Chabot Park (the little city-owned park at the bottom of the West Shore Trail, not Lake Chabot Regional Park), the West Shore Trail, and Bass Cove Trail are closed until sometime in October 2017 for seismic upgrade work on the dam. It won't be possible to hike this loop until this work is complete. See the Chabot Dam Upgrade page.
This popular hike circles Castro Valley's Lake Chabot. The first half of the hike is on the busy paved trails at the southern end of the lake, but the last half has a surprisingly quiet backcountry feel and is relatively little-used. The contrast between the two halves of the loop makes for an interesting and memorable hike.
About two-thirds of the hike is wooded. For a hike that circles a lake, the route is actually pretty hilly, with up-and-down undulations for most of the way.
The most popular starting point for this hike is the marina lot at the south end of the lake, but I much prefer the smaller parking lot in Chabot Park. Not to be confused with Anthony Chabot Regional Park or Lake Chabot Regional Park, Chabot Park is a small city-owned park at the west end of the lake. Starting here puts the best part of the hike at the end instead of the middle. Also, the little Chabot Park lot is much less busy, it's free, and it's shady. On the other hand this part of the East Bay is a somewhat high-crime area, and the big, busy marina lot with its staffed entrance booth might be safer.
From Chabot Park, the paved road climbs gently up to the dam. At the top of the hill, turn right onto the paved loop trail. Until September 2016 the continuous roar of gunfire from the Chabot marksmanship range could be heard in this area, but the range is now closed.
The partly-wooded West Shore Trail gently undulates up and down along the lakeshore. As the trail approaches the bustling marina, the trail flattens out and becomes more crowded. People with paddleboats and kayaks share the lake with ducks. A lot of people fish from the little beaches along the shore. Unfortunately, swimming is not allowed in the lake.
The trail passes through the bustling marina area, which is by far the most popular part of the park. There's a snack bar that serves burgers, sandwiches, and salads and that has a nice outdoor seating area with a view of the lake. There's a busy picnic areas; most people seem to come here to picnic.
Stay to the left and take a wooden footbridge to reach the paved East Shore Trail. This trail is very popular, with a lot of large groups with little kids and dogs out for a stroll, and joggers and mountain bikers too. The trail is mostly open but sometimes dives into the dense woods that cover the north-facing slopes. The crowd thins out a lot when the pavement ends a mile and a half past the marina. Turn left to cross a long narrow footbridge, then left again onto the Honker Bay Trail. This pleasant dirt road is nice and flat as it follows the shoreline, offering attractive views of the lake and the surrounding wooded hills.
The trail curves away from the lake and begins a steep climb, eventually entering a very open eucalyptus grove. The number of people really drops off at this point and the trail gradually takes on more of a quiet, woodsy feel.
Turn left onto the singletrack Columbine Trail. The wide, well-maintained trail descends into dense bay laurel woods and is the highlight of the hike. There's a lot of poison oak along the side of the trail; it's easily avoided but you have to watch for it.
At the northern tip of the route, the trail crosses a stream. This area is always a somewhat overgrown, and since there's no bridge across the stream, crossing it may not be possible in the winter.
The Bass Cove Trail is a wide dirt road that undulates along the shoreline. The sound of gunfire from the marksmanship range is barely audible along parts of the trail.
© 2014 David Baselt