Since we moved to Contra Costa County I have been frequenting Lafayette Reservoir quite a bit. Out of all the times that I have visited, my all-time favorite memory of the reservoir is when I was 40 weeks pregnant. It was a 95 degree September day, and I was pretty sure I was in labor. I went to my doctor to be checked out, and she suggested I take a walk around the reservoir to get labor going. None of my shoes fit my swollen feet anymore, so there I was in flip flops, determined to get this baby out of me. I waddled around the whole lake, powering through the 2.7 miles without stopping.
As other walkers passed me, they asked me when the baby was coming, and all I could say was “hopefully right now!”. I was so proud that I made it all the way around. I was hot, sweaty, and ready to head to the hospital. But it turns out it was just false labor, and Addie wasn’t born until a week later.
The reservoir is the perfect place to get some exercise in whether you are in great shape and can run several laps or if you are just getting started being active, or 40 weeks pregnant! Find out exactly what I think of it by reading my detailed review below.
Address: 3849 Mt. Diablo Blvd Lafayette, CA
Hours: 6:30 am to Sundown, check website as closing time changes each month
Parking can be a bit confusing at this site as there are technically two main parking lots. One parking lot is the first row that you drive through when you enter the park. This row has spots on either side of the road and is two-hour max. You use the meters to pay for these hourly spots. Parking is $0.75/30 minutes ($3.00 total for two-hour max). This is usually plenty of time if you are planning on just walking around the reservoir as it is 2.7 miles long.
If you are looking for all-day parking, you must enter through the gate and pay $7/day as you enter. The booth is hardly ever manned, but you can use cash or credit cards in all of the meters. If you plan on visiting at least once a week, it might be worth it to purchase an annual pass. These passes are $145/year and get you into the large daily parking lot. There is a $25 fee for membership cards. I would only recommend buying the annual pass if you plan on going to the reservoir once a week or more for several years (which many locals do!). The park is run by EBMUD, so check out their website for details on passes.
There is a lot to do at the reservoir. The Lakeside Nature Trail is a paved 2.7-mile trail that follows the shoreline of the reservoir all the way around. This trail is relatively easy, even for beginners. There are a few hills that require extra effort to push a stroller up, but for the most part, the trail is flat. The Rim Trail is an unpaved 4.7-mile trail that I have not personally tried yet. I have heard it is very challenging and steep. I would not recommend this trail for beginners or parents carrying their kids in packs. Although experienced hikers can handle it.
There is also a Visitor Center at the reservoir. It is small, but the docents are nice, and there are flushing toilets! You can also rent rowboats, pedal boats, and kayaks at the visitor center or launch your own human-powered boat. Finally, there is a fun and unique playground near the East side of the reservoir. The playground is great motivation to get your kids to hike around the lake and then have play time at the end! The playground is split up into a toddler area and an older kid area. It can be pretty busy during the summer and on weekends. Groups large and small can also reserve the number of picnic sites available.
One thing that I love about this park, and specifically the Lakeside Nature Trail is the number of bathrooms there are! In 2.7 miles there are at least 10 bathrooms along the trail. Now, these are not fancy or flushing, but if you have a small child who absolutely has to go while you are in the middle of the loop (or you’re 40 weeks pregnant with a baby sitting on your bladder), it gives you an option. There are also many benches and picnic tables along the trail as well as fishing docks. I love seeing families with small children walking to one of the many fishing docks and making memories together.
As I mentioned above, there is also an awesome playground to keep your little ones entertained. I see a ton of mom groups with newborns walking the trail. I personally have had to stop at a bench to breastfeed or change a diaper, and everyone is completely considerate of this. EBMUD allows Dogs on short leashes on the trail. They also allow Bikes during certain hours throughout the week (check the website for hours for biking). So you don’t have to worry about your children getting run over by a loose dog or bicycle.
Overall, this is a great place to exercise, get out with your family, and take in the beautiful scenery. There are many different birds that call the reservoir home, including wild turkeys, great blue heron, green heron, cormorants, bald eagles, osprey, and egrets. I’ve also personally spotted river otters and deer. So if you need a great trail to walk with your family, head over to the Lafayette Reservoir and check out our local wildlife!