The UC Berkeley website has a visitor services section, which lists the available campus tours. Within this list is a section of self-guided tours, ranging from entire schools within the University to tours of design and art around campus.
A walking tour of the bear statues and other bear artwork on campus piqued my interest. There were 23 bears listed. I decided to undertake the curious expedition over a span of three days. I wanted to take photos of all the bears that I could spot and to pen my experience. It was one of the most pleasing times that I’ve had walking through campus, and exploring the nooks and crannies within!
Below are two images of what the walking tour entails. It includes a map of the bears located on campus and the corresponding photographs and location details.
You can download the PDF at: https://stories.lib.berkeley.edu/bear-map/#
I had the idea for the tour as a result of a dear friend of mine choosing to bestow some interesting trivia on me. I was told that the smallest bear statue on campus was located in South Hall, out in the open, but was overlooked by many Berkeley students. Once I saw the first bear statue, I wanted to see them all and capture them on camera. My supervisor at I-House was kind enough to direct me to the self-guided tour, making my job infinitely easier than scouring the depths of Reddit.
I began my quest on the 19th of September, 2023. That day I hadn’t decided to go through all of the bears. I only wanted to put the one at South Hall up on my Instagram story. So, I ran to my room, grabbed my cameras, and zoomed right at the bear to get a good shot. For reference, that’s item #3 on the tour.
Located extremely discreetly, on the balcony of the front of the building, this little bear is outrightly the smallest of the statues on campus. Installed in 1997, it sits sneakily on the third ring from the left. It’s a great piece of trivia to have in one’s arsenal while walking across this part of campus with friends. I’ve personally had the pleasure of asking my peers to look for it after telling them they’re looking right at it! Faces constantly go from determined to flustered as they fail to locate the statue. It is sure to make someone smile when they see it. I got my shots in and was done for the day.
Interestingly, this little bear has its own Twitter account at https://twitter.com/Littlest_Bear.
I began the next bit of my adventure on the 25th of September. I headed to Berkeley Law, where I am enrolled in the LLM Program, to print the self-guided tour. I went into the library to get my printouts, running into some of my peers along the way, who were fairly annoyed at the fact that they had schoolwork and I was about to go around campus for a tour. Once I got the printouts I realized the nearest statue one was located within the law school: item #21 on the tour.
I’m a big fan and this one is always pleasing to me as I enter the building for my classes. I find the tooth detailing particularly endearing.
Quickly done with this one, I decided to visit the statues at the top of the hill first.
I walked towards the base of the California Memorial Stadium next to I-House and opposite the entrance to Haas to visit item #19, colloquially known as Sturdy the Bear. Sturdy is hard to miss.
It’s a large grizzly bear statue, arms outstretched and roaring. Visitors are frequently seen standing in between its arms, giving a hug or getting a hug, or both.
I walked across Piedmont Ave towards Haas to visit item #18.
Les Bears sit right on top of the hill at the entrance to the Haas Business School. They sit back-to-back, slumped and looking upward.
I climbed down the staircase and made my way towards the Campanile to see item #1.
At the base of the Campanile, there’s a bench by the entrance gifted by the Class of 1920. These bears sit at either end of the bench.
Done and dusted, I went on towards McLaughlin Hall towards the north end of campus to see item #16.
The Macchi Bears face the work benches outside the entrance to McLaughlin Hall. They lie prone, and if you face them they face you with a stunning backdrop of the Memorial Glade and the Campanile.
The closest bear after these was item #17 on the list.
The Chainsaw Bear is located in the lobby on the 7th floor of Davis Hall. Plants grow near the bear, giving it a natural feel. It’s one of the more recent additions to campus, installed in the year 2000.
I decided to complete the bears on the west end of campus while it was still light out. I went past the Crescent Lawn towards item #15 on the tour.
This one is located right outside the entrance to University Hall, across the street from the Crescent Lawn. Hopefully, this is how I feel in a year’s time when I graduate. I liked the views of the majestic eucalyptus trees in the backdrop, so I had to pause for a photo.
I began moving further away from campus, down University Avenue, for item #14.
There are two bears on the Roos Bros. logo, as relief art. They’re located at the intersection between Shattuck Ave and University Ave. Interestingly, they’re right opposite a ramen place called Ippudo. I was lucky enough to be treated by a friend to some shrimp there on my birthday. It was excellent.
I moved along Shattuck towards the Berkeley Main Post Office for item #13 on my tour.
The Post Office was surprisingly, completely desolate. I was able to walk in and grab a quick photo of this bear on the mural. The artwork was excellent. The Post Office reminded me of an abandoned building in a zombie apocalypse movie.
I ran before any potential undead could surface and proceeded to make my way towards item #12.
I had some trouble finding out how to get into Edwards Stadium, but I managed to figure it out with the help of some of the athletes exiting their training sessions. The mural sits right at the end of the football (soccer ) field.
