Del Valle Regional Park,
East Bay Regional Park District,
Alameda County
In brief:
3.8 mile loop on grassy hills above Lake Del Valle.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.8 mile loop hike is easy. Trailhead elevation is around 745 feet. Top elevation for the featured hike is about 1130 feet. Trails climb at reasonable grades, and the total elevation change is about 700 feet. Folks new to hiking can shorten the featured hike, or choose an easier, mostly level walk along the shores of the reservoir.

Exposure:
Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic
:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
:
2 hours.

Season
:
Hot in summer. Nice in late winter and early spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 580 in Alameda County, exit Central Livermore/North Livermore Avenue (exit 52b). Drive south on North Livermore, which turns into South Livermore, passes through downtown, makes a sharp left curve, and turns into Tesla Road (about 3.5 miles from 580). Just past the curve, look for the brown "parks" sign and turn right onto Mines Road. Drive about 3.5 miles, at which point Mines Road veers left. Follow the brown parks signs, and stay straight on Del Valle Road about another 3.5 miles to the park entrance kiosk, on the right side of the road. Park near the snack bar if possible.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/9

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3735'11.40"N
Longitude
12142'12.98"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, restaurants, and stores back in Livermore. Camping info from EBRPD: "Del Valle Family Campground has 150 sites, 21 of them with water and sewage hookups (no electrical). The sites are served by centrally located toilet and shower facilities. For reservations, telephone (510) 636-1684, up to 12 weeks in advance. There are also several youth group campgrounds, available by reservation only. Telephone (510) 636-1684 for information."

Trailhead details:
$6 vehicle entrance fee. $2 dog fee. Lots of parking. Restrooms, pay phone, and drinking water on site. Maps available at entrance kiosk. There are designated handicapped parking spots, and some trails may be wheelchair accessible with assistance. There is no direct public transportation to the park.

Rules:
Most trails are multi-use. A few trails are only open to hikers and equestrians. Dogs are permitted. Park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The Official Story:
EBRPD's Del Valle page.
Del Valle info 925-373-0332

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
EBRPD's Del Valle map
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub, has a good map and descriptions of 2 Del Valle hikes (order this book from Amazon.com).
East Bay Out, by Malcolm Margolin has some lyrical descriptions of the park and an incomplete map (order this book from Amazon.com).

Del Valle in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View 41 more photos from featured hike




