Tracks and Trails 跑道與路

If you are looking for which trail to run for your 5k/10k/half-marathon/full-marathon (at Berkeley/SF area), you’ve come to the right place. I’ve ran a lot over the past two months — around 300 miles starting from May — and have been exploring nice trails all the time. The summary below may be helpful or inspirational for your next run. And if you find other nice places, please let me know!

All the nice trails around Berkeley. Markers indicate if the trail has water fountain, restroom and if the trail has a large elevation.

Here is a quick navigation if you know your target distance:

﹣ 0–2 miles: Edwards Track

﹣ 2–6 miles: Berkeley Marina, Lake Merritt

﹣ 6–9 miles: Berkeley Marina, Tilden Park, Bay Bridge

﹣ 8–13.1 miles: Alameda, Richmond Bay Trail, San Francisco, Berkeley Hills

﹣ 13.1+ miles: Richmond Bay Trail, San Francisco

Well, of course you can always run repetitively on short courses or stop early on long courses. I am just providing a reference for an optimal running experience.

Water Information: Edwards Track, Berkeley Marina have water fountain; Lake Merritt is close to many stores; Bay Bridge doesn’t; Alameda has many stores so you can buy; Richmond Bay Trail and Berkeley Hills have water fountains in the park along the way; I only found water fountains inside Golden Gate Park in SF.

Restroom: Edwards Track, no; Berkeley Marina, Bay Bridge and Richmond Bay Trail all have it. You can easily find a store near Lake Merritt or in Alameda. Berkeley Hills has a restroom but doesn’t seem to allow strangers to use. Both the Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park have restrooms if you are running in SF.

Edwards Track

The most convenient and flexible trail

50 laps of Edwards Track

Edwards Tracks is super flexible: each lap is 400 meters, or put it in miles, 0.25 miles. Given your target distance in miles, multiplying by 4 will return you the number of laps to reach your goal. You can run short, 1 or 2 miles but make it fast: best time to break your personal 1k/1mile record. Or you can keep running forever, like I did once: 50 laps for a half marathon.

Since the track is just next to RSF, it’s also very convenient for clothes changing. And there is a water fountain near the tennis court, so you don’t have to bring your own bottles of water.

Below are just more pictures to give you a sense of the distances on the track I did: from 2 miles to 13.1 miles. Although it could get boring sometimes of running repeatedly in the monotonous scene, but since it’s close by, you can easily find friends to run together with you.

Lake Merritt

The most beautiful trail

Lake Merritt is probably the best trail among all the places I’ve been to. The scene is simply gorgeous (see the photo below). It features the best part of Oakland (also really safe!). Unlike normal city runs, it has a dedicated trail, so you don’t need to worry about taking turns at intersections.

The gorgeous scene at Lake Merritt

For the 3-mile run along the lake, you will be enjoying many facets of the local people: families sitting on the grass, kids running skateboards, beauties walking the dog and other runners just like you.

The whole trail is flat, except the north side inside Lakeside Park.

Lake Merritt at Oakland

Berkeley Marina

The sunset trail

Even if you don’t run, you’ve probably been to Berkeley Marina for the stunning view of the sunset. There are two options to run on Berkeley Marina: 1) run along the bay trail from Berkeley to Emeryville, roughly 2 miles; so a round-trip can be a 4–5 miles run; 2) You can also run along the Cesar Chavez Park (about 4 miles). Berkeley running club does a sunset running every Wednesday, so you can join them.

Berkeley Marina

Bay Bridge

Most windy, noisy trail

Bay Bridge Trail Scene

The Bay Bridge has a bicycle and pedestrian path and you can actually run on the bridge! Except for now, the path is a work in progress. At the end of this summer (2016), you will be able to run all the way to Treasure Island (I am really looking forward to this).

One of the entrances to the trail is next to IKEA, but there is still about 2–3 miles before you reach the bridge. The closest entrance to the bridge is at Bay Bridge Trail Parking Lot (see the map below, it’s only 1 mile to the bridge).

