Address: 17th St. and Lakeside Dr., Oakland, CA Parking: Free street parking is available on the lakeside, near the address above Hours: Dawn to Dusk, some areas 6 A.M. to 10 P.M. Type: Walk (moderate, 3.4 miles) Regulations: Dogs allowed on-leash Best time to visit: Spring, winter fall. This area can get hot in summer and there is little shade on the trail.
Description: 8 creeks and 62 storm drains flow into the 155 acre Lake Merritt, which rises and falls with the SF bay tides. The 3.4 mile walk around the heart-shaped circumference of the lake is mostly paved and hugs the shoreline for the majority of the walk. Throughout the walk you will see reflections of historic buildings shimmering on the water, you will walk through classic columns holding up the Pergola Building facing a fountain, you will walk along grassy fields filled with flowers, and over a new bridge leading to a recently built amphitheater. You will also be able to experience the oldest wildlife refugee in the U.S., and you will pass by a Bonsai garden near Fairyland. This is a beautiful walk which is mostly flat and perfect for just about anyone. There are ample grassy fields and picnic tables lining the park where you can stop and take a break. Walking the lake in the evening is also spectacular, as strings of lights surround Lake Merritt for a peaceful sunset walk. If you explore the dirt trails of Lakeside Park, you will probably run into geese and other birds on the trail, so be careful with your dog. I prefer to park on Lakeside Drive, after passing Lake Chalet, as I am always able to find a free parking spot. Free parking is also available on the beginning stretch of Lakeshore Ave surrounding the lake, but these spots fill up fast. Grand Ave and Bellvue Ave have metered parking available. Don't forget to check out some of the dog-friendly restaurants surrounding the lake.
There are clean restrooms at the Lake Merritt Boating Center off of Bellvue (near where you rent boats), and even a doggy water fountain near the men's restroom.