lake Trail. On the right take the signed Lower Packrat Trail crossing the bridge and follow the shore again of Jewel Lake to the signed junction of the Upper Packrat and Memory Trails. Take the Memory Trail as it crosses Canon Drive and finally joins the scenic Selby Trail. Selby gives occasional views back of the route taken earlier up to Wildcat Peak as it leads to the welcome rest and refreshment at Lake Anza. The last couple of miles are mostly downhill alongside Wildcat Creek on the Wildcat Gorge Trail which can be found on the near end of the Lake Anza Spillway. Gigantic boulders, rushing waters (during wet conditions) and huge beautiful Bay Laurels with cave-sized roots make this a fine ending to this hike showcasing the views, habitats and wildlife of Tilden. Join the dirt Loop Road, staying right, and soon pass the Blue Gum Picnic area named after the dominate variety of eucalyptus tree in the park. Then watch for the trail sign on the left marking the turn off to the Little Farm, Visitor center and trailhead parking area. Credit for this hike goes solely to Sophia Garcia and Celeste Burrows volunteer hike leaders for the Contra Costa Hills Hiking Club.