Secret spots: John Hinkel Park in North Berkeley - 510 Families
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Secret spots: John Hinkel Park in North Berkeley

The secret paths and stairs of Berkeley are great fun to explore, whether you’re a new mom wandering by foot to soothe an infant strapped to her chest, or a four-year old who wants to count steps at the top of her lungs. On a recent walk, I headed up Yosemite Steps in North Berkeley and encountered a couple of points of interest.

First, a wall that was covered in poetry.

yosemite steps poetry wall

According to the Berkeley PATH Wanderer Association, “Local poetry lovers maintain a tradition of posting poems on the wooden fence here. The collection is ever-changing.”

yosemite stepsThis public path between houses starts on The Alameda, just north of Solano Avenue, and leads up to Arlington.


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Crossing Arlington, the path meets up with an overgrown park in the hills. Don’t go looking for a playground when you arrive at John Hinkel Park.  What you’ll find is more exciting; the place feels like a hang-out spot that would be frequented by the kids from Stand By Me.

Paths lead up to an abandoned wooden clubhouse, which you could easily convince me is haunted.  I’m quite sure no events are held in the structure which was once a rec center or meeting space.

The area is well-shaded due to an abundance of foliage.

A stone amphitheater invites kids to climb around — or put on shows for their adoring fans.

Per the City of Berkeley website: The theatre was used in the 1940’s for community gatherings, music and dance productions.  In the 50’s and 60’s it was used for music and folk dances, barbershop quartets and piano.  Most noteworthy, however, was its use by the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival from 1971-1991.


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john hinkel park

Looking for more secret parks and paths? Check out the Berkeley PATH Wanderer website. I think parents may find more delight than children in discovering some of these hidden gems. We have a better sense of what’s predictable and what’s unexpected when it comes to where the sidewalk takes us. Following a set of mysterious stairs into a neighborhood that’s not your own offers a little sense of adventure that I found thrilling.

Related reading: Secret Stairs: East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oaklandir?t=510families 20&l=as2&o=1&a=1595800638

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3 thoughts on “Secret spots: John Hinkel Park in North Berkeley”

  1. Pingback: {510} Family Faves: Cleo Papanikolas in Berkeley

  2. Hi
    I’m glad you enjoyed the Poetry Wall. I love it too. I can’t remember how many years ago I started it–maybe 15 or so. I wish more people put up their poems, but the majority of the time time it’s me.

    If any of your readers want to put up poems in their neighborhood< I suggest posting on a telephone pole. I love the idea of a poem going nose to nose with guitar lessons or hauling or lost dachshund (god forbid).
    Best to you, Margo

  3. Pingback: 99 Days of Summer for Bay Area Kids {2017} - 510 Families

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