Be warned: it will normally be windy because there is nothing stopping the wind on the bridge; it will also be noisy since cars are driving by at 65 mph. If you run with music, then you will have to turn up.

Also it’s mostly uphill, I guess because the bridge has to be a curve. There is about 200 ft elevation (you can see the screenshots below).

Screenshots of Bay Bridge trail (see the elevation)

Alameda Island

Trail perfect for half-marathon practice

I get to know the road condition at Alameda because my girlfriend practiced her driving skills there (well, you can easily find real roads there with few cars, which is surprisingly hard at Berkeley/Emeryville/Oakland). Initially I was conjecturing the island should be a nice to place to run: flat, sunset on the west side, beaches on the south side and about 12 miles around the island. And my two experiments proved me right! I think the island is the perfect trail for your half-marathon practice.

Alameda Island

Richmond Bay Trail

Best for practicing long-distance

This is another flat trail that’s perfect for practicing your long-distance running. The starting point is the Craneway Pavilion, running all the way to the south. I did my first half marathon here: Marina Bay Half Marathon.

When you are preparing for a full marathon, there is usually a longest distance run before the actual race (18 miles or 20 miles). I did my longest distance run — 18 miles/30k — here. A fun part of this trail: there are so many people walking their dogs in Point Isabel; it’s more than the sum of all my past life.

The scene is quite remarkable when the weather is nice; there are also some weird places along the trail, like Mad Mark’s Castle.

Richmond Bay Trail starting point (left) and Mad Mark’s Castle (right)

Tilden Park

A Relatively flat hill trail

It’s a hill trail, but the elevation isn’t daunting. Since my phone died during my run, I don’t have the record. The starting point is Inspiration Point (what a lovely name!)

Berkeley Hills

Best to challenge yourself for elevation

When I was thinking about whether or not to run the SF marathon, I am mostly concerned about the hills at SF. This Berkeley Hills trail is perfect to test that. I stubble upon this trail when I was helping my friend moving her house and was attracted when I was driving by. You simply run along Arlington Ave. The trail will pass Berkeley, Kensington, El Cerrito and reach Richmond. Because the altitude is high, you get to see the whole beautiful bay along the run. There are a few nice parks and a golf course; and water fountains can be located inside Arlington Park (near the 5-mile marker).

Actually the best part, if you are a Berkeley student with class-pass, you can take buses back if you feel tired :)

After this run, I felt myself doing ok at 11:30 pace. And my knees/legs don’t hurt as much on the second day. That was a signal that I am ready for the SF marathon.

San Francisco

The city-exploring trail

The last one is San Francisco. Since SF is kind of far from Berkeley, I only run for long distances to amortize the cost of driving. There will surely be many short trails — like a 3-mile run inside Golden Gate Park, but I was having a more clear goal when I ran in SF: to prepare for the marathon. So the trails I’m showing is quite biased.

The first half (the one I ran on 06/11) was easy at the beginning. Running along the sea, it’s super flat and fun. Around the Presidio area, the elevation is sudden and tough. You can, and should probably, walk since it’s not that long anyway.

The second half (I ran on 07/10) started from the Golden Gate Park. It started with some difficult parts because of the ups and downs in the city. After passing 16 St Mission, the last few miles are along the Mission Bay and are quite flat.

The full marathon, seemingly just a sum of two halves, is actually with a quadruple difficulty. The last three miles is so painful that you have to push really hard to get through. Thankfully, it’s the Mission Bay so the flatness helps.

You can refer to this course map for the details.

Three runs at SF
Running at San Francisco


Most boring route

The good thing about this one is that you don’t have to run this one :)

Occasionally, I would run from home to campus and then run back. It’s 5k for each direction, uphill to the campus and downhill when going back home. Super boring.


Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you find other good trails. I am always interested to explore more.

Keep running!

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