Lafayette Reservoir Recreation Area

Trail
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3stars (3.00)1
4stars (4.00)
2stars (2.00)
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Yes
Yes
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Lafayette
Contra Costa
More Info

A view of the Rim Trail as it descends and quickly ascents along the crown surrounding the reservoir. You can see the trail ascending to the right and then following the ridge all of the way to the left peak.
A view of the Rim Trail as it descends and quickly ascents along the crown surrounding the reservoir. You can see the trail ascending to the right and then following the ridge all of the way to the left peak.
Lafayette Reservoir is a water source maintained by the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Impounding water for more reliable service is the main goal of the facility, but like in many cases the land surrounding the body of water serves as a natural area for outdoor recreation.

The park's trails consist of two concentric circular trails that surround the lake. An inner paved hike and bike trail and a rougher, higher Rim Trail. The two trails are joined together by several spoke-like connector trails,

One might be led to conclude that a lake trail close to the water would be relatively flat and easy. Such is not the case! Though not a tough trail, the paved hike and bike trail is undulating with a few short steep sections. It also spends relatively little of its approximate 2.7 mile length on the shoreline of the lake. A thick curtain of trees and shrubs block the view of the lake most of the time.

The paved trail around the lake surprisingly doesn't have a lot of lake views.
The paved trail around the lake surprisingly doesn't have a lot of lake views.
The inner loop is the most popular trail in the park, frequented by picnickers, exercise walkers and families with children. The area around the playground was particularly packed.

Fishing is allowed in the lake and visitors can also rent boats. Swimming and wading into the water is not allowed. Strangely, the park rules also prohibit "contact" with the water. The wording seems to suggest that too much contact with the water would compromise the integrity of the water supply. Surely the presence of thousands of fish, amphibians and other animals in the water would have a far greater effect on water quality than a few hikers sticking their hands in the water to cool off.

The Rim Trail forms most of a circle around the inner trail and lake and runs for about 4.7 miles. It follows the high point ridge line near the perimeter of the recreation area's boundary. This hard pack dirt trail has numerous steep ascents and descents of as steep a pitch as you'll find anywhere.

The steepness of some portions of the trail has a price associated with it. Deeps ruts on the packed dirt surface are being cut by rainwater runoff that speeds down the slopes unobstructed by vegetation or looser soil to soak up the moisture. Switchbacks are a typical solution to problems such as these, but they are not employed here.

Despite the steepness of the terrain, the Rim Trail is surprisingly well used. The sight of people wheezing and gasping for air after ascending a particularly steep segment of trail doesn't seem to have kept many people away.

Photos
Dam, what a view!
The top of the Lafayette Reservoir dam is also the parking area. The trail segments nearest the parking area can get very crowded. As usual, things thin out the farther you go out. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Almost there
Nearing the end of the Rim Trail with the Lafayette Reservoir dam coming into view. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Watch out below
A couple of walkers work to ascend a steep section of the Rim Trail. Note that descending quickly just means a quick ascent in a short period of time. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Bold Lizard
The Honey Badger of lizards. This guy didn't really care how close you got to him. Touch his tail and it was time to high tail it out of there. (Photo by Austin Explorer)
Log Entries
Remarkably hilly in places
By Austin Explorer on 4/13/2014
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 4stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 8.25 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 23 minutes

Coppertone and I had expected the trail closest to the lake to be relativley flat.  That turned out to be wrong, but the Rim Trail outside of that was much hillier still!

We encountered some of the steepest pitches of terrain we'd encountered in California at this point.  It was no an uncommon sight to have people weezing and gasping for air having come up a steep segment that we were about to descend.  I'm proud report that neither of us was caught that short of breath on our ascents but won't comment too much on how tired we might have been.

We did both the inner and outer loops of trails in the park, but didn't feel up to mapping all of the connector trails that shoot out like spokes on a wheel between the two.  Maybe next time!

We found it a bit odd that the rules for the park prohibit contact with the water.  Not wanting people to swim because they don't want to face the possible legal ramifications if someone drowns, I guess I could get.  But their concern seemed more towards possible contamination of the water supply given their wording.  There are thousands of fish in there doing their business.  I doubt that people running their hands through the water will cause any issues.  Coppertone wanted to go touch the water in protest, but in the end we refrained, so feel free to drink up from your tap!

Lots of hellos by people on the trail, but the friendlest being encountered had to be the small lizard sunning himself on a rock along the trail.  Normally, I might take a photo of such a lizard from a distance and take a step or closer and take another one.  Do this once or twice and he's gone.  Not this guy.  He sat right there just eying us as we got within inches of him.  Coppertone even touched his tail lightly before he scurried away.  That was one bold lizard.

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