Fall is already upon us and what better way is there to celebrate a change of season than to get out into nature?

In Oakland and the wider East Bay there are a variety of events, activities, and opportunities to volunteer. Whether it’s a chance to restore trails and facilities at an East Bay Regional Park or an educational lecture on pollinators at Chabot Space and Science Center, there’s something for every type of nature-lover this fall.

This list isn’t exhaustive. If you know of a great event happening between now and the end of November, let me know by emailing callie@oaklandside.org and we’ll consider adding it.

Hiking, moth spotting, and trout tours

Who Built the Sibley Labyrinth?

Did you know there’s a labyrinth in Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve constructed of rocks? Join Helena Mazzariello as she leads a 3-mile hike through Sibley Park. Mazzariello, the original builder of the labyrinth, created the winding path in 1989 as a “gift to the world.” She will take hikers through the history, myths and legends of labyrinths and will be joined by a naturalist to discuss the history of the park itself. The event is free, but there are limited spaces on the tour.

Saturday, Oct. 7, 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., free with limited spaces, registration required.

Moth and Gall Night Walk with Damon Tighe

Oakland-based naturalist Damon Tighe will take folks through Dimond Park to look for moths and galls. Galls are abnormal growths on leaves, twigs, roots, and flowers of many plants that can be caused by disease, fungi, but also insects that sting the plant and lay their eggs in a bubble-like welt. Attendees will also observe moths attracted to a UV light set-up by Wholly H2O, the event’s organizer. Guests are encouraged to wear layers, bring a headlamp, and bring a camera to document their findings. 

Friday, Oct. 13, 7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., tickets are free but donations are optional.

Friends of Sausal Creek Rainbow Trout Tour 

Oakland residents interested in getting to know one of the city’s more rarified aquatic residents can join Friends of Sausal Creek on a tour of the creek and its wild rainbow trout population. The event will be led by ecologist Dr. Robert Liedy. Liedy is on the board of FOSC and also works in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Come learn about trout, recent discoveries, and challenges facing this native fish species, and explore creek beds and habitats. 

Saturday, Oct. 21, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., free with limited spaces, registration required.

Simply Sibley

Calling all birders! If you’re looking for some buddies to take a fall trek with, Simply Sibley is for folks wanting to explore Sibley Volcanic Regional Preserve and keep an eye out for local migrating birds. The hike will take place in the morning and will cover around 2.5 to 3 miles.

Sunday, Oct. 22, 9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Attendees must be 7 years or older, with children accompanied by an adult. No registration required.

Halloween Full Moon Hike and Sip 

Wine, beer, and hiking: what could be better than that? The Chabot Space and Science Center will host this hike through the Oakland hills which includes two drink tickets and a charcuterie board in a private section of the observatory. The hike will be of moderate intensity and last around 90 to 120 minutes. Non-alcoholic beverages will also be available. Layers are recommended and guests are encouraged to bring their own water bottles, flashlights, and mosquito repellent. Tickets go quickly so if you’re interested make sure to sign up early. 

Saturday, Oct. 28, 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. Tickets are $40, 21 and over only, limited spaces with registration required in advance.

18th Annual Native Plant Sale 

If you love gardening with native plants and supporting local watersheds then consider attending Friends of Sausal Creek’s native plant sale. The annual event offers over 100 California shrubs, grasses, vines, seedlings and more for sale. Proceeds go to supporting the group’s restoration and education work. Native plant experts will also be on hand giving demonstrations and talks, and there will be live music and family-friendly activities. 

Sunday, Oct. 29, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Cleanups and restoration work

East Bay Regional Parks

If you are interested in helping the East Bay Regional Park District, you can join the parks for shoreline cleanups at Anthony Chabot Regional Park and Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline. If beaches and lakes aren’t your thing, how about helping to keep our ecosystems diverse and thriving with invasive plant removal projects at Roberts Regional Recreation Area,  Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park, and Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve? Volunteers can also join experts for Habitat Restoration at Leona Canyon where you can plant, prune, and cultivate native plants. Each event has different requirements so make sure to read through the listings to make sure you’re coming prepared. 

Throughout the fall, a full calendar of all events can be found here, registration required, some spots limited.

Saturday Bay Clean-Up 

The Climate Reality Project’s Bay Area Chapter is inviting folks to come help clean up Damon Marsh in the San Leandro Bay. Those interested should bring gloves, hand sanitizer, pails, and other tools, but there will be a couple of tools on site. Sturdy shoes, sunscreen, and hats are also recommended.

