Places to get fresh air
Briones Regional Park in Lafayette. Photo courtesy of Fotos by Flee.
Editor's note: BART is currently running reduced service for essential travel. We are dispatching long trains even though ridership has been significantly reduced. We are doing this to ensure our riders can properly socially distance from one another.
Before heading out, make sure you understand local requirements on social distancing and wearing a mask. Alameda County and San Francisco city health officials require residents to wear face coverings any time they leave home and get within 30 feet of anyone not living in their household. If you need a mask, check out our feature, Bay Area businesses selling masks during COVID-19.
With many people still cooped up inside, now is a more important time than ever to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Taking a walk, hike or bike ride is soothing for the soul and can leave you feeling recharged. We've put together the following list of our favorite spots to escape into the outdoors.
San Francisco has a long history with public art, and the city’s Mission District offers a spectacular array of street art to view, contemplate and discuss. The murals of the Mission are a mash up of early 20th-century Mexican muralists, 1930s-era Works Projects Administration art and the uprising of graffiti artists who were influenced by the emerging graphic comics genre, among other influencers.
Technically a tidal lagoon where the water level rises and falls with the tides, this “Jewel of Oakland” is a favorite gathering place for city residents and visitors alike. From joggers to sunbathers to boaters and bird watchers, the Lake Merritt area truly reflects Oakland’s rich diversity. And for today’s history lesson: In 1869, it was declared the site of the very first national wildlife refuge for the thousands of migratory birds that stop over along the Pacific Flyway.
During the shelter-in-place, you’ve likely gone outside to get some fresh air and been unable to properly socially distance with other pedestrians on the sidewalk. As a result, some pedestrians are moving to the street, which can be hazardous with car traffic. To solve this issue, the Cities of Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Alameda have developed “Slow Streets” programs.
One minute you’re in downtown Oakland, the next minute you’re beneath a canopy of redwoods. Whether you want a short stroll or an all-day excursion, Redwood Regional Park is an East Bay trove.
Tilden Park is a classic go-to sandwiched between the Berkeley Hills and the San Pablo Ridge. Spanning more than 2,000 acres, its bicycle- and dog-friendly trails through rolling greenery are met with a botanical garden, swimming lake, and incredible views of the surrounding communities.
San Bruno Mountain Park is a unique open-space island in the midst of the peninsula's urbanization at the northern end of the Santa Cruz Mountain Range. The park features considerable slopes and elevations ranging from 250 feet to 1,314 feet at the summit. The 2,416 acres of rugged landscape offer excellent hiking opportunities and outstanding views of San Francisco.
A lesser known 6,000-acre pocket of wilderness in the East Bay, Briones Regional Park in the Briones Hills houses Briones Peak, its apex of panoramic views showcasing Mount Diablo, Mount Tamalpais and the Sacramento River.
Whether you’re after dramatic canyon views, calm alone time or a sweat-inducing workout, Glen Canyon Park unfolds with options for each visitor. Lofty trees might offer forest shade at one point in your path, while around the bend might be sun-emblazoned, dry grassy knolls.
We currently have five BARTable by bike rides (with more coming soon!) with options in the East Bay and San Francisco.
At 3,849 feet, Mount Diablo is the tallest mountain in the East Bay. The summit is high enough to receive snow in the winter months, and on a very clear day you can see almost 200 miles, including the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
A project conceived in 1986 by State Senator Bill Lockyer, the Bay Trail is a vision for a connected set of pathways and roads ringing the Bay, providing access to shorelines and waterside parks for walkers and cyclists. Over 350 miles have been created so far, and most of it is BARTable by bike. One of the more accessible segments is along the shoreline of Alameda.
After 20 years of work by advocates, in 2019 Caltrans opened a lane on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge for bikes and pedestrians; more than 1,000 people crossed the span at the huge opening party. Cyclists now have a 24/7 route to get to Marin County from Contra Costa and the rest of the East Bay.
Probably the most important bike route in San Francisco, The Wiggle connects Market Street with the west side of San Francisco via a series of quick turns on residential streets. The Wiggle follows the path of a historic stream bed which mostly avoids San Francisco’s central hills, allowing easy access to the Panhandle, Golden Gate Park, and the western neighborhoods.
One of the most dramatic gorges in the Bay Area, Niles Canyon is a beautiful place to ride. A natural water gap which drains the Livermore Valley, the deep canyon was carved by Alameda Creek as seismic activity uplifted the coast range over millions of years.