Kensington is a hillside community that feels like a small town up in the mountains. Something you might expect near Lake Tahoe, except it’s high above the East Bay cityscape instead.
In fact, it’s only a few minutes down to the expansive urban view you can see from the streets and picture windows.
Stately homes line the quiet roads that wind around the forested hillside. Kensington is an unincorporated town in Contra Costa, fiercely protective of its independent police and fire departments.
The Kensington community center, built around a park, includes tennis and basketball courts, a large playing field and a small playground for young children.
The Tilden Nature Area Environmental Education Center is basically right behind you, and a little ways down Central Park Drive you’ll find an old-school carousel you can still ride.
The long expanse of Tilden Nature Area, one of the crown jewels in the East Bay Regional Park system, lies just beyond the uppermost ridge of Kensington. Wildcat Creek runs down the length of it — mile after mile of woodland crossed with hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails, and strung with picnic grounds along the trails and roads.
The name of the Seaview Trail tells you exactly what you can see from the ridge but still doesn’t do it justice; from parts of the trail, you can see in nearly a complete circle from San Jose to the left to San Pablo Bay to the north to Mt. Diablo behind you to the east. Lone Oak Trail and the Selby and Quarry trails are other great routes for hiking or walking your dog.
Somehow, tiny Kensington has room for two shopping districts. At the edge of town, by the “Now Leaving Kensington” sign, you’ll find a gas station, Ace Hardware, a wine & spirits shop, and Young’s Market for groceries. When you need your fix of mall shopping, El Cerrito Plaza is just down the hill.
Kensington is just up the road from the El Cerrito Plaza BART station, and a few blocks farther down you reach the confluence of Interstates 80 and 580, giving you easy access west to Marin County, south to Oakland and Alameda County, and northeast toward Sacramento.
The highly rated Kensington Hilltop Elementary School sits at the crest of the neighborhood, just below Tilden Park. Several elementary and high schools lie just down the hill in El Cerrito.
Kensington Housing Styles