The trail goes from the northern staging area to the southeast staging area at Del Valle Regional Park in Livermore, California. It is approximately 7 miles long, with optional extensions at each end if you want to connect up with the Arroyo Del Valle or Ohlone Wilderness Trails.
Since this will be a full day hike, bring something to eat and plenty of water to drink. Also, make sure you are dressed for the weather — in summer (from the mid-June to mid-September), temperatures will pass 90 degrees Fahrenheit regularly, and can pass 110 degrees Fahrenheit during a heat wave. Therefore, you'll want to hike the trail in either late autumn, winter, or spring, when temperatures are more bearable — although once you reach a few hundred feet, it can snow in winter, although snow is uncommon at these elevations.
You should also get the Trail Map, which is available for free online or at the North Del Valle Staging Area. It tells you the length of the trail and the elevation change along the way, along with information for other trails in Del Valle Regional Park.
You have a couple choices, depending on whether or not you're hiking the full Ohlone Trail or not. If you want to do a very long day hike (over 10 miles), you can begin your day hike at the 1 Sycamore Grove Park staging area, take the paved Arroyo del Valle Trail to the 2 Veterans staging area, and then follow the dirt trail that connects the Veterans Staging Area and the 3 North Del Valle Staging Area.
Another option is to begin at the Veterans Staging Area and do an approximately 8 mile hike, starting on the connection trail to the North Del Valle Staging Area and then following the East Shore Trail from there. The connecting trail is not shown on the Del Valle Park Trail Map, but it follows parallel with the Arroyo Road, which is shown on the Trail Map.
The final option is to park at the North Del Valle Staging Area and get straight to the East Shore Trail and do the 7-mile hike. This hike begins a short distance north of the colossal Lake Del Valle Dam. Getting to the North Del Valle Staging Area is not too hard, either: follow Arroyo Road south out of Livermore until there's a gate and you can't go any farther. At this point there should be a parking area to your left where you can start your hike. If there is no parking area to the left, they've probably closed the other gate farther down the road, in which case you won't be able to reach the North Del Valle Staging Area unless you go back to Veterans Park and start your hike along the connecting trail.
This itinerary goes from the North to South, to match the Arroyo del Valle and Ohlone Wilderness Trail itineraries. Since the trail is several miles long, start the hike fairly early in the morning (like 7 AM Pacific Time).
From the North Del Valle Staging Area to the first lakeviewEdit
From the North Del Valle Staging Area, follow the main trail east across the valley. To your right is the 1 Del Valle Dam, a truly colossal structure that holds back the waters of Lake Del Valle. However, a sight almost eye-catching as the Dam is in front of you: the 2 Arroyo del Valle Cliffs. Unfortunately, the best views of these cliffs are during the afternoon due to the direction of the sunlight, not the morning when you will be hiking the trail, so these cliffs are not the sight as they can be, but their sheer size is still magnificent.
Along the main trail you cross the valley and go down to the creek. There is a bridge over the creek, and then on the other side of the creek you soon start to climb the ridge. There is a gate which you go through, and then a choice of two trails you can take. One is the "official" trail, which is shown on the park/trail map and is wider, and the other is a narrow trail that goes extremely close to the cliffs so you can get the best view of them. However, this trail is not shown on the map.
If you stay on the main trail, after the other trail splits off, the ascent will become much more speedy. It turns around the side of the ridge and you can some more excellent views of the cliffs before you continue south from the cliffs toward the lake. You will pass a couple small ponds where there are often some cows, but the trail will continue to ascend quickly. Once you reach the top of the ridge, you will have excellent views to the north and south. The view to the southeast will be Lake Del Valle, and in the far distance Ohlone Wilderness and to the northwest is the city of Livermore. Here, the trail you have been taking turns to the left and gradually descends the other side of the ridge. There are some picnic benches early in the descent. There are some smaller trails that go down the lake faster, but so you don't get lost stay on the main trail, which is the widest of the trails.
First lakeview to the Southeast Del Valle Park Staging AreaEdit
The next part of the trail is long and not so rewarding in views — instead, it can be annoying, since you have to go all around the eastern side of the lake, around all the little inlets and canyons, and make a lot of short but not particularly enjoyable descents and ascents along the way. While you rarely get close to the lake along this part of the trail, you rarely get high enough to actually get the lake views you got earlier in the hike. Along this section, which is the majority of it, you will go around several sections of the lake, which the Trail Map call "Heron Bay" in the north, and "Swallow Bay" and "Badger Cove" around halfway along the lake. After Badger Cove, the trail becomes narrow and follow the side of a hill with the lake to your right. You'll eventually turn to the left and from then on, the route is flat, goes close to the lake, and there are plenty of people, not so much serious hikers as those out for a casual stroll; this is because you are nearing the end of the 7-mile trail and approaching a much larger staging area than the northern one. At the end of the 7-mile hike you will reach a parking lot and the marina. This is where the hike ends — that is, unless you want to do the even more challenging Ohlone Wilderness Trail.
To the Ohlone Wilderness TrailEdit
If you want to continue onto the Ohlone Wilderness Trail, you need to hike farther to reach the start of that trail. This requires hiking all the way to the southern end of the Lake Del Valle via the East Shore Trail and then crossing the road bridge when you reach the end of the trail. Once you cross the road bridge, you are in the western part of the park, and from there hike north along the road until you reach a trailhead for the "Sailor Camp Trail".
The main wildlife dangers are mountain lions and rattlesnakes. If you stay on wider trails and you look where you are going, rattlesnakes will not be such a risk. Since mountain lions are larger, they are more intimidating if you find yourself near one. If the mountain lion wants to harm you, it is generally recommended that you should try to scare them away. This can be done the most easily if you are in a group; you are at the highest risk if you hike alone.
- The Ohlone Wilderness requires a permit to enter and is much more challenging to hike through. However, it’s adjacent to Del Valle Park, so at least in theory you could combine the Ohlone and East Shore Trails and do a very long, multiple day hike.
- For general information about hiking in the area, check out the Hiking in the East Bay travel topic article.