Yes, the Bay Area is blessed with its proximity to the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, but when it comes to dipping our toes in the water or soaking up the vibe of a scene at the lakeside, we