Park Hills announces its presence with impressive gates that include a fountain. I have to admit that I’d never heard of Park Hills neighborhood, but unlike many housing developments that bear similar names, this Park Hills does indeed border a park (Tilden), and it’s definitely on a hill.
Fred Herbert Path has three sections. The upper one, Fred Herbert Path South, is #76; the Fred Herbert Staircase is # 77; and the lower one, Fred Herbert Path North, is #78.
Its southern entrance is where a tiny street called Park Gate ends on Park Hills Road. As far as I could tell, Park Gate has only one residence on it.
Because I’m used to starting at the bottom of a path and climbing up, it surprised me when I reached the sign and realized I’d be heading down. (I’m glad I started on that end, though, because the northern entrance has no signage to tell you you’re in the right spot.) Well maintained with wooden steps and railing, the path led me through a variety of big trees, including a giant redwood. From the path, I could see a rather large tree fort in someone’s backyard, and further on, an abandoned vegetable garden. When the steps ended, the flat part of the trail was still clearly marked with low wooden edging, the kind you see in flower gardens.
In the middle of the first section was a clearing that had a small plastic play structure on one end, and on the other was a mystery object I couldn’t identify. I also came across a hummingbird, who politely posed for me out in the open air.
The middle section picks up on the other side of Woodside Road and continues to Hillview Road. The Fred Herbert Staircase has 264 steps. I didn’t count them–that information is listed on a website called Community Walk. Mostly shaded by surrounding shrubs, it’s a fairly gradual decline with some flat spots and in general, quite a lovely walk.
The northern section is the shortest and lands you on Wildcat Canyon Road, which is probably fairly quiet in the middle of the day. But I was there shortly before the evening commute on a Friday, so many cars whizzed by on this major route through Tilden Regional Park. If I hasn’t been concerned that I’d be run over, I might have crossed the street to get the full view, which I could tell was gorgeous even from the bottom of the steps.
My plan was to walk along Wildcat Canyon until I came upon Wildcat Path (#80), where I would head back toward my car, away from Tilden. Although there was no sidewalk and no real shoulder, I made my way along the road, hugging the hillside closely, listening for vehicles behind me, and making a mental note of where the wild blackberry bushes were. It wasn’t long before I spotted a sign declaring that I was entering Contra Costa County, which surprised me, since Wildcat Path is in Berkeley, located in Alameda County. I checked the map again and retraced my steps a bit to see if I’d missed the path’s entrance. It was solid foliage on the hillside with nothing that could be remotely referred to as a path. So I soldiered on, noting on my map that Selby Trail was up ahead.
Although no signs declared it as such, I was fairly confident that I’d found Selby Trail on the western edge of Tilden, so I relaxed and enjoyed my little foray into nature. If it weren’t for the faint sound of traffic nearby, I could have imagined I was deep in a forest away from civilization.
Eventually I arrived at the stop sign on Shasta Road, where Park Hills Road turns into Golf Course Drive, and from there I walked back to my car. I looked for the other end of Wildcat Path, which should have been where Hillview ends on Park Hills Road. No success. But I got in a bonus walk with that snippet of Selby Trail, so no harm done. And I never had to resort to foraging to keep up my strength either. The blackberries are still safe on the hillside above Wildcat Canyon Road.