I walked across the track and exited the stadium, avoiding running into the many runners out on their runs. I then ran towards item #11 on my list.
The Topiary Bear is a little plant outside the Alumni House. This one made me grin the widest. The fact that it’s literally alive makes it very special, in my opinion. I absolutely adored this one, but it’s quite evident that it needs a bit of reshaping and a sharp trim.
The next nearest one, item #10, was at the closed-off bridge near Strawberry Creek.
This little grizzly is easy to miss. It’s right next to the bridge, near all the signage that indicates the bridge is closed for access.
I walked up towards Sproul Plaza for the next few bears: items #9, #4, #5, and #6.
This bear walks atop a pillar in the Lower Sproul Plaza. It’s surrounded by skateboarding students. The relatively more polygonal design is refreshing and different from the rest.
This bear hangs on a sign right outside The Golden Bear, right next to the seats where students sit or grab a cup of coffee from Peet’s.
The door handles to the MLK Student Union and the Cal Student Store are also fashioned like bears. I have been to both places and would never have noticed this detail if not for the tour.
The balcony railings at Sproul Hall have some ornate detailing. Each of the railings has a bear carved into the center. Another detail I’ve looked right at and to which I’ve never paid enough attention. As you can probably tell, the golden hour had started at this point.
I exited campus yet again to click photos of item #7 on the tour.
If you look carefully, right at the center of the top of the bubbly embellishments on the exterior of the Granada Building, you will notice a crudely crafted bear head above each window. Another easily missed detail.
I walked towards College Ave next, to click items #22 and #23.
The Bishop Berkeley apartment building is embellished with six bear sculptures. They’re designed in an ecclesiastical manner. Then again, that’s the vibe of the whole building which was constructed in the 1920s.
Further down College Avenue, item #23 awaited my last visit for the day.
2521 College Ave is affectionately referred to as the “bear house.” I walked over and saw exactly what was meant. There are a total of seven wood-carved bear statues on the lawn outside the house, along with intimidating “Bear Territory” signage on their doors.
I was done for the day and decided to pick up the rest of my tour the next day, left with items #8, #2 and #20.
The next day, I went to Cafe Durant first, as it had been closed during my previous outing. However, upon reaching there I learnt that the bear had been moved from the balcony railings and the staff were not aware where it had been moved to. Disappointed, I made my way to my favorite spot on campus, the top of the Campanile, to click item #2.
At the outset: Do NOT try this. I went to the top and read and reread the description of the location of the bear multiple times but was unable to spot them. The issue is that the angle from the floor is insufficient to provide a good view of the largest bell atop the tower. I knew I was not going to leave without the photograph and so, while there were no other visitors at the top, I seized the opportunity to climb on the railings.
I have never been afraid of heights. I understand that’s likely because I’ve not stood on the pillars, next to the railings, of a 300-plus foot tower. I was absolutely terrified. With some contortion and a few tries, I managed to get a passable photo of the bears that are on the bell and quickly made my way down. It was a thrilling experience, but I understand it is absolutely off-limits and I do not recommend it.
I was left with only one bear to cover: Item #20.
I was lucky enough to be offered some company for the trip by the same friend who had told me about the small bear at South Hall. Things really do come full circle. We met up outside Berkeley Law and made our way up to the Strawberry Canyon Recreational Area.
In one corner of the Witter Rugby Field, one can find this bear, modeled after a grizzly. I got the photos and we made our way home to I-House.
I-House has been around campus for almost a hundred years now. It’s one of the oldest buildings and predates almost all of the bears installed on campus. It would be apt, considering the close relationship of International House and the University, to place a bear statue at I-House. In my opinion, nothing over the top, nothing too large, and certainly nothing too ostentatious. Just a subtle reminder of the bonds that have tied Berkeley and International House. If it were up to me, I’d place it near the steps, on one corner – subtle, minimal, and a pleasant sight to those who know, similar to the ones at South Hall and the Alumni House. Alumni and fellow residents, I invite you to ponder these possibilities and pitch your ideas in the comments below.
Interestingly enough, I-House isn’t devoid of bears. In the Executive Office on the second floor of I-House, between the desks of two of the members who work there are bronze bookends fashioned in the form of bears. A lovely addition to an office space. I have to thank my supervisor for this tidbit of information and the photographs because I did not notice these two the first time I was there.
If you look closely, they look like they’re doing a conga line!
I learned later that these bronze bookends were generously donated by a friend of I-House, Michael Spendolini (MA 1975).
So many of these bears are placed around campus, yet we notice so few. The tour left me with a lot of knowledge about the campus itself and the history behind almost each of the bears that I visited.
And if you find yourself on campus, perhaps follow in my paw prints and take the Berkeley Bears walking tour!