The rainy season awakens the newts of the East Bay hills from their summer sleep and sends them into a mating frenzy. Their preferred thoroughfare, South Park Drive in Tilden Regional Park, is thoughtfully closed to automobile traffic from November 1 to March 31, incidentally freeing up a mile and a half of paved road for equestrians, hikers, bicyclists, joggers, and human-dog duos–just when the surrounding trails have turned to mud and lakes.
On a weekday, you and Luna might be able to walk from one end of South Park to the other without meeting a soul. On a sunny weekend, it can be a carnival scene (with parking hassles to match, so plan on going early or late), with other dogs and their people playing fetch and generally having a blast. You'll meet family groups, Frisbee throwers, people on bikes, people on skates, people on skateboards… Not to mention horses. Keep your leash handy in case it all gets too exciting.
By the roadside are scenic meadows and picnic areas (on-leash) for relaxing and trails (off-leash) for exploring, depending on your energy level and mud conditions.
Tips: EBRPD warns that newts can secrete a toxic substance, so if you encounter one, don't handle it, keep your dog away, and be prepared for a quick trip to the vet if your dog outwits you.
If you prefer a downhill walk on the return trip, park on the Wildcat Canyon Road side.
As always in Tilden, dress in layers, wear sturdy shoes, and carry plenty of water.