Home > BART, East Bay, Hike > Around and Above Lake Merritt

Around and Above Lake Merritt

This urban hike in Oakland takes you around Lake Merritt, up stairways (including the historic Cleveland Cascade) and around the Morcom Rose Garden. Lake Merritt is a National Wildlife Refuge (the first in the U.S.) with a variety of migratory birds and a nature center. This hike uses paved paths and stairways and is enjoyable any time of the year.

Places visited: Lake Merritt, Oakland paths and stairways, Oakland Rose Garden
Approximate Length: 6.5 miles (see notes for shorter version)
Hiking Time: 4 hours
Map: See Google map of route, below
Terrain: Paved paths and stairways; flat around the lake, steep paths and stairways.
Transit Schedule: BART
Start and end point: 19th Street Oakland BART

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take a Richmond or Pittsburg/Bay Point BART train to 19th Street/Oakland station.
  • From the Peninsula and South Bay, take Caltrain to the Millbrae station. Transfer to BART and board the SF/Bay Point train (on weekdays, you will take the SF/Richmond train). Exit BART at 19th/Street Oakland station.
  • From the East Bay, take BART to 19th Street/Oakland station. If traveling from Dublin/Pleasanton or Castro Valley, you’ll need to transfer to a Richmond train at Bay Fair.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 42 (from the San Rafael Transit Center) to El Cerrito Del Norte BART. Take a Fremont or San Francisco BART train to 19th Street/Oakland station.


  • For a shorter route (about 4 miles), you could skip the trip up the stairways and to the Morcom Rose Garden, and just walk around Lake Merritt. I recommend the full route, but the shorter route is great if you have limited time or would like a flat route.
  • If you have more time to spend, there are several places to visit around the lake’s perimeter, including a boating center (rents pedal boats, canoes, kayaks, sailboats, and rowboats), Lakeside Demonstration Gardens (including a Japanese garden and a bonsai garden), a nature center, and Children’s Fairyland. The Friends of the Cleveland Cascade website has history, videos, and information about restoration of the stairway. You may also want spend additional time at the lake relaxing in one of the grassy areas with a picnic or a book.
  • Many food options are available at different points along this route, particularly along Grand Ave. and Lakeshore Ave. On Saturdays, the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market operates at Splash Pad Park along Grand Ave. soon after you head away from Lake Merritt toward the Oakland Garden.


  • Exit the 19th Street BART station, and orient yourself for heading towards Lake Merritt. If you are at Broadway near 17th, walk up Broadway until you get to 19th Street, and turn right. If you are on Broadway near 20th, walk down Broadway to 19th, and turn left.
  • In three blocks, pass a park (Snow Park) on your left and continue straight.
  • When you reach the lake, cross at the crosswalk, continue out to the path, and turn right.
  • Follow the path past the Lake Merritt Boathouse and the historic Camron-Stanford House.
  • As the path curves left past the boathouse, you have a choice of continuing on the dirt path below or going up to the paved path. I recommend the paved path here, as (unfortunately) trash tends to collect in the lower area.
  • Once the route has curved left again, continue on the path close to the shore.
  • Follow the path for a ways until you can look to your left and see a cordoned-off area off to your left across the lake. Now keep an eye out for Brooklyn Ave. on your right.
  • Head away from the lake to your right and cross the street (Lakeshore) at the crossing.
  • Turn left and continue on Lakeshore, paralleling the lake.
  • Shortly, look for a stairway on your right.  Head up the stairway to the top (or as far as you wish) and back down again. You may wish to spend some time here to examine the restoration efforts, watch the people who use these stairs for exercise, etc.
  • When ready, head back to the lake path. You can either cross directly at Cleveland Cascade, or backtrack to Brooklyn and cross here. Either way, turn right at the path along the lake’s shore.
  • Veer left around the tip of the lake, passing a fountain.
  • When you are through the arches and around the tip of the lake, take a sharp right on the path and head out to the street, Grand Ave.
  • Turn right at Grand Ave., and begin walking along the sidewalk.
  • Pass a grassy area on your right, and cross under the freeway.
  • Pass Splash Pad Park (and, if it is Saturday, the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market) on your right.
  • Cross Lake Park Ave., and pass the historic Grand Lake Theater on your right.
  • Pass retail and restaurants on your right. Cross to the other side of Grand at one of the two crosswalks in the next block and continue on Grand.
  • Pass Elwood Ave. on your left and Mandana Blvd. on your right.
  • After you have passed the next several businesses, keep your eye out for a path between the buildings. The path will be next to 3629 Grand Ave. Turn left to follow the path.
  • Cross the next street (Valle Vista) and continue on the path.
  • Turn right at the street, Mira Vista, and immediately turn left at Alta Vista Ave.
  • Turn right at the next block, Jean St., and head up the hill.
  • At the end of Jean St., where the street makes a right turn, you turn left and in the entrance to the Morcom Rose Garden.
  • Continue straight through the garden, taking either the left or right paths at junctures.
  • At the end of the garden, turn around and loop back the other way to the entrance. Along the way you may wish to explore different areas of the garden.
  • Exit the rose garden where you came in and head straight out on Jean St. (do not take Jean back down the hill the way you came).
  • Turn right at Grand Ave.
  • Cross to the other side of Grand Ave and one of the next two crosswalks, and continue on Grand.
  • Very shortly after you pass where you turned off Grand on your way up, begin looking on your left for a path between the buildings.
  • Turn left at the path and walk through the buildings and up the stairs.
  • Cross the next street, Walker, and continue on the stairs.
  • Turn right at the next street, Vermont.
  • Turn left at the next block, Mandana.
  • Turn right when you reach Lakeshore. Here you pass through another commercial district.
  • Just before you reach the freeway undercrossing, turn right at Lake Park Ave., a major street.
  • Cross to the other side of the street at the next crosswalk, and walk along the path through Splash Pad Park (if it is Saturday, you will be walking through the farmer’s market).
  • Turn left at Grand Ave. and continue back under the freeway.
  • When you reach the path where you left Lake Merritt, veer left onto the path and back to the lake.
  • Stay slightly right at the lakeshore and continue where you left off, heading around Lake Merritt.
  • Soon you pass the wildlife sanctuary, where you see some small islands in the lake off to your left in a cordoned off area. This is a good area to spend some time if you are interested in birdwatching.
  • Stay towards the shore past the wildlife area, and pass the Lake Merritt Boating Center.
  • Continue around the lake along the shore, passing Lakeside Park on your right.
  • Follow the path as it veers left around the shore.
  • When you reach 19th Street, where you started around the lake, cross at the crosswalk and turn right.
  • Head back on 19th Street towards Broadway, the way you came.
  • When you reach Broadway, enter the 19th Street BART station. Congratulations, you made it!
Categories: BART, East Bay, Hike
  1. March 9, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I remember this walk – what fun!

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