Nearly 5 mile loop hike up and down and around reservoir.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.7 mile loop hike is moderate, with a total elevation
change of about 700 feet. There are two trails at the reservoir. Lakeside
is paved, nearly level, and easy. Rim is a dirt fire road with dramatic
Almost totally exposed.
Dirt fire roads.
2 1/2 hours.
Hot in summer. Best on a cool spring day.
From CA 24 in Contra Costa County, exit Mount Diablo Boulevard/Acalanes
Road/Upper Happy Valley Road (exit 11). Drive east on Mount Diablo Boulevard
about 1 mile, then turn right at the Lafayette Reservoir sign. Stay to the
right, drive uphill on the one way street, then bear left, toward day use
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 8'26.38"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants back on Mount Diablo Boulevard. No camping.
You can park in metered spaces for up to 2 hours, or pay $6 and park all
day in the lot. Bring exact change for the automated entrance kiosk to the
lot, which is only staffed weekends and holidays. (Should you arrive without
appropriate funds, you can walk to the Visitor Center where staff will change
larger bills.) If you plan on walking the Lakeside Trail, you should be
able to make the circuit in less than 2 hours (so save yourself some money
and park in the metered spaces), but if you're aiming for the Rim Trail
loop, you might want to park in the lot. (To avoid the park fees all together,
enter the park from the surrounding neighborhood. From downtown Lafayette,
take Moraga Road south. Turn right on Campolindo Drive. At the end of Campolindo,
make a right onto Paseo Grande. There's side of the road parking at Paseo
Grande's cul de sac.) There are designated handicapped spots, and Lakeside
Trail is paved and wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair-accessible vault toilets
at the edge of the parking lot, more vault toilets around Lakeside Trail.
Drinking fountains near the parking lot and at several other locations along
the trails. Pay phone at west end of parking lot. There is no direct public
transportation to the reservoir, and nearby BART and bus stops are probably
too far from the reservoir for hikers. Cyclists should have no problem riding
from the Lafayette BART station.
Recreation area is open from 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (later in summer and
autumn). No horses. Dogs permitted on leash. Bicycles permitted on the paved
Lakeside Trail (specific hours only on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, not
permitted other days and hours), but not allowed on Rim Trail.
The Official Story:
Park information: 925-284-9669
East Bay Recreation Area's page
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Reservoir Recreation Area Map
Trails of the Easy Bay Hills (Northern Section), by Gerald
this map from Amazon.com) is a useful guide to the recreation area.
East Bay Trails, by David Weintraub (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and a description of the Rim
Reservoir in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
View photos from this
EBMUD ever decide to transform their Lafayette Reservoir
into a theme park, they need only to slap down some tracks on Rim Trail
and turn the roller coaster carts loose. Rim Trail is a bucking bronco
of a fire road, constantly rising and falling as it runs along a ridge
around Lafayette Reservoir. The loop is less than 5 miles, and isn't really
hard, but it can be a somewhat tedious trek. Around the 4th mile I felt
like screaming, "enough already with these hills!"
The fluctuating altitude makes Rim Trail
a favorite with local runners. It is a humbling experience to watch experts
fly up a grade that is a challenge for some of us to comfortably ascend
at a walking pace. If you live nearby and are searching for a good exercise
circuit, Lafayette Reservoir might fit the bill. In addition to Rim Trail,
there are a few other fire roads radiating in from the ridge, and a second
loop, Lakeside Trail. Paved Lakeside is a nearly flat 2.7 mile circuit,
for gentle walks. Combine Lakeside, Rim, and the handful of remaining
trails for a variety of loops.
The manicured lawns, picnic tables, and
ornamental trees on the sides of Lakeside Trail make great picnic destinations.
Some group areas are reservable, and boats are available for rent. Fishing
is permitted, but no swimming is allowed. Maybe when I visited it was
the breeze blowing off the water that made the temperature feel a good
10 degrees cooler at the trailhead than on the sunbaked ridge, but regardless,
expect to sweat on Rim Trail in the summer. There are some black and valley
oaks to admire in autumn, but I would elect to visit in spring, when the
east bay temperatures are more hospitable to outdoor activities.
Start the Rim Trail loop at the west
edge of the parking lot (if you're standing facing the reservoir,
west is to the right). Just in front of a flight of steps, look for a
sign "West Rim Trail Access." Walk up the stairs, and
pass (or go through) a small playground. Tall pines give the area
an alpine feel. On the far side, all casual paths converge as Rim Trail
heads uphill. A fire road feeds in from the right after about 435 feet.
