This trail, known as the Nimitz Trail, Nimitz Way, or the Nimitz Way Trail, is Berkeley’s most popular trail, mainly because it’s paved and relatively flat. The open, sunny trail, an old road built in the 1950s to access a Nike missile installation, runs along San Pablo Ridge. Although the ridge is too low and wide to have and really good views, the northern end of the trail does have some decent views of San Pablo Reservoir and glimpses of the bay.
On nice weekends the Inspiration Point parking lot fills up and cars line Wildcat Canyon Road. You might see about 4 groups every minute near the parking lot, gradually dropping off to a group every two or three minutes at the Nike Missile site. In addition to hiking, the road makes a nice bike ride.
Start at Inspiration Point. The view from the parking lot used to be as good as the name suggests, but it’s now mostly blocked by trees.
The trail is dotted with a few pine trees at first, but the trees gradually give way to scrub. The views in this area are mostly blocked by scrub or by Skyline Ridge to the west. At about three-quarters of a mile the trail passes a sequoia grove planted by the Berkeley Hiking Club.
The trail passes through a eucalyptus grove, the only wooded part of the hike, then reaches the side trail to Wildcat Peak. A lot of people just hike up to see the views from Wildcat Peak and then return.
Just after the eucalyptus grove, the trail enters Wildcat Regional Park. There’s a dramatic change in the landscape at this point, since Wildcat is grazed and Tilden is not. The dense scrub and the trees give way to much more open, grassy, cow-dotted hills. When the grass is green this is the most enjoyable part of the trail, but at other times of year it can seem barren and unattractive.
The trail climbs to a slight rise and the intersection with the Conlon Trail; if you go about a third of a mile up the trail, there’s a bench with a nice view of the bay. Back on the Nimitz Trail, the Nike missiles used to stand on the odd-looking flat area to the right just after the intersection, but the launching areas have been covered up. A little bit later, the stub of a road on the left leads to where the family housing used to be.
The trail begins a long, gradual descent with some nice views of San Pablo Reservoir. There are a few cattle guards in this area.
There’s a final climb up a small hill. At the high point of the paved trail, turn onto a dirt road to reach the hilltop site where the radar tracking compound used to be located. Three of the concrete radar pads offer somewhat limited views of Richmond and El Sobrante.
This is the end of Nimitz Way and the turnaround point for the hike. If you have the time and energy, though, it’s worthwhile continuing north on the dirt San Pablo Ridge Trail; within a half-mile the ridge gets sharper and steeper and the scenery improves quite a bit, with nice views of San Pablo Bay.
© 2018 David Baselt