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Lake Del Valle East Shore/Heron Bay Loop

Lake Del Valle East Shore/Heron Bay Loop

Nestled in the Livermore valley, Lake Del Valle is an East Bay Regional Park District recreational facility supporting activities such as boating, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, biking, and hiking.

Total distance: 4.47 mi
Total climbing: 1611 ft

Lake Del Valle – East Shore to Heron Bay Essential Info

Length: 4 miles
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate (some steep areas)
Dogs: OK, off-leash OK
Cost: Free (At the arroyo staging area, main entrance costs $6/vehicle).
Website: https://www.ebparks.org/parks/del_valle/
Alltrails Link: https://www.alltrails.com/explore/recording/del-valle-heron-bay–2

Background

Lake Del Valle is the result of the damming of the Arroyo del Valle. Currently, the earthen dam trickles a stream that flows to the Shadow Cliffs recreation area that empties into the Arroyo Valle. The Arroyo Valle joins the Arroyo de la laguna and then merges into the Alameda Creek (which sources from the Sunol Regional Wilderness) and eventually flows into the San Francisco Bay just outside of the Coyote Hills Regional Park.

Built in 1968 as part of the South Bay Aqueduct project which serves Alameda and Santa Clara counties, the East Bay Regional Park District has maintained the recreational facilities since 1970. Water from the Sacramento/San Joaquin delta is pumped into Bethany Reservoir located in Tracy where it then flows to Patterson Reservoir just east of Livermore. From there, water flows to Lake Del Valle and down to San Jose.

Getting There

The East Shore trail begins at the Arroyo staging area which is not the main entrance. 

From I580 E, exit North Livermore. Take North Livermore south till it becomes South Livermore and turn Right onto Concannon Blvd.

At Arroyo Rd, make a right. Follow the road. You’ll pass by a golf course, the Wente Winery restaurant and the VA Palo Alto Hospital areas.

Make a left into the Arroyo Staging area.

The Trail

The Heron Bay Trail has two distinct loops sections which branch and return from the East Shore trail. This hike only does the northern loop. Adding the southern loop would tack on about 3.5 miles to the overall distance and about another 2 hours.

Del Valle Heron Bay Trail
Del Valle Heron Bay Trail

Checkpoint: Start

Earthen Dam creating Lake Del Valle
Earthen Dam creating Lake Del Valle

From the parking lot, find the trailhead and proceed through the grassland below the earthen dam that makes Lake Del Valle possible.

You’ll quickly cross a small bridge over the Arroyo Del Valle.

Checkpoint: Arroyo Del Valle Bridge

From the bridge, get your glutes ready as the trail begins its primary ascent to the top of the dam.

Great Blue Heron in the Arroyo Del Valle
Great Blue Heron in the Arroyo Del Valle

Checkpoint: Overlook

After the ascent, a small bench about 100ft further down the trail provides shade underneath an oak tree to take a rest and admire the views: the lake to the south or the livermore valley to the north.

 

Once your legs have recovered, remain on the East shore trail and proceed along the ridge.

Checkpoint: Loop Return and Bald Eagle Viewing

The East shore trail will intersect the Heron bay trail twice. At the second intersection, take the Heron bay trail and loop back to the beginning.

Throughout the hike, be on the lookout for the distinctive white head of bald eagles which are reportedly nesting in this section of the lake.

Since 1996, bald eagles have been sighted at Lake Del Valle. They’ve also been sighted at Los Vaqueros (Livermore) and Chabot Lake (Castro Valley) in the east bay.

Bald Eagle at Lake Del Valle
Bald Eagle at Lake Del Valle

Checkpoint: Lake View

The Heron bay trail returns slightly above lake level offering a closer perspective of the water. In the early morning, you’ll often hear and see fish leaping or lazily drifting in the shallows.

Lake view from the Heron bay trail
Lake view from the Heron bay trail

One final ascent along the trail will bring you back to a familiar bench and tree at the overlook. From here, return to the staging area by retracing the East shore trail downhill.

Lake Del Valle Alternates

Within Lake Del Valle, there are many other spectacular hikes such as the East ridge and Ohlone trails (reports coming soon!).

Near Livermore there’s also:

Los Vaqueros Reservoir

Los Vaqueros Reservoir

Los Vaqueros reservoir is operated by the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD). Much like nearby Del Valle Lake (maintained by EBRPD), the reservoir supports various recreational activities like boating, fishing, picnicking, and hiking. Being a source of potable water, swimming and pets are not allowed in the area.

Note that there are two entrances within the park that do not connect: in order to drive to the other side, you’ll need to exit and drive ~45mins on Vasco.

The area supports various wildlife including bobcats, raptors, coyotes, and egrets. The hikes here vary in difficulty from gentle, flat strolls along the lakeside to steep rolling hills.

Los Vaqueros Essential Info

Hours:
September 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
October 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Nov. – Feb. 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
March 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
April-August 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Parking Cost: $6, $5 Seniors, $4 CCWD customers.
Website: https://www.ccwater.com/9/Los-Vaqueros

Getting There

Los Vaqueros Reservoir Map
Los Vaqueros North and South Entrances

There are two entrances separated by about 45 minutes, so make sure to pick the right one!

The northern, Brentwood entrance provides access to the John Muir Interpretive center while the southern, Livermore, entrance provides access to the marina. The link on the map to the right will bring you to the south entrance. For a link to the northern entrance (and through to the interpretive center), click here.

From the Walnut Creek, Concord, and Antioch areas of the easy bay, the fastest way is probably via Highway 4 West to Vasco.

If coming from other parts of the bay area, take 580E and exit Vasco road in Livermore.

Trails

Kellogg Creek Trail

Length: ~5 miles (in and out)
Time: 2.5 hours
Difficulty: Easy

Located on the north side of the lake, this trail follows Kellogg creek to the John Muir Interpretive center. From there, it’s a short but steep climb up a paved road to the the top of the dam with access to several other trails.

Oak Tree
Oak Tree
John Muir Interpretive Center
John Muir Interpretive Center

Black Hills to Cañada Trail loop

Length: ~7 miles
Time: 3.5 hours
Difficulty: Moderate
Shifting to the south side, this trail brings you up in the hills with sweeping views of the reservoir with good opportunities to see raptors.

Los Vaqueros Trail

Length: Variable
Time: Variable
Difficulty: Easy

Also located on the south side, this trail starts from the marina and roughly follows the lake’s shoreline. You’ll hike past peaceful coves and migrating birds resting within.

Alternates

Nearby Brushy Peak, on the southern end of Vasco Road is home to many raptors due to the abundance of mice, squirrels and rabbits.