Lafayette Reservoir

Length 7.4 mi · Climbing 1500 ft
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Lafayette Reservoir and the inner loop

Lafayette Reservoir is a small park in the middle of a Bay Area suburb, but the hills around the reservoir isolate it so well from the surrounding neighborhoods that coming here really feels like getting out to nature. The park is really quite scenic; since it’s not grazed, it’s a lot more attractive than the nearby regional parks. There’s also a nice mixture of wooded and open areas: the outer loop is mostly exposed, while the inner loop is mostly wooded.

Near the main parking lot is a little cove where you can rent a paddleboat, and a few nice picnic areas that tend to be pretty busy.

This hike combines the park’s two most popular loops, starting with a clockwise circuit of the challenging 4.7-mile Rim Trail, which is actually a dirt road, followed by a counter-clockwise walk of the much easier but still somewhat hilly paved 2.7-mile Lafayette Loop. The middle part of the Rim Trail has quite a bit of up-and-down, but if you’ve had enough you can always cut the hike short by dropping down to the inner loop.

Given how steep parts of the outer loop are, it’s surprising how popular it is. In fact the park gets a million visitors per year, which is pretty impressive given its size. At peak times expect to see about a group every 1 or 2 minutes on the outer loop and about 2 or 3 groups per minute on the inner loop. Traffic on the outer loop seems to drop off in the late afternoon, but the inner loop stays busy.

Start from the main parking lot off Mount Diablo Boulevard. It costs $7 to park here all day (or $1.50/hour if you’re planning to be here less than 2 hours), but at least it’s easy to find parking. You can also park for free at the Rim Trail entrances on Campolindo Drive or Meadow Park Lane; the disadvantage is that the hike will end with a climb.

Facing the lake, go left to pick up the start of the paved trail. After a few yards, just after a playground, take the first dirt road to your left and climb through an oak grove to a ridge with a nice view over the lake.

Lafayette Reservoir from the Rim Trail

The Rim Trail winds gradually uphill along the open, grassy ridge, offering some nice views of Lafayette and Mount Diablo. The gradients are pretty easy for the first 2 miles, but then the real climbing starts at Campolindo Drive, where the trail heads straight up an intimidatingly steep, scrub-covered slope. Even when it’s dry it’s hard to keep your footing on the gravelly surface, and when it rains it gets so slippery that it’s almost impossible to climb. Fortunately the climb isn’t very long.

The Rim Trail with the biggest climb in the background

The Rim Trail and Campolindo Drive

This is the biggest and steepest climb of the hike, but there’s still lots more climbing to come as the trail goes over a series of three more hills, one right after the other. The trail finally settles into a gradual descent after the Westview Trail. There’s some traffic noise from Highway 24 even though you can’t see the highway.

The Rim Trail

At the end of the trail, turn onto the paved road that leads to the Visitor Center parking lot, cut through the lot, and pick up the paved Lafayette Loop Trail. The trail is pleasantly wooded for most of its length. There’s some up-and-down, but not nearly as much as the outer loop.

The Lafayette Loop Trail

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