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Albany Bulb Adventure

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

This urban hike explores the unique East Bay shoreline area know as the Albany Bulb. This piece of land that sticks out into the Bay is home to a rotating collection of sculpture and other art pieces fashioned from concrete, wood, rebar, bicycles wheels, and other construction materials and items from the area’s time as a city landfill. Also popular for dog walking and wildlife viewing, the Bulb is a great destination for a wide variety of people. On this hike, you will also get a chance to walk along a portion of the Ohlone Greenway, a rail-trail built alongside the BART tracks, and to stop by Schoolhouse Creek Common in Berkeley.

Places visited: Albany Bulb, Eastshore State Park (portion), Ohlone Greenway (portion)
Approximate Length: 7.5 miles
Hiking Time: 4-5 hours
Map: No official map; see Google map of route, below
Terrain: Mostly flat
Transit Schedule: BART
Start and end point: North Berkeley BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take a Richmond BART train to North Berkeley station. (On Sundays, take a Pittsburg/Bay Point train and transfer to a Richmond train at 12th Street.)
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART and board the SF/SFO/Bay Point train (on weekends). Transfer to a Richmond train at 12th Street/Oakland City Center, and take the train to North Berkeley station. (On weekdays, you do not need to transfer BART trains; a direct Richmond train leaves from Millbrae.)
  • From the East Bay, take a Richmond BART train to North Berkeley station. (If you are on the Pittsburg/Bay Point or Dublin/Pleasanton lines, you will need to transfer to a Richmond train.)
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit (GGT) Route 42 (from the San Rafael Transit Center) to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. Take a Fremont or San Francisco BART train two stops south to North Berkeley station.


  • Although the Albany Bulb can be enjoyed at any time, a trip at low tide will allow you to explore more of the area. If you are checking tide tables, Berkeley (or sometimes Richmond) is the nearest location usually listed. If you go at high tide, two alternate routes are provided at the end of the hike directions. Sturdy shoes with some traction are recommended for the rocky sections, and to provide protection from sharp objects. Feel free to vary your route through the Albany Bulb from what is described here. However, I don’t recommend wandering into overgrown areas; at times people have set up campsites in some of the remote areas of the Bulb.
  • Pack a lunch or dinner to eat out at the Bulb, or stop for food along the route. Near the beginning of the route, turn off on Gilman Street for food (bagel shop, natural foods store, and a deli) in the Westbrae shopping district. On the way back, several options can be found in West Berkeley along or near Gilman Street and San Pablo Avenue.
  • The beginning of this route travels along the Ohlone Greenway, a paved rail-trail built beside the BART tracks. Although the trail is off the street, you will be crossing several intersections along the way. Exercise caution crossing at these streets, as cars may be traveling at high speeds and/or not be aware of pedestrians crossing the street.
  • Adjacent to the Albany Bulb is Golden Gate Fields, the only remaining live horse racing venue in the Bay Area. The track sometimes promotes “dollar days” on Sundays, with $1 admission, $1 beverages, etc. On days that the track is closed, the walk through the parking lot will be quieter and easier; at other times, watch for cars entering, exiting, and parking on your walk through here.