Saturday, Oct. 28, 10 a.m. – 12 p.m., no RSVP is required but volunteers are encouraged to text the group organizer to let them know that you’re coming

Native Plant Nursery Work Day 

Friends of Sausal Creek is hosting a volunteer work day at their native plant nursery in Joaquin Miller Park. The day will include propagating, planting, weeding, pruning, and transplanting native plants. Don’t worry if you don’t have gardening experience. The nursery will provide all the tools and instructions. (Bonus: there will also be snacks.) Anyone interested should fill out waivers in advance, and while everyone is welcome anyone under 18 must be accompanied by a guardian. 

Saturday, Nov. 18, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., RSVP preferred, but drop-in volunteers welcome.

Friends of Sausal Creek

Friends of Sausal Creek has a long list of ways to get involved. There are several workdays scheduled throughout the year at Bridgeview Trailhead, Beaconsfield Canyon Restoration, and Dimond Canyon Restoration. You can also join the Sausal Creek Trail Stewardship Crew to keep the creek trail healthy and clean. In addition, there are monthly cleanup opportunities at Marjorie Saunders Park. Those interested should read through each description carefully. Most activities take place outside so make sure to bring water, sunscreen, and proper footwear.

Throughout the fall, a full calendar of all events can be found here, some registration required, some spots limited.

Speakers and educational events

Family Nature Adventures: The Amazing World of Insects and Helpful Pollinators 

The Chabot Space and Science Center is inviting families to learn about the varied world of insects and pollinators in East Bay’s unique redwood forests. Instructors will take participants through hands-on activities focused on essential bugs, hand out some snacks for the kiddos, and explore the forest. You must be accompanied by a child to join this event and children must be 3 or older. 

Saturday, Nov. 11, 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m., open to families with children, adult tickets $25, children 3 and older tickets $15, registration required.

Grand Lake and Jack London Square farmers markets

Why buy a pumpkin from a chain store when you can support a local grower! While not necessarily a fall-specific event, who doesn’t love fresh squash and seasonal flowers to ring-in the autumn season? Oakland’s Grand Lake Farmers Market features 40 local farmers and 30 artisans. The Jack London Square Farmers Market also features a variety of growers and sellers and allows people to explore the waterfront market while enjoying local produce and other culinary delights. 

Every Saturday and Sunday respectively throughout the year.

Beyond Oakland there’s birds and tarantulas

NightLife: The Art of Nature

The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco is putting on a nature-specific nighttime event that focuses on the intersection of art and nature and will include a photography exhibit, the debut of the graphic novel “Tales of the Urban Wild: A Puma’s Journey” by conservation scientists Dr. Tiffany Yap and artist Meital Smith, and a photography showcase on underwater kelp forest ecosystems by Kate Vylet. Guests can grab cocktails and other beverages from bars throughout the building and join in a design exercise to write a letter to mother nature. There’s also the option of taking home some art from the nature-themed art market. In addition, guests can attend a planetarium presentation with live music from Fire and Grace and narration by neuroscientist Indre Viskontas. 

Wednesday, Oct. 5, 6 pm, attendees must be 21 years or older, tickets cost $23.25.

The Berkeley Bird Festival

The Golden Gate Bird Alliance is holding an all-day, public event to celebrate local bird populations. The event will take place on the UC Berkeley campus and at the nearby David Brower Center and will include birding field trips, arts and crafts, and a performance titled “Winged Wonderment.”

Sunday, Oct. 15, all day, no registration required.

Tarantula Trek, East Bay Regional Parks 

If you’re interested in spending spooky season looking for some real-life creepy crawlies, join one of the East Bay Regional Park District’s “Tarantula Treks” taking place throughout October. Tarantula mating season takes place from around mid-September to mid-October and is an excellent time to catch these fuzzy arachnids wandering about. The tours are offered at dusk so flashlights are encouraged. 

Throughout Oct., 5 p.m. – 6 p.m., registration required, children accompanied by adults must be 3 or older.

Callie Rhoades covers the environment for The Oaklandside as a 2023-2025 California Local News Fellow. She previously worked as a reporter for Oakland North at Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program. She has also worked as an intern for Estuary News Group, as an assistant producer for the Climate Break podcast, and as an editorial intern for SKI Magazine. Her writing has appeared in Sierra Magazine, Earth Island Journal, and KneeDeep Times, among others. She graduated from The University of California, Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2023.