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Berkeley's rock parks take things higher
Unless you know what you're looking for, Berkeley's amazing rock parks are hidden in plain sight. Within a few miles of one another off the residential streets of leafy Northbrae in North Berkeley, there are clusters of outsized chunks of rhyolite, volcanic remnants left behind by eruptions some 10 million years ago. Through the millennia, humans have played, worked, and prayed on these stone sentinels. Here are a few of the most prominent of Berkeley's rock stars.
Known for its panoramic Bay vistas, Indian Rock Park is perhaps the most-visited of Berkeley's rock parks. You may see a Yosemite rock climber practicing their holds, or a couple sitting atop the rocks. Indian Rock Park facilities include a picnic area with BBQ and grassy play areas. Sunset central!
Just across Indian Rock Avenue, Mortar Rock Park is Indian Rock's neighbor and another prime spot for bouldering fun. Mortar Rock is comprised of a type of Rhyolite that is unique to the hills of Berkeley, and though small in area, contains a number of quality routes. One of its easier walls is dubbed "Little Half Dome," for the iconic Yosemite landmark.
Mortar Rock takes its name from the many holes worn in the hard rock by Native American women pounding and grinding acorns and other seeds (see above).
Maybe the most well-equipped Berkeley rock park in terms of amenities, Cragmont Rock Park was dedicated in 1920. Dick Leonard, the “father of technical climbing,” formed the Cragmont Climbing Club, which was absorbed a few months later into the Sierra Club’s Rock Climbing Section. Using the techniques he had learned climbing at Cragmont Rock, Leonard planned the first technical rock climb in Yosemite in 1934 and led over 100 expeditions and climbs in the Sierra Nevada, often with his friend, environmentalist David Brower.
Cragmont Park has a picnic area with barbecue grills, gazebo, and restrooms to make for a perfect afternoon and sunset viewing.