A Hidden Oakland Haven  

Parks can be surprisingly easy to miss–you can drive along the same neighborhood streets for years never knowing that a local gem awaits just minutes away. Piedmont Park is one of those places; tucked away in a pleasant neighborhood and hidden among redwood trees, it’s well worth a visit by nearby East Bay folk and other fams, particularly those with friendly dogs who love getting off the leash.

Go: Year-round.

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Approximate travel time: A short 20 minute ride from downtown San Francisco, and 10 minutes from downton Oakland.

What to do: The park’s got plenty o’ little patches of green for Frisbee, picnicking, and lounging. There’s a playground for tots by the grass, complete with a good climbing tree. But the secret of Piedmont park lies in its interior, a beautiful, multi-tiered walking loop that just keeps on going, winding its way around a creek, with pretty little waterfalls along the way. The landscape slopes a hilly terrain, so you get the feel of being on a trail, and the trees form little tunnels. Dogs can run loose here, and you may want to bring sweaters for comfort in the shade.

There’s a bit of history involved, too, as the area was once the site of the more grandiose Piedmont Springs Park in 1898. The placards along the trail give insight into those times, when Mark Twain was once a visitor and the original teahouse onsite was the biggest of its kind in the United States.

Possible lunch spots: Or course, plenty of eats abound on nearby Piedmont Ave., including Fenton’s Creamery, which recently made a cameo appearance in Pixar’s Up. And before you leave Piedmont, check out Morcom Rose Garden on the Piedmont/Oakland border, dedicated to mothers, with gardens for strolling and a cascading fountain.

–Renee M. Rutledge