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The Oakland Zoo's California Trail

The California Trail—a landmark exhibition at the Oakland Zoo—spotlights the natural history and conservation efforts of the Golden State.


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A herd of bison—which are native to California but no longer live in the wild here—roams its new Oakland Zoo habitat, as a gondola passes overhead.

Photo by Cali Godley

A $72 million development that’s been 25 years in the making, the Oakland Zoo’s highly anticipated California Trail is finally set to open on July 12. The new permanent exhibition—which doubles the zoo’s acreage—explores the Golden State’s native flora and fauna and the impact humans have upon the natural world.

Among the California Trail’s chief attractions are eight habitats that re-​create the native environments of our state’s indigenous animals, including the grizzly bear and the California condor. “Our priority was to populate California Trail exhibits with animals that couldn’t be released into the wild,” says Dr. Joel Parrott, president and CEO of the Oakland Zoo and the Conservation Society of California. “They all represent success stories based on the efforts of conservationists both past and present.”

The California Trail also features interactive learning stations for kids at its California Conservation Habitarium, an open-air gondola ride over the 40-acre Ecological Recovery Zone, captivating views of six Bay Area counties at the San Francisco Bay Overlook, and even a campground where zoo visitors can stay overnight. A cafe, visitors center, and children’s playground round out the offerings.

With this monumental exhibition, the Oakland Zoo team hopes to inspire everyone from tourists to scientists to protect animals and the environment in which they live. “California has one of the most diverse biospheres on the planet and has some of the most charismatic native species ever,” Parrott says. “These species live in one of the most spectacular settings in the world and are a part of our natural history.” .

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