A Nice Surprise
Don Castro
Regional Recreation Area
Neil Wiley

As I drove through downtown Hayward, I thought this hike might be a mistake. The area looked too urban, congested, and not very pretty. My destination was a relatively small ten-acre park with only 3.5 miles of trails. The only thing that kept me going was the promise of a lake. Even a small lake may offer interesting photo opportunities, reflections, contrasts in scenery, and perhaps some appealing subjects.

When I entered the park on a sunny January weekday, the huge parking lot was almost empty. I couldn’t see much of the lake, and the fenced-in pool area was closed for the winter. The only signs of nature were a few grassy areas dotted with picnic tables. I walked northeast on a broad gravel road past a sign that said “No Parking” to an even wider graveled area that looked like an auxiliary parking area for overflow crowds.

I followed the Ridgetop Trail. Things looked more promising to the right when I found the trailhead to Whispering Creek Trail. At the intersection, I didn’t see any signs, but the map showed that the trail to the left was the Chabot-to-Garin Trail to Five Canyons Open Space, a hike I plan to take in the future. On this day, however, I continued to the right over a bridge on Whispering Creek Trail, following around the southern, more remote shore of the Don Castro Reservoir.

In a few steps, I was in a shady forest. After a short walk, the trail opened up to display a large meadow decorated with small mounds of composting leaves, then returned to forest, alongside and sometimes bridging over little creeks. I could see ducks hiding in the reeds. Further along the trail, I entered a forest of old, giant eucalyptus trees.

The views opened up to reveal a much larger lake. When you enter the park, you see only the bottom section of the “J” -shaped reservoir. Looking across the lake from my perch on a comfortable bench, I could see many birds, including egrets and herons. I also saw a swimming area, a sandy beach, a dock with fishermen, and a green-colored dam.

As I walked over the dam back to my car, I was happy with my hike. It was relatively short, but there was a lot to see, some contrasting landscapes, and a miniature wilderness. It was even better because it was unexpected. I think this is what exploring is all about.

Driving to Don Castro Park. Take Highway 17/880 north to Jackson Street/CA-92, on to Foothill Boulevard. Turn right on B street, slight right on Kelly Street, and left on Woodrow Avenue. The address is 22400 Woodrow Avenue in Hayward.

If you would like to avoid the less interesting parts of the trail, you can walk back from the parking area across the dam, and then take the Whispering Creek Trail from there to the compost meadow and back. If you want a longer hike, use the Chabot-to-Garin Trail to reach five miles of trails in Five Canyons Open Space.

Parking on weekends and holidays is $5. Swimming fees are extra. If you fish, a daily fishing permit is required. The park has wheelchair-accessible restrooms, drinking water, parking, and a fishing dock. Beach wheelchairs are available. Dogs are allowed on the trails but not in the swimming area. The dog fee is $2. For more information and maps, visit EBparks.org, click on parks/trails, and then click Don Castro.

If you like walking around a lake, I’ve hiked around Almaden, Anderson, Coyote, Del Valle, Loch Lomond, Long Ridge, Neary Lagoon, Quarry, Schawn, and our own Lexington. You can learn more about these lake trails on our website. Just visit mnn.net, and click on Hikes and other explorations.