Urban wasteland or artistic expression? Visit the Albany Waterfront Trail (aka the Albany Bulb) and decide for yourself. Whatever you want to call it, it's a unique and eclectic place for exploration, contemplation and human observation. It’s also a great place to walk your dog and experience some of the most fabulous water-level views to be had in the Bay Area.
If you didn’t know about it, you’d probably never explore it, as it doesn’t look like much from afar. The Bulb is located on the East Bay shoreline behind the Golden Gate Fields racetrack, just north of the Interstate 80/580 split. Take the Buchanan Street exit then head west on the extension to the parking area.
There are a myriad number of trails that lead out from the parking area; the most enticing is the one that heads west from the beach and meanders around the south side of the bulb. Following this route you’ll ultimately end up at the magic house, now just a graffitied shell, which commands a multi-million dollar view of San Francisco, the Golden Gate and Marin.
Depending on the tide level, after exploring the dwelling and pondering its constructors (and what has transpired here) you may want to loop around the rocky spit to the left or climb higher and traverse the heights of the bulb, passing the “Library” and the “Amphitheater.” The former once had thousands of volumes on the “take one, leave one” honor system and later the site of many a late night rave.
The north side still has some large scale sculptures that are worth checking out; if you head back along the lagoon shore, be prepared to scramble back up to heights via a rather vague and steep trail, otherwise retrace you steps back towards the library.
A bit of background, the Bulb was originally created as a dump for construction debris; lawsuits, environmental awareness and the "Save the Bay" movement put a halt to that. It’s now owned by the city of Albany and there’s talk of making it a part of the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park. Most recently it’s been in the news as the city of Albany has been aggressive in removing (and relocating) homeless individuals illegally camping there.