  • From the entrance of North Berkeley BART station, turn left and walk diagonally across the lot to turn left at Virginia Street.
  • At the next corner, Acton Street, cross the street and then cross right (watching for bicycles) and walk slightly left onto the Ohlone Greenway path.
  • Carefully cross the street and continue on the Ohlone Greenway past a basketball court.
  • Cross very carefully at the next block and continue on the path through Cedar-Rose Park.
  • Cross at the next street (Rose) and continue on the Ohlone Greenway past the tennis courts.
  • The path ends very briefly past the tennis courts. Cross straight, and then cross left at the crosswalk and turn right onto the sidewalk.
  • Walk past a few houses and then the Peralta Community Garden (open sometimes on the weekends), and turn left to continue on the Ohlone Greenway.
  • Pass sculptures and a mural as the path parallels the BART tracks overhead.
  • At the next intersection (Curtis and Gilman), cross left and the cross right to continue on the Ohlone Greenway.
  • Cross carefully at the next intersection (Santa Fe), and continue on the Greenway.
  • Cross the street at the next block (Dartmouth), and continue on the Greenway.
  • At the next (busy) intersection, Marin, turn left off of the Greenway and start walking on Marin. Stay on the left side of the road.
  • Continue on Marin for several blocks until you reach San Pablo, a major intersection. Cross San Pablo and continue on Marin (still on the left side of the road) as it starts to curve to the right.
  • At the next block, which is Jackson Street, Marin Ave. meets up with Buchanan Street. Cross Jackson, and then cross Buchanan. Turn left and continue walking west, on Buchanan.
  • In a few more blocks, you will see the freeway overpass ahead of you. Walk up and onto the overpass, on the right-hand sidewalk.
  • Shortly, take the path that veers off and down to the right. Pass the crosswalk and continue right on the path.
  • Just before the path heads under the overpass, make a sharp left at the intersecting path and start heading north and then west towards the Bay.
  • Cross under the sections of on-ramp and freeway (this is where 580 and 80 split), and continue to the crosswalk.
  • Cross the street and continue west on the path on the right side of the road. Be on the lookout for birds on your right shortly after you start down this path.
  • Pass the parking lot for Golden Gate Fields on your left. Soon you reach the entrance to the Albany Bulb, with a sign for the Albany Waterfront Trail.
  • Walk through the entrance on the  path, passing a beach on your left that is popular with dog walkers.
  • Stay left at the trail intersection, walking along the trail closest to the water’s edge (water will be on your left).
  • At the next intersection, continue to head left along the water. If the tide becomes too high along this section, go back to the intersection and take the other path (see end of directions for this variation).
  • Shortly, you reach a manmade cement building up on your right, known as “Mark’s Castle.” Head up the short path to explore this building further.
  • When you are done at the castle, head back down and continue on the trail along the water’s edge. If the tide is too high here to pass, turn around and go back up to Mark’s Castle to continue on an alternate route (see end of directions for this variation).
  • Stay to the left as you head out along a thin strip of land. Watch your footing here in spots where the rocks are wet or mossy. When a little water is present, you should still be able to make your way through here, but if you feel uncomfortable at any point turn around and take the castle route instead.
  • Pass a small point on your left, and continue on the narrow strip. Turn right past another, longer point, to continue on the strip.
  • Continue straight ahead once the path widens, keeping the water on your left.
  • Turn left to continue along the water’s edge.
  • When you reach a wide, open corner of the Bulb, there will be some structures/art to explore. Wander around here, and then head to the right to explore more sculptures.
  • Pass a wide path on your right, which will be your route on the return trip. Past here you may see some other sculptures and the remains of some paintings.
  • When you are done exploring here, turn around and head back to the intersection. Turn left and head up the wide path.
  • Ignore the narrow trails that lead off into shrubbery, and look for a path on your right that is slightly narrower than the one you are on.
  • Walk down this path a short distance to see “The Amphitheater,” a wide open space with a wall built from bicycle wheels, metal parts, and other recycled items.
  • When you are done at the Amphitheater, head back out on the path you came in and turn right to continue on the main trail.
  • Pass other smaller trails heading off into shrubbery. Turn left at the major trail intersection, ignoring the other trails heading off to your right (towards Mark’s Castle) and ahead of you (back to the trail you came in on).
  • Continue out this trail until you reach the entrance to the Bulb.
  • At the car turnaround point, turn right and head into the parking lot for Golden Gate Fields.
  • Watch carefully for cars if the track is open, and continue to head right towards the water.
  • Walk south along the edge of the parking lot, with the water on your right. Continue to be aware of cars; this is an uncompleted section of the Bay Trail.
  • Once you have almost passed the Golden Gate Fields buildings, look for stairs heading down on your right.
  • Go down the stairs and then continue walking south through this parking lot.
  • Once you are at the base of the Golden Gate fields exit, you will see a wide pavement section on your left. Carefully cross the street and continue walking south on this side, where it is safer for pedestrians.
  • Turn left at the corner, onto Gilman Street.
  • Carefully cross the freeway off-ramp at the crosswalk and continue on the underpass.
  • Carefully cross at the next two crosswalks, for the freeway on-ramp and the frontage road.
  • Continue straight on Gilman for several blocks. Turn right at San Pablo, a major intersection.
  • Turn left at Virginia Street.
  • Pass the Berkeley Adult School on your right. Just before Curtis Street, turn in at the small garden on your right. This is Schoolhouse Creek Common, a public space that features native plants, fruit trees, benches, and a children’s play area.
  • When you are done enjoying Schoolhouse Creek Common, continue straight on Virginia, crossing Curtis.
  • At the corner of Virginia and Acton, turn right and into the North Berkeley BART parking lot.
  • Head diagonally across the lot to the station. Congratulations, you made it!


Alternate Route #1:

  • If you can make it as far as “Mark’s Castle,” but not much further, walk up and around the castle.
  • Continue on the path on the other side of the castle. Shortly, stay to right at the T.
  • Ignore small trails heading off the main path, and follow the path as it veers slightly left.
  • At the next intersection, stay right. Then, very shortly, turn left at the next intersection.
  • Follow the trail straight out until you reach the shore.
  • From here, you can explore the areas to your left and right. then head back up on this trail and continue following the directions above, starting with “When you are done exploring here…”

Alternate Route #2:

  • If you cannot make it as far as “Mark’s Castle”, turn around and go back to the trail intersection. Turn left at the intersection.
  • At the next juncture, turn left. Head straight out until you reach “Mark’s Castle.”
  • When you are done exploring the castle, continue with the directions described in Alternate Route #1.
Categories: BART, East Bay, Hike
  1. December 7, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    A fan of the Bulb. Great views (check out the last photo in this blog post: http://localecologist.blogspot.com/2008/06/go-with-flow-touring-cordonices-creek.html).

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