Hillside Natural Area

The Hillside Natural Area (HNA) is approximately 102 acres of City-owned open space that has extensive native plants, oak woodland and riparian environments as well as a number of trails that are used for recreation and emergency access. The Hillside Natural Area is the City's largest Community-Serving Park and Recreation facility.

In 2013 and 2014, a group of dedicated community members encouraged the City to purchase the Madera Property, an approximately 8-acre property (marked in red on the map below) to expand the Hillside Natural Area and connect the North and South areas of the existing HNA.

Members of the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers, the El Cerrito High School Mountain Bike Club, Friends of Five Creeks and others, came together in 2013 to form the El Cerrito Open Space Campaign to raise funds to help the City purchase the 8-acre Madera Hillside Open Space property. The Campaign raised over $100,000 towards the purchase, which was completed in 2014. The City received a $250,000 National Park Service Land & Water Grant and support from the Trust for Public Land. The City utilized $120,066 of Measure WW Park Bond funds towards the purchase.

The City would like thank everyone who donated towards the acquisition of the Madera Open Space Property. See a list of donors.

For more information about the El Cerrito Open Space Fund, visit the El Cerrito Trail Trekkers website or contact Melanie Mintz, Community Development Director at 510-215-4339.

Map of the Hillside Natural Area

Support the El Cerrito Open Space Campaign

Your help is still needed to support maintenance and improvements of the HNA for the public's safety and enjoyment. Donate online today.

Thank you for your support of open space in El Cerrito.

Visit the Hillside Natural Area

The Hillside Natural Area includes woodlands and grasslands and surrounds an old quarry. The undeveloped open space provides wildlife habitat, native vegetation, urban forests and riparian corridors next to trails, paths, stairs and open passive recreation areas with views of the San Francisco and Oakland skylines, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Tamalpais and the Bay.
A number of walking and hiking trails can be accessed from the east end of Schmidt Lane, north end of Potrero, and through King Court.  The Memorial Grove entrance is just below the Recycling & Environmental Resource Center at 7501 Schmidt Lane, El Cerrito. Dogs, under their owner's control and on a leash, are allowed in the Hillside Natural Area. Campfires and any open flames are STRICTLY PROHIBITED at all times.


Much of the Hillside Natural Area was gifted to the City of El Cerrito by various donors, including owners of the quarry located at the end of Schmidt Lane. Additional acquisition and construction of playgrounds and ball fields was identified in the 1964 Park Bond Measure and associated plan, but the area was later identified as a significant natural resource and has since been preserved as open space.

In early 2013, residents learned and brought to the City’s attention that a privately owned, undeveloped approximately 8-acre property (Property) adjacent to the City's Hillside Natural Area was going to be listed for sale. The property was uniquely situated to connect Hillside Natural Area North to Hillside Natural Area South. This connection fulfills a goal in the City’s Circulation Plan for Bicyclists and Pedestrians (adopted in 2007) "to improve access, connectivity and promote walking in hillside neighborhoods and across the City."

On July 16, 2013, the El Cerrito City Council authorized the City Manager to enter into a Purchase and Sale Agreement and a Professional Services Agreement with the Trust for Public Land for the acquisition of approximately 7.6 acres of open space property adjacent to the Hillside Natural Area (APN 505-142-014, -012 and -013) for conservation and recreation purposes and for acquisition related and fundraising assistance.

TPL purchased the property in late August 2013 and held the property until December 17, 2014 to allow time for public grant and private fundraising to take place on behalf of the City. The City completed the purchase in 2015.


The Trust for Public Land ("TPL") is a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization. Visit them online at www.tpl.org.

The El Cerrito Trail Trekkers are a local group working to identify, improve and document the paths of El Cerrito for the enjoyment and increased safety of the community.