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Gail Todd

DIY Hike: Lafayette Reservoir

Pack a lunch this weekend and head out to the Lafayette Reservoir, which holds 1.4 billion gallons of water! The reservoir, off Mount Diablo Road in Lafayette, has been open for public enjoyment since 1966. In 925 acres of open space you can hike, fish, boat, bird-watch, bike or just relax at a picnic table. The flat, paved 2.7-mile Lakeside Trail is suitable for hikers, strollers, wheelchairs and bicycles. The more rugged 4.7-mile Rim Trail offers spectacular views. The combination of options makes this a popular destination.

What you’ll find
From the parking area, look into the reservoir. You may see some magnificent American white pelicans bobbing on the water looking for a tasty fish. Their enormous orange beaks can hold as much as 3 gallons of liquid. Starting counterclockwise around the reservoir on the paved path, you will come upon picnic tables and barbecue facilities and a path leading up to the hilly Rim Trail. Restrooms and drinking fountains are plentiful.

Stop in at the Visitor Center to pick up a trail guide with numbered steps to identify the plants that you see along the Lakeside Trail. You can also obtain a free brochure identifying all the birds of the area and one identifying the available fish. The reservoir is stocked with trout, but there are also black bass, catfish, bluegill and black crappie.

Rent a boat
You can rent a pedal boat or rowboat to tour the reservoir—call for prices. Boat rentals stop 3 1/2 hours before the park closes. You can also bring your own rowboat, canoe, kayak or sailboat. On the trails, you will see coast live oak, coast redwood, coyote brush, valley oak, black oak, laurel, walnut, buckeye and other native and non-native plants. Look for the parasitic mistletoe choking the valley oak branches, and watch out for poison oak. If you want to get more adventurous and see some magnificent views, you can take one of several trails that lead up from the Lakeside Trail to the Rim Trail (foliage often obscures the view of the reservoir on the Lakeside Trail). At the end of the Lakeside loop, you’ll find a children’s playground with climbing structures and even a dedicated parking area for baby strollers.

Things to know
Parking is $6 per day; the machine accepts $1 and $5 bills only.
Short-term metered parking is 50 cents per half hour up to two hours (quarters only). Bikes and roller skates are permitted only on the Lakeside Trail Tuesday and Thursday from noon until closing and on Sunday until 11 a.m. Dogs must be on leash. If you plan to fish, you can pick up a required day fishing permit, license, bait and tackle at the Visitor Center. For more information, call (925) 284-9669.

Getting there
Public transportation: The walk from the Lafayette BART station to the reservoir is about a mile. Exit the station and walk west toward Happy Valley Road. Turn left at Happy Valley and then right on Mount Diablo Boulevard. Continue on Mount Diablo until you see the sign for the Lafayette Reservoir on your left.

By car: Heading east on Highway 24, take the Acalanes Road/Mount Diablo exit and merge onto Mount Diablo Boulevard. Continue on Mount Diablo Boulevard until you see the sign for Lafayette Reservoir on your right. Heading west on Highway 24, take the Acalanes Road/Upper Happy Valley Road exit. Go under the freeway to Mount Diablo Boulevard. Make a left onto Mount Diablo Boulevard; the sign for Lafayette Reservoir will be on your right.

Photo: Sonny Abesamis via Flickr

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