The Los Vaqueros Watershed

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The Los Vaqueros Reservoir, seen from the Vista Grande Trail

The Los Vaqueros Watershed is a huge property in the Diablo foothills that’s mainly used for fishing and boating. It also has an extensive network of trails that are little-used, probably because of the $6 entrance fee ($4 for Contra Costa Water District ratepayers).

Overall the trail system is a bit too sprawling, with a lot of wide, dusty dirt roads over open grassland with few or no trees and not many interesting destinations. Some of the roads are surfaced with gravel, and others are rough from being trampled by cows.

The Grassland Trail

Many of the trails are unfortunately closed from March through June, which is when the watershed is most attractive. In recent years only a few trails along the shore of the reservoir have been left open.

The entire watershed is heavily grazed by very excitable cows that almost always start following you around, sometimes galloping to get in front of you. It seems like they’re looking for handouts, since they usually give up after a few minutes.

The trails are surprisingly hilly, with plenty of steep climbs. There’s one exceptionally challenging climb, the Black Hills Trail to Morgan Territory, which climbs 3000 feet over just 5 miles.

The Black Hills Trail climbs 3,000 feet to Morgan Territory

The watershed has two entrances. The north entrance, near Brentwood, is not connected to the south entrance, near Livermore, except by a long drive on Vasco Road. There are some really nice facilities, including a shiny new visitor center in the north and a marina in the south.



Eagle Ridge and Vista Grande

Length 5.4 mi · Climbing 1150 ft

A hike of big vistas and wide-open spaces along two ridgetops, with superb views of the rolling, oak-sprinkled hills around the reservoir and the endless plain of the Central Valley.


Peninsula Crest and Oak Savanna

Length 10.2 mi · Climbing 1900 ft

A quiet, little-used hike to the Los Vaqueros peninsula with a nice backcountry feel and lots of wide open spaces. One of the few all-day hikes in the watershed that’s usually open in the spring.

Los Vaqueros and West Loop

Length 5.6 mi · Climbing 530 ft

Starts with a walk on a busy gravel road along Los Vaqueros Reservoir, then climbs the scenic West Loop Trail (formerly the Danner Trail) into an attractive blue oak grove with some nice views of Los Vaqueros Reservoir. Usually open in the spring.

Valley View Trail

Length 4.2 mi · Climbing 940 ft

A climb to a ridge with some really nice views over the Livermore Valley.


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