Boat. Fish. Swim. Camp.
Hike. Ride. Bike.
Del Valle Regional Park
might question going all the way to Livermore when we have lots to
do outdoors in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the hour-and-a-half trip to
Del Valle Regional Park is well worth the drive. I went there to
hike, but this park has a lot more to offer.
visitors, the appeal is the five-mile-long lake. You can boat, fish,
swim, or simply enjoy the scenery. Don’t have a boat? If you want
exercise, you can rent a rowboat, canoe, or paddleboat. If you want
more leisurely travel, you can rent an outboard motorboat or pontoon
party boat. All are yours for a deposit and a two-hour minimum
rental. If you are there on a summer weekend, you can sign up for a
naturalist-led or scenic hour-and-a-half boat tour—a pleasant way to
spend an afternoon.
Fishing is a big
attraction at Del Valle, especially from October through May when
trout are “planted.” In spring and summer, catfish are added, and
black bass are at their prime. All you need is a California fishing
license and a Del Valle access permit. You’ll find both at the Del
Rather swim? Two
swimming beaches have lifeguards during posted periods, but you can
swim year-round in much of the lake.
Picnicking and camping facilities for families
and large groups can be reserved along the shoreline. Of the 150
family-camping sites, 21 have water and sewage hookups. Centrally
located toilet, shower, and drinking-water facilities are available.
Del Valle is more than a lake. You can hike,
bike, or ride your horse over 4,316 acres. On Del Valle’s west side,
a trail for hikers and horses connects via the 28-mile-long Ohlone
Wilderness Trail to Sunol Regional Wilderness (featured in
September 2008 issue). Eastside trails run the length of the lake.
There are staging and water for horses at the south of the lake near
the Punta Vaca Group Camp, and on the east side of the lake near the
Del Valle Marina.
If you are a casual hiker or have small children
in tow, you can walk the flat East Shore Trail from the Marina to
the Hetch Hetchy Group Camp, a 2.6-mile round trip. This walk is
also a designated dog run. If you want more of a challenge, you can
walk along the shore all the way to the north entrance on Arroyo
Road, another 6.3 miles one-way.
For a shorter but still challenging walk, you
can hike up the hills to the east, using Lakeview, Ridgeline,
Squirrel Gulch, or Hetch Hetchy trails. Connected in a network to
provide alternative routes and loops, the trails are wide but
sometimes steep. They offer great views of golden hills and the lake
but little shade.
I followed a 3.84-mile hike featured at the Bay
Area Hiker website (http://www.bahiker.com). I walked north of the
Marina, through a gate to East Shore Trail (a wide dirt multi-use
trail), and then along the shore for about two-thirds of a mile.
I turned right on Hetch Hetchy Trail. A fellow
hiker gave his dog a short swim, and then passed me as I stopped to
take pictures (and rest) on the way uphill. As we climbed, the views
of the lake got better and better.
At the next junction, I turned right where a
signpost said “to Hidden Valley Trail.” It was a pleasant trail
through rounded golden hills decorated with many isolated oaks.
When I got to the T-junction with Hidden Canyon
Trail, I turned left. (You might think that a right turn would
shorten your hike, but it wouldn’t.)
At the next junction, I continued straight on
Hidden Canyon Trail, and then turned left at Eagle Crest Trail. When
Eagle Crest ended, I followed Ridgeline Trail up to the crest. I
turned left on Ridgeline. (Several trails meet here, so be sure that
you stay on Ridgeline.)
In fact, I should have stayed on Ridgeline all
the way back to the parking area, but after checking my map, I
decided to take a “short-cut” via Squirrel Gulch Trail.
I should have noticed the word “gulch.” The
trail went down and up, then down again through a deep ravine. After
climbing up the next ridge, I was rewarded with some good views of
the lake, but the last one hundred yards down the hill were very
steep and slippery. Fortunately, I had a walking stick, but it was
still a precarious slide down to the parking area. As I slid and
stumbled down, I could see the Ridgeline Trail below, not on a ridge
but along the relatively level floor of the valley.
Driving to Del Valle
The directions on the Del Valle website take you
through Livermore. Google gave me a more direct but somewhat
confusing route. Take Highway 17 to Interstate 880 north, exit on
California-282/Mission Boulevard to Interstate 680. Take Interstate
680 north to exit 21B (Highway 84 east/Vallecitos Road). When
Highway 84 splits to the left, go right on Vallecitos Road. The road
turns into Holmes Street. Turn right at Concannon Boulevard. The
road becomes Wente Street. Turn right at J2/south Livermore Avenue.
Turn right at Mines Road. When Mines Road turns left, continue
straight on Del Valle Road. Take a slight right to stay on Del Valle
Road into the park.
Parking fee is $6 per vehicle, and $4 per
trailered vehicle. The dog fee is $2. Other fees are charged for
fishing permits, boat rental, boat launch, windsurfing, and camping.
Boat availability changes with the seasons, day of the week, and
demand. Hiking on the Ohlone Wilderness Trail requires a permit
available at Del Valle or Sunol Regional Wilderness. Maps are
available on the Del Valle website. You’ll find snacks, soft drinks,
fishing permits, and souvenirs at the marina. Driving time from our
area to Del Valle is about an hour and a half. For more information,
call 925-373-0332, or visit http://www.ebparks.org/parks/del_valle.