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Do you remember the mushy line from Jerry Maguire,"you had me at hello"? TrailheadI had an equally romantic reaction on my first visit to Del Valle Regional Park. Actually, it started before I even got there, when, in the middle of turning onto Mines Road, I noticed a large, magnificent pheasant just standing around on the corner. Then I drove through a lovely valley and climbed a ridge with astonishing views in every direction. THEN, I entered the park and started hiking, and the love grew stronger and stronger. I know I will return again, for the great trails, views, and... well, great everything.
     Del Valle, a man-made reservoir, offers other recreation opportunities beyond hiking. The lake is stocked with trout from October to May (there's also catfish and bass), and if fishing isn't your thing, you can take a dip in the water, or launch a boat or sailboard. East Shore TrailWhen you've had your fill of activities, there are campsites at Del Valle, both hike-in group sites and drive-in family ones. Serious hikers will note that entry into Ohlone Regional Wilderness is afforded from Del Valle's southern tip. Beginning hikers might appreciate a gentle stroll to the Hetch Hetchy Group Camp along the mostly level East Shore Trail, a 3-mile out-and-back jaunt. For all hikers a variety of easy to moderate loop hikes can be found. Most loops will combine the level East Shore Trail with an ascending trail, follow with a stint on one of a handful of gently rollercoastering paths, and then finish with a descent back to the parking area. Almost all of the trails at Del Valle are wide, multi-use fire roads. Hetch Hetch Trail
      While the place can get hopping in the summer, it's pretty peaceful in the winter. In fact, winter is my favorite time to visit Del Valle. Autumn is pretty, but dry and hot. Spring wildflowers are disappointingcompared to nearby Sunol, Morgan Territory, and Pleasanton Ridge, and in summer locals make heavy use of the boating and swimming opportunities. The sounds of motor boats and parties travel surprisingly far. While the trails are usually muddy in winter, it's much more peaceful and quiet than any other season.
     For the featured hike, walk west toward the reservoir and take the paved trail to the right. If it's a quiet day at the park, you may cross paths with some of the many common birds who call Del Valle home, such as crows, vultures, ducks, and geese. These birds congregate in the trees and along the shores of the lake, and fly away with squawking protests as you stroll by. At the edge of the parking lot near the boat launch, at 0.25 mile, go through the gate which marks the start of the real, dirt multi-use trail. You may notice blue oaks, pines and, on the hillsideWinter view of green hills, near Hidden Canyon  to the right, lots of California sagebrush and some paintbrush (I often see these two plants growing together). On a hike in February I stopped for a while to watch a sapsucker attack the bark of an blue oak tree. Further down the path, a flock of small ducks snuck up behind me and conducted a precise flyover that would have done the Blue Angels proud. In spring, sprinklings of bluedicks, filaree, and California buttercup are common, but I've never seen any flower blooming in abundance. A faint path sweeps to the right along the confluence of two streams at 0.65 mile. You might notice one of the park's many squirrel burrows on both sides of the trail. At 0.81 mile, just before the Hetch Hetchy Group Camp, you'll arrive at a signed junction. Hetch Hetchy Trail climbs uphill here. East Shore continues to stretch along the water's edge all the way to the north tip of the lake. (If you want to extend your hike, continue on East Shore to the junction with Ridgeline, take a right and continue on Ridgeline for the remainder of the hike.) For the featured hike, turn right onto Hetch Hetchy Trail.Ridgeline Trail
     The broad fire road, open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians, creeps uphill through grassland occasionally studded with blue oaks. Cows graze in the park, so the surface may be muddy. You might see redtails hawks soaring above the grassland. With so many squirrels standing dumbly about, the hawks are bound to carry some off, but these shy birds probably won't stick around if you linger. As you climb, look back for stunning views of Tarantula Cove (no, I've never seen the big furry crawling critters here, but they are commonly spotted in the east bay hills in autumn), and the west ridge. After winter storms, the water might look muddy, while in spring it's a cheerful azure. At the crest, a thoughtfully placed bench provides a nice rest stop. A few steps later, signed junction marks off 1.20 miles. Here Hetch Hetchy Trail continues straight, on its way to meet up with Ridgeline Trail. Take the trail to the right, signed "to Hidden Canyon Trail." View from Ridgeline
      The path picks its way downhill, with suspicious squirrels scurrying around the oak-punctuated grassland like frantic Oompah Loompahs guarding Willy Wonka's candy stashes. Blue oaks continue to dominate the landscape. At 1.37 miles, the spur trail ends at a junction with Hidden Canyon Trail. Taking Hidden Canyon Trail to the right is an option that would stretch your hike a bit, but for the featured hike take Hidden Canyon Trail to the left.
      After a short climb, multi-use Hidden Canyon Trail sweeps around the corner past a shortcut trail heading sharply uphill. Continue on Hidden Canyon Trail to an unsigned junction at 1.52 miles (the signpost lies on the right side of the trail). Continue straight on Hidden Canyon Trail, as the path edges near the mini-crevasse on the right. After skirting a small pond popular with the cows, Hidden Canyon Trail ends at a signed junction at 1.65 miles. In February, look for yellow California buttercups, one of the first "spring" wildflowers, in the grass behind the signpost. Take Eagle Crest Trail to the left, uphill.Descending on Ridgeline
     Open to cyclists, hikers, and equestrians, Eagle Crest Trail climbs somewhat steeply. Along the creekbed on the left side of the trail, a lone buckeye tree sits among the oaks. Like all buckeyes, this one pushes out its leaves in late winter, and then waits for the deciduous oaks to catch up. When the buckeyes bloom in the summer, the sweet smell can be stupefying. Mistletoe hangs in heavy bunches off oak branches, living parasitically off the trees. It is easy to pick out in the winter when these oaks stand denuded. Eagle Crest Trail continues to climb until it ends at 1.81 miles at a signed junction (on my last visit this signpost was knocked down). Look behind you to the north to savor views of the beautiful rolling hills. Turn right onto Ridgeline Trail and climb a bit more to the crest, then a few feet later at 1.88 miles, continue right on Ridgeline at a signed junction with the East Ridge Trail. View from Ridgeline Trail
      As you gently descend along Ridgeline Trail, the distant dark forested hills to the east stand in contrast to the grassy slopes at your feet. The reservoir is often visible to the right. The hills have sagged and collapsed in portions on the left side of the trail, and these areas are particularly soggy in the winter. When it's muddy look for prints from bobcat, coyote, raccoon, skunk, deer, and perhaps fox. It can get windy along this section of trail, but it's also quiet. The only sounds floating your way may be a chattering squirrel, chirping bird, or the whisper of the wind. At 2.24 miles, the other end of Eagle Crest Trail ends at a signed junction with Ridgeline Trail. Turn left on Ridgeline.
     
You'll descend some more, passing a small pond off the left side of the trail, crossing through a gate (which may be seasonally removed), and then climbing to a signed junction at 2.56 miles. (You can take Squirrel Gulch Trail to the right here, or continue on the featured hike; both options are about the same in mileage.) Continue to the left on Ridgeline.
     
The trail begins a descent. In spring, you might see small amounts of blue-eyed grass, lupine, and owl's clover. After passing a pond, you'll arrive at a signed junction at 3.06 miles. The trail to the left ends at Del Valle Road. Continue on Ridgeline Trail.Descent
      California sagebrush reenters the landscape, underneath the oaks. Bluewitch nightshade and paintbrush may be seen flowering in spring. After contouring along the hillside, Ridgeline meets up with Lake View Trail and an unnamed spur at 3.25 miles. Turn right to stay on Ridgeline.
      As you walk downhill, check the skies for hunting hawks. At 3.45 and 3.49 miles, Ridgeline passes both loops of the East Tank Loop; continue on Ridgeline. Downslope off the right side of the trail, the hillside descends to a narrow gulch. Cows have worn a path into the canyon. A lone toyon bush on the right provides a burst of red color in the winter months. In spring you might see blue larkspur on the left side of the trail. Ridgeline Trail ends, along with the terminus of Lake View Trail, at a gate across the street from the parking lot.

Total distance: 3.84 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April 18, 2001