Codornices Headwaters Loop
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Berkeley hill paths link beautiful parks, great views, and homes including historic brown shingles, converted summer cottages, post-1923-fire stucco mansions with roots in Spain or England, and modernist creations. This walk, easily reached by AC Transit 65, is one of many loops on Berkeley hill paths and steps made possible by Berkeley Path Wanderers Association, which also publishes an excellent map. Note that with AC Transit 65 you can easily take either leg as a one-way, downhill walk.
This walk includes steep staircases and an elevation change of more than 700 feet. Wear comfortable walking shoes with good traction; consider walking sticks.
Start at Codornices Park, with beautiful picnic areas in redwood groves, or the WPA-built Rose Garden across the street. Two forks of Codornices Creek flow into the park, going underground in pipes under the play area and emerging as one at the bottom of the Rose Garden.
Codornices ("quail" in Spanish; named by the sons of the Spanish land grantee) is the area's only creek with a population of steelhead/rainbow trout (same species), although the fish do not come this high. This hike explores several of the springs and creeklets that come together to make the creek.
From the trailhead, walk south on Euclid, past the old Berryman Reservoir, originally built to capture creek water for drinking. At Rose Steps, stop to read the plaque that tell the history of one of the most elegant of the staircases built for commuters in the era of streetcars.
Go up the steps and continue east on Rose Street. In the shadow of the viaduct, find Rose Steps leading up to La Loma Avenue. Continue east, uphill, to Quarry Rd., where you jog left into three-level Glendale-La Loma Park. As the road name and steep cliffs tell you, this is one of several former quarries in the hills. On your left as you enter, cross the dry channel of another branch of Codornices -- the creek itself is piped.
Follow steps and paths up through the park (restroom is on the lowest level, fountains bottom and top) to exit at Glendale Avenue. Go left, uphill, on Glendale Avenue and continue steeply uphill, east, on the three legs of Glendale Path. Re-opening these, after years of neglect, was a major achievement of Berkeley Partners for Parks.
About the middle of the lowest segment, note the plaque that points out one of the shaded springs that feeds Codornices Creek. If you had gone the other way on Glendale and taken LaLoma Path, you would have found another spring. The small creek flowing from hills to Bay originates from rain that percolates into the earthquake-fractured rock and is forces out again where it hits a tougher layer.
At an outcrop by the staircase on Upper Glendale Path, the highest segment, another plaque discusses the tangled geology of the Berkeley Hills. These youthful hills, a medley of rock scraped and jumbled together by the clash of ocean and continental plates, are still rising.
Continue uphill to Grizzly Peak Boulevard, either on Arcade Avenue or by walking south on Fairlawn and heading uphill on signed Columbia Walk. From Grizzly Peak Blvd., you could return to Codornices Park on AC Transit 65, or walk north on Grizzly Peak to rejoin the route later.
To continue uphill, between Arcade and Columbia Path find the sign for Atlas Path, directing you up a driveway. At the top of the driveway, continue east up the path, with steps installed by Boy Scouts.
Continue up Atlas Place to reach the crest of the hills, with eastward views and access to Tilden Park via Selby Trail. For this walk, however, return and walk north on Hill Road. Where the road seems to end at driveways, look for the sign for Scott Newhall Path. Follow Scott Newhall Path (great Bay views) until you are back on Hill again.
Continue north on Hill to Shasta. The handsome Hills fire station is on your right; opposite is Park Gate fountain. The Park Hills was one of the last developed in the Berkeley area -- it seceded from Contra Costa County to get city services!
Now on the return, from Hill turn left on Shasta and then briefly right on Grizzly Peak. Take Stoddard Path left, downhill, glimpsing Bay views from here on. (Other routes are just as attractive in this area; paths are shown on Open Street Map. Explore!) At the bottom of Stoddard Path, jog right, north, and continue down the two legs of Stevenson Path. Lower Stevenson crosses another of the seeps that coalesce to form branches of Codornices Creek. These headwaters extent north almost to Marin Street -- there are seeps at Keeler Path in Remillard Park, and one branch rapidly drops into a deep canyon along Bret Harte Path and Bret Harte Road.
On our route, at the bottom of Lower Stevenson Path, walk right on Keeler Avenue (or take Whitaker Path instead of Lower Stevenson. There is a drinking fountain in the small park just up Whitaker). Look for Covert Path heading steeply downhill before you reach Twain.
Go down both legs of Covert Path. The lower one crosses a small fork of Codornices Creek.
Jog left on Keith and enjoy Keith Falls, a beautiful small waterfall just a bit south of Covert Path. You could continue south on Keith to Shasta, follow Shasta to Tamalpais (one of the loveliest of Berkeley streets), and return to Codornices Park via stone Tamapais Path steps, crossing the main stem of Codornices Creek at the bottom.
The route shown, though, doubles back north on Keith and descends well-named Redwood Terrace steps to Euclid. You can meander back to Codornices Park on Euclid, but if you still have energy, cross Euclid carefully and zig-zag up shady Oak Streer Path, crossing another tiny Codornices feeder. Then take Laurel and Eunice back to Euclid.
Either way, allow time at the end to enjoy the Rose Garden and explore the shady south fork of Codornices Creek, with native plantings restored by generations of volunteers.