Boat. Fish. Swim. Camp. Hike. Ride. Bike.
Del Valle Regional Park

Neil Wiley

Although you 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.

For many 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 Valle Marina.

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 MNN’s 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.

 My hike

I followed a 3.84-mile hike featured at the Bay Area Hiker website ( 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


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