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The Ultimate Sunday Hike: Lafayette Reservoir

Lafayette reservoir from the dam.

Lafayette reservoir from the dam.

The Lafayette Reservoir has long been a popular recreation destination for hikers, joggers, fishing, boating, and picnicking from all over the East Bay. The 928 acres of open space are located about a mile west of Lafayette, off Highway 24 and it is walkable from the Lafayette BART station.

There are a number of hiking options here, ranging from the easy and well-used lakeside perimeter trail (about 2.8 miles and paved) to a full-on circumnavigation via the rim trail that rings the reservoir’s bowl. That 4.7 mile hike offers outstanding views and 570 feet of total elevation change, however it has one very steep section called the Paseo climb that runs 20%. There is a connecting path between the rim and perimeter trails about 1.2 miles past the boat house and bait shop located on the west side of the lake, about a quarter mile from the restrooms at the west end of the dam. Rim trail access is from either end of the dam.

One curious feature of the reservoir it the extremely tall observation tower located near the dam itself–originally the dam was designed to be much higher, but during construction the reservoir size was scaled back due to a better understanding of the surrounding geology and the seismic risks of containing that much water during an earthquake. By then, the tower had already been built and it was deemed to expensive to lower it.

The park, operated by the East Bay Municipal Utility District (aka EBMUD) is open all year, generally from 6 am to 9 pm, depending on the season. Admission is free, but there is a charge for parking. The fishing access fees and the boat launching fees are $4 each. Boats are available for rental and groups from 50 to 200 can reserve designated picnic areas. Wheeled users' access (cyclists and roller skaters/bladers) is restricted to Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon until closing, and on Sundays from opening until 11 am on the paved Lakeside trail and roads.