Joaquin Miller Park
Oakland's urban wilderness
HIGHLIGHTS: Only 9 miles from downtown Oakland, Joaquin Miller Park offers amenities you can't find in most cities: fern-lined creeks, wet meadows, redwood groves and oak woodlands. In the 1800s, huge redwoods in this area were logged for housing and shipbuilding. When "poet of the Sierra" Joaquin Miller saw the devastation, he purchased 70 acres and planted some 75,000 trees, including olives, Monterey pines and eucalyptus. The city of Oakland purchased Miller's land from his heirs in 1919, and in 1929 Save the Redwoods League added adjacent redwood groves. Today, the city park's 425 acres adjacent to 1,800-acre Redwood Regional Park and 80-acre Roberts Recreation Area ensure that hikers and wildlife have plenty of room to roam.
ACTIVITIES: Hiking, biking, picnicking, dog walking, horseback riding and summer camps. The park's more civilized attractions include wedding sites, a plant nursery, an outdoor amphitheater, a visitor center, a rentable community center, an off-leash dog run and Joaquin Miller's home and monuments. Two children's day camps convene here: a Native American program, Shake, Rattle, and Roll; and a nature program, Touch the Earth. For more information, go to park website or call 510-867-0669.
VISITOR CENTER: The ranger station/visitor center lies at the southwestern end of the park, at 3594 Sanborn Road.
CAMPGROUNDS: Generally no overnight camping is allowed. But on one dazzling night in June, Joaquin Miller Park stages its Great American Backyard Campout. Families gather in a meadow for dinner, a night hike, stories around a campfire, sleeping under the stars and breakfast the next morning. Registration is $10 at the city of Oakland's Web site. "It's a great community-building and family-strengthening event," says Park Naturalist Stephanie Benavidez.
TRAILS: The Big Trees, Bayview, and Sunset trails are good places to see the park's second- and third-growth redwoods. A map shows you how to reach these trails from either Skyline Boulevard or Joaquin Miller Road.
MUST-SEE UNIQUE FEATURE OR SEASONAL HIGHLIGHT: The park's serpentine soils tend to favor native wildflowers, which delight visitors in the winter and spring. In June, you can see clouds of lady beetles. Naturalist Stephanie Benavidez recommends that people come often, throughout the year. "Every day you can see something different," she says. "Walk gently and discover the deer, quail and foxes that have taken advantage of this altered, but healthy habitat."
HIDDEN GEMS: Just because it's urban doesn't mean it's full of weeds. Rare native plants such as the Oakland star tulip, pallid manzanita and leatherwood grow here, as do purple needlegrass (the state grass) and big patches of California poppies (the state flower).
MORE INFORMATION: Go to park website, call (510) 867-0669, or write to Joaquin Miller Park, 3594 Sanborn Drive, Oakland, CA 94602.
EAT: Hattie Washington, Office Manager, recommends packing a tasty picnic.
FAVORITE HIKE: Instead of hiking, Hattie suggests taking a leisurely stroll through the park.
FAVORITE PARK ATTRACTION: Hattie likes the park's Bay Area location because it makes it easy to relax and enjoy the time with family.
DON'T MISS: The Ridge offers the perfect view of Oakland.
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HIGHLIGHTS: Harry A. Merlo State Recreation Area is adjacent to Humboldt Lagoons State Park and offers access to Big Lagoon - the largest of Humboldt's coastal lagoons and a popular spot for fishing, where salmon, trout and many other fish species live.