The Route: A loop starting at Lake Merritt and climbing up though Trestle Glen and Dimond Canyon to Montclair, then descending through Piedmont
The Stops: Marzano, Clubhouse at the Montclair Golf Course, Heart and Dagger Saloon
Distance: 8 miles
This walk takes the bar trekker along two streams through six neighborhoods with three great destinations for al fresco drinking, plus lots of opportunities for picnics along the way. It’s a great walk for a sunny Saturday afternoon when you have the option of stocking up on picnic supplies at the Grand Lake Farmers Market or the Arizmendi Oakland bakery before heading out.
The journey begins with a climb from Lake Merritt up Trestle Glen to Glenview following the path of Indian Gulch, once the largest (but now underground) of the five creeks feeding Lake Merritt. The diverse mix of older, large single-family homes belies this neighborhood’s genesis as a bedroom community for wealthy turn-of-the-century San Francisco commuters.
When you get to Creed, make a quick right-left-right to get to the hidden pedestrian staircase leading to Glenview and our first opportunity for tippling — Marzano. Despite the best intentions of the owners, Marzano is essentially an excellent cocktail bar that happens to also offer wood-oven baked pizza. And the world is a better place for it. Even better, Marzano offers outdoor seating for you, your cocktail and your dog, and serves continuously from noon until 10 p.m. on Saturdays.
Leaving Marzano, head one block up Park then turn right on Wellington, which will drop you into Dimond Park and the base of the Dimond Canyon/Sausal Creek Trail. From here things get tricky for dog walkers. Like every blade of public grass in Oakland, Dimond Canyon is posted “No Dogs.” On any given Saturday, the park is filled with dog walkers and their happy hounds. Whether you follow the signs or the cultural norms is a matter for your own conscience.
Heading up Sausal Creek offers the walker a rare glimpse of a primordial Oakland, a shady riparian environment hidden a hundred feet beneath Park Boulevard. First-timers can have trouble following the poorly maintained trail all the way up to the golf course, but if you stick to the creek, you can’t get too lost. When you get to the end of the park, follow the switchbacks up the back end of the canyon.
Turning left on Monterey brings you quickly to Montclair Golf Course nestled in the Northern end of Dimond Park. This is the end of your climb, so you owe it to yourself to stop in for a beer at the golf course clubhouse, possibly the best spot in Oakland for al fresco drinking. No wood-fired pizza and fancy cocktails like at Marzano, but you will find low prices, huge pours and competently executed country club fare. Plus, you can freshen your drink without ever leaving the driving range. Only drawback is that being located in a city park, no dogs are allowed, and, unlike in Dimond Canyon, the rules are enforced here.
To begin your descent, walk north along Mountain and turn left onto La Salle to start heading downhill. When you pass Piedmont Sports Field hang a right and follow Hampton all the way to Crocker. Take another right-left-right zigzag from Crocker to Wildwood to Highland. A short walk down Highland brings you to Piedmont Park and the top of Sulphur Springs trail.
Having opted out of incorporation into Oakland in 1906, Piedmont is an example of what Oakland could have looked like if it had taken a different path in the 20th century. I’ll leave it to the reader to judge whether Piedmont is better off than Oakland, but I will give Piedmont this much — their parks are dog friendly! You won’t find a single bar or restaurant in Piedmont, but if you’re taking this walk with your dog this is a great place to stop for a picnic lunch with the hound.
From the trailhead at Piedmont Park, our path follows an off-leash dog path along another shady stream down to Wildwood Avenue. At Wildwood keep heading downhill along Windsor and Lakeshore until you arrive back at the Grand Lake neighborhood. Now back in civilization you have abundant opportunities for a post-walk tipple. Sticking with our theme of al fresco drinking, your final destination is the back patio at Heart and Dagger Saloon. Or if a beer and a shot served by a tattooed bar matron isn’t your thing, go around the corner for a fresh-from-the-farmers-market craft cocktail at The New Easy — which will also be served by a tattooed bar matron. Toto, we’re not in Piedmont anymore.
Rick Mitchell runs Luka’s Taproom & Lounge and the Punchdown Wine Bar with a lot of help from a dedicated staff who do all the heavy lifting.