Loch Lomond Recreation Area

Neil Wiley

Iím not bragging, but Iíve been to Loch Lomond in Scotland. Itís a nice, big lake, but although it may be sacrilegious for a Scot to say it, our Santa Cruz Loch Lomond is far more beautiful. Scotlandís Loch Lomond isnít surrounded by redwoods, firs, oaks and madrones. It may be the biggest lake in Great Britain, but it isnít stocked with rainbow trout every two to three weeks from March to July. And it has more highways, more traffic and more people. Our Loch Lomond is off the beaten path, with lots of quiet, bucolic trails. And this beautiful mountain lake is only about twenty miles from the intersection of Summit Road and Highway 17.

Although most people come to fish and boat, Loch Lomond is more than a lake. Itís a recreation area, complete with picnic areas, including one on its own island. It also has excellent trails that offer a wide range of natural environments.

You can begin with the MacLaren Loop Trail. A great family walk, the entire loop is only 1.5 miles long, and the grades are relatively easy. The loop starts on the Loch Trail that follows along the very edge of the lake. Occasionally, you have to step by a fisherman or a duck but itís a pleasant shoreline amble. At Fir Cove, you take the MacLaren Trail up a little higher above the lake. You pass through shady but light-filled redwood, oak and madrone forests along a narrow but well marked trail that takes you to the Glen Corrie picnic area.

If you are more ambitious, you can walk up Loch Lomond Way to catch the Highland Loop. This five-mile hike is steep in places, but at the top you can see almost the entire lake and watershed. Youíll also see knobcone pines, redwoods and giant firs. If you are as lucky as I was, youíll also be on eye level with hawks soaring next to you along the ridgelines. After enjoying the view, follow Highland downhill to the Deer Flat fishing area, then follow the Loch Sloy service road to Huckleberry Cove where you can catch the Loch Trail back to the main recreation area.

Another short but challenging trail is the Big Trees Nature Trail. Itís only ĺ of a mile long, but it is steep. Before you take this trail, be sure to ask for a copy of the Big Trees brochure. Describing 18 nature stops marked by numbered posts, the brochure adds more educational value to a family or school trip.

The easiest way to get to the Loch Lomond Recreation Area is down Highway 17 to Mount Hermon Road. Turn left on Graham Hill Road, then turn left again on Zayante Road. Take the left fork at the well-marked ďYĒ with Lompico Road, then left again on West Drive. The road gets narrower, and you pass through some high-density mountain housing, much like you find in parts of Redwood Estates. You may feel lost, but just keep going. You should end up at the park entrance. The cost is $4 per car and $1 per dog. Rowboats and paddleboats are available for rent by the hour or the day, and you can bring your own electric motor. (Gasoline engines are not allowed.) Bait, tackle, fishing licenses, hot and cold drinks and snacks are also for sale.

Another relatively undiscovered gem in our Santa Cruz Mountains, the Loch Lomond Recreation Area is a great place to hike, picnic, boat or fish. Facilities are well developed and maintained. Enjoy.

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