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Berkeley Marina and Pier, and Cesar E. Chavez Park

When you visit this peninsular park and marina, it’s hard to believe that in the 1950s and ’60s the city of Berkeley operated a garbage dump here and was planning to extend the city 2 miles into the Bay by filling in 2,000 acres of water. Those efforts were thwarted by the Save the Bay movement, which started in 1961 and led to the creation of many parks and trails where development had been planned.

Today there is only one obvious sign of its former use as a dump: a fenced-in chimney that vents methane gas from the still-decomposing stuff below. Now this urban wonder is home to a popular 3,000-foot recreational pier, a marina offering sailing and windsurfing classes, several restaurants, Shorebird and César Chávez parks, and several miles of trails. For young children there is Adventure Playground, a unique outdoor facility where kids can play and build things using found and recycled objects.

Acrobatic kite flying is a common, year-round attraction at César Chávez Park, and for a truly dazzling sight, check out the Berkeley Kite Festival and West Coast Kite Championship, the largest kite-flying festival in the United States, held here every July.

Visitor center
: Shorebird Park nature center is housed in the first municipal straw bale building in the United States––the building itself is a display on green building. Inside you’ll find a 50-gallon saltwater tank, a 30-gallon freshwater tank, and displays on marine mammals and birds, including bones, shells, and skins.

Trail/Pathway Details

Dorothy Stegmann Trail and perimeter trail north of the pier

Trailhead: Foot of Spinnaker Way

Length: 2-4 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Gentle

Terrain: Hard


Walkers and wheelchair riders, children learning to ride bikes, and joggers all use the 1.25-mile paved Dorothy Stegmann Trail, which runs along the water, circling the hill where kites fly. If you stay on the perimeter trail you can avoid the hilly interior trails. There are plenty of rest stops with good views throughout the park.

I started by heading east from the parking space on Spinnaker Way and taking the ramp that climbs gently to the trail, then runs parallel to Spinnaker Way for a quarter-mile before turning north. Fog often shrouds the hills to the east, giving the feeling of being on an island. As you come to the northeast corner of the park, which has been redesigned to protect the habitat for migratory burrowing owls when they visit between October and April every year, read the interpretive panels that explain how this native species is struggling due to loss of habitat.

The entire hillside has been seeded with native plants and grasses, so be sure to occasionally gaze inland to enjoy the variety of plantings. The western shore of the park is a great place to watch the sunset and view the Golden Gate Bridge.

West of the off-leash dog area, in the park’s center, a rough dirt trail leads to the highest point of another hill and my favorite destination: a solar calendar. Rocks have been placed in a circle to indicate the sun’s location on the horizon at sunrise and sunset through the seasons. I managed to weave my way around the ruts near the calendar in my power wheelchair, but those in manual wheelchairs may need assistance, as on the other dirt trails that crisscross the hill.

The trail ends at the cul de sac, but if you want to continue another mile to the pier, cross Spinnaker Way and travel through the boat launch parking lot to connect to the trail at the water. It winds past a hotel complex and some houseboats. After a half-mile, turn south and follow alongside University Avenue to a large deck overlooking the houseboats. Continue west along the harbor, past the marina office; just south is Marina Sports Center, also known as the bait shop. Here you can charter a boat or buy snacks, bait, and tackle. In less than .2 miles you come to tiny Horseshoe Park, a quiet retreat near the docked boats, then the understated yacht club. Continue on the trail past the restaurant to the pier. This 3,000-foot pier is all that remains in usable condition of what was once a 3.5-mile pier serving car ferries; if you take the very bumpy ride to the end, you’ll see remnants of the rest of it.