The hiking-only fire road starts a moderate climb through valley and coast
live oak, with yellow star thistle, coyote brush, and poison oak in the
understory. Highway 24 is audible and occasionally visible to the right.
Look back over your shoulder for increasingly broad views of Mount Diablo.
Rim Trail levels out, and grassy slopes drift downhill to the left, revealing
the reservoir. Soon enough the easy hiking is over, and the trail takes
the first of many sharp drops, followed by an equally steep ascent. At
0.79 mile, Westview Trail begins to the left at a signed junction. Continue
straight on Rim Trail.
As Rim Trail continues a pattern of rising
and falling along the ridge, the fire road draws near to the reservoir
boundary. Houses are occasionally visible on the right, and sounds of
domestic life (as well as traffic) filter over to the trail. At 1.33 miles,
an unsigned fire road breaks off the
left at the crest of a hill. Continue straight on Rim Trail.
A nasty bit of steep up and down hiking
ensues. A few fruit trees can be seen mixed through black and other oaks.
Diminutive shrubs of bush lupine grows close to the ground on the sides
of the trail. At 1.65 miles, Canyon Trail sets off to the left (you can
shortcut the steepest sections of Rim Trail by taking Canyon to Rheem
Trail, which ends back on Rim Trail). Continue straight on Rim Trail.
The trail temporarily settles on a steady
and moderate grade, climbing along the ridge. Take a few moments to admire
the reservoir, and further to the east, Mount Diablo. The hills of Briones
are also visible to the north. A few buckeyes cling to the hillside on
the left, along with some shrubby creambush. You might see quail on the
sides of the trail. Rim Trail approaches Rheem Reservoir at 2.40 miles.
Stay to the right, then to the left as a service
road heads downhill toward Rheem Boulevard. (Thirsty hikers, note that
there's a drinking fountain on the east side of the water tank.) Walk
uphill on a short paved stretch which soon switches back to dirt. A reasonable
climb through a treeless stretch of grassland will bring you to an unsigned
split at 2.50 miles. Either fork is fine; they soon rejoin. Ignore a well-worn
shortcut heading downhill to the left. From the hike's high point at about
1038 feet, you'll have sweeping views south to Las Trampas, as well as
Mount Diablo to the east. Suddenly, Rim Trail plummets downhill. The Olmsted
Brothers map shows this stretch as a hogback, and it is certainly a challenge
to hikers with tender knees and/or hips. The descent ends at an unsigned
junction at 2.71 miles. A path heads right out of the preserve to Campolindo
Drive, while a fire road sets out to the left. Continue straight on
The fire road heads uphill again.
Look for a large California coffeeberry shrub on the right. At 2.93 miles,
Campolindo Trail begins on the left at a signed junction. Continue
straight on Rim Trail.
A reasonable downhill section is a welcome respite.
There is very little shade as coast live oaks and an occasional blue elderberry
tree linger well off the sides of the trail. At 3.37 miles, Big Oak Trail
offers a last chance to divert your hike from Rim Trail, as Big Oak Trail
heads downhill to Lakeside Trail from a signed junction. (The mileage
is about the same regardless of your choice, but there is less elevation
wobble if you take Big Oak.) Continue straight on Rim Trail.
A few tall eucalyptus, pines, and oaks line
the trail, which placates hikers with a level stretch. Narrow Lafayette
Reservoir Trail heads
out of the park at 3.67 miles, on the way to Moraga Road from a signed
junction. Continue straight on Rim Trail.
Rim Trail persists, rolling up and down
at a moderate pace. Ignore an unsigned fire road to the right at 4.17
miles. There are nice views to the left of the reservoir. Finally,
at 4.29 miles, Rim Trail runs out of steam (and hills), and you'll reach
a signed junction with Sunset Trail. Turn left to stay on Rim Trail.
The fire road descends evenly through oaks
and California bay. At about 4.56 miles, Rim Trail ends at Lakeside Trail.
Turn right. Although you will never have been far from civilization,
the lush grass and park atmosphere might be a bit disconcerting. Paved
Lakeside, open to hikers and cyclists (hiking only Monday, Wednesday,
Friday, and Saturday) drifts easily downhill along the reservoir, ending
at 4.69 miles at the east end of the parking lot. On the way out of the
recreation area, be sure to admire the grove of mature pear trees on the
right side of the road.
Total distance: 4.69 miles
Last hiked: Friday, August 3, 2001
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