Hillside Natural Area


A line of people walk single-file on a trail through twisting oak trees

Janet Gawthrop’s tour of native plants took hikers through the beautiful grove of coast live oaks that give the Live Oak Trail its name. Photo by Dave Weinstein

Learn more about the Hillside Natural Area’s native plants and pollinators.

Those of us who attended Janet Gawthrop’s recent Plant Hike for Trail Trekkers learned an amazing amount about the plants of the Hillside, both native and non-native.

Janet, a member of the California Native Plant Society, also discussed the various online resources that people interested in the topic can read to learn more.

She asked Trekkers to post some links on our website.

Janet writes:

“About plants and food, you can try “Bringing Native Foods Home,” which you can find in publications at https://www.cnps.org/publications/flora . All the past Flora issues can be read at the CNPS website.

“Concerning sudden oak death, aka Phytopthora ramorum the best information is always at https://www.suddenoakdeath.org, which has both the updated pathogen survey map for download, but also a lot of useful information on prevention of disease spread.

“There were also a lot of pollinator questions, so you might also direct folks to Art Schapiro’s website https://butterfly.ucdavis.edu.  If you click the butterfly tab on the homepage ‘dashboard’ it will take you to an illustrated species list, with both common and Latin names.

“Finally for folks who want to experiment with ‘foraging,’ may I strongly recommend restricting collections to exotica, or garden native plants at home?  There are two books on edible plants:

“Edible & Useful Plants of California, by Charlotte Bringle Clark, published in the UC Press California Natural History Series, and “The Flavors of Home, by Margit Roos-Collins, published by Heyday Press in 2016.  The earlier edition is out of print.

Ridge trail at sunset

The heart of El Cerrito’s open space, the Hillside Natural Area is approximately 90 acres of woods, grasslands and creeks. In 2014 Trail Trekkers, working with Trust for Public Land, the El Cerrito High School Mountain Biking Club, and the city, helped expand the natural area by acquiring the 80-acre Madera Open Space.

Today we are working to acquire the 15-acres Fairview Open Space, which is just to the north of the city owned property.

We are also working to acquire easements on other smaller private parcels of open space that are adjacent to the Hillside Natural Area.

Hillside Tree Talk by David Ackerly

Enjoy a fascinating tour of the Hillside Natural Area’s trees with an eminent scientist — without leaving home.

David Ackerly, dean of the Rausser College of Natural Resources at UC Berkeley, leads this illustrated tour of the trees of the Hillside with an eye to how climate change is already at work both worldwide and in our city. The hour-long tour will help you identify the various native and introduced trees, and will provoke thought as David delves into how the natural and civilized worlds are reacting, or may react, as our climate changes.

He discusses how climate and climate change influences native trees, adaptations and responses of different species to fire, and the mix of native and non-native species in the Hillside Natural Area. How will the mix of species change? How should naturalists and policy makers act or react?

David has led this hike for Trekkers both in actuality, and virtually. Naturally, we always prefer getting out into the real world of nature. But you know what? With a virtual tour you can pause, ponder, focus on details.

Once covid is gone Trekkers will be back to real hikes, and we are looking forward to Professor Ackerly leading another for us. Meanwhile, enjoy this Hillside Tree Hike on your favorite device.

Hillside Tree Hike Part 1 (43 minutes): https://youtu.be/D791iQFZNws
Hillside Tree Hike Part 2 (21 minutes): https://youtu.be/xezp6h-izy4
Hillside Tree Hike Slideshow PDF
Hillside Tree Hike List

Hillside Natural Area Resources

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area Guide (pdf)

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area – 15 page (pdf)

Trees of Hillside Natural Area, El Cerrito, CA (pdf) by the El Cerrito Tree Committee

Trail map of the El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area (Friends of Five Creeks)

What lives in the El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area (iNaturalist.org and Friends of Five Creeks)

El Cerrito Hillside Yahoo Group

El Cerrito Hillside Natural Area on FACEBOOK

El Cerrito’s Wilderness Park Has Never Received the Love It Deserves

Please help maintain and improve the Hillside Natural Area.  Trail Trekkers is dedicated to helping the city maintain this wonderful area, to improve its natural habitat, to remove dangerous overgrowth to prevents fires, and to improve access. Please donate here to this effort. All funds help improve and maintain the Hillside Natural Area. Donations are tax deductible, as provided by law.

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