Bay Trail

Trailhead: Berkeley Pier

Length: 1-2 total miles

Typical Width: 4 ft. & above

Typical Grade: Level

Terrain: Hard


South of the pier you can follow the trail in front of the parked cars, but it’s best to cross Seawall Drive and follow the walkway to the northeast corner of the large parking lot. Here you’ll find the entrance to Shorebird Park, a flat, grassy area sheltered by trees on the west and north, with picnic tables at water’s edge and a small inaccessible, rocky beach. At low tide you are likely to see many shorebirds; south across the water you'll see Emeryville’s office towers. Nearby are the Shorebird Park nature center and the Adventure Playground. Continuing east, the trail skirts the South Sailing Basin, passing the Cal Sailing Club and Cal Adventures. The public small-craft boat launch here has a very steep ramp. (Note that neither the Cal Sailing Club nor Cal Adventures offer adapted boats. You can find some in San Francisco through the Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors.

Beyond the launch, the paved trail briefly turns north, then follows University Avenue to an intersection at Frontage Road West. A small outdoor café/store on the corner has a variety of snacks, fried seafood, and smoothies. From here you have several options to extend your journey: continue south several miles on the paved Bay Trail to Emeryville; take the side path that leads to the pedestrian bridge over Interstate 80 and Aquatic Park; or cross to the north side of University Avenue to explore a small section of McLaughlin Eastshore State Park, an 8.5-mile shoreline park extending from the Bay Bridge to Richmond. Here dirt trails meander through Berkeley Meadow, a restored habitat area consisting of seasonal wetlands, coastal prairie, and coastal scrub.

Accessibility Details

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.

Visitor Center: Accessible

Accessible Parking: Yes

Accessible parking is plentiful throughout. The large undeveloped lot on the south side of University Ave. is scheduled to be paved in 2015.

Accessible Restroom: Yes

At César Chávez Park, accessible portable toilets are off Spinnaker Ave. by the accessible parking spaces before the cul de sac, and midway on the eastern section of the trail. Another portable unit is near the off-leash dog area, and a vault toilet with running water is between the public boat launch and the lot serving berths B–E. In the marina’s southern area, accessible restrooms are on the east side of the marina office (locked 5 pm-4:30 am), the foot of the pier (no stall doors), and between the nature center and the playground (locked 5 pm-6 am).

Accessible Picnic Tables: Yes

At Shorebird Park and Cesar Chavez Park. Some are in the marina near berths D-E. All picnic areas are first-come, first- served.

Other Things of Interest

A pedestrian bridge at Frontage Road West crosses Interstate 80 and takes you to Aquatic Park—and, farther on, to Berkeley’s upscale Fourth Street shopping district. At Aquatic Park you can rent an adapted bicycle from the Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program and cruise for miles on the nearby paved Bay Trail.
Fog lifting: North side of Cesar Chavez Park
Fog lifting: North side of Cesar Chavez Park (Bonnie Lewkowicz)

Features icon key

  • bicycling
  • boating
  • fishing
  • hiking
  • particularly good for families
  • picnic

Additional Information

View Map  
Managing Agency: City of Berkeley
Address: Foot of University Ave.
Phone: (510) 981-6740 (Marina Division)
Hours: Parks: 6 am-10 pm. Shorebird Park nature center: Tues.-Sat., 9 am-5 pm. Pier: Always open.
Fees: None
Dogs: In restricted areas
Allowed on leash throughout the marina and trails, and off-leash in a 17-acre section of Cesar Chavez Park
Public Transportation: AC Transit
Useful Links: Berkeley Kite Festival, marina facilities map
Reviewed by Bonnie Lewkowicz, January 16, 2015
Access Norhtern California This web guide is a project of Access Northern California.  
California Coastal Conservancy Thanks to our partner the California Coastal Conservancy

DISCLAIMER: Although the information contained in this web-guide was believed to be correct at the time of publication, neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy shall be held responsible or liable for any inaccuracies, errors, or omissions, nor for information that changes or becomes outdated. Neither Access Northern California nor California Coastal Conservancy assume any liability for any injury or damage arising out of, or in connection with, any use of this guide or the sites described in it.

Accessible Restrooms Icon looks like a women and men restroom signBeach Accessible
Wheelchairs Available
  Hiking icon is silhouette of a hikerHiking & Trails
Biking icon looks like person riding a bikeBicycling   Good for Familis icon is a child on a swing'Particularly Good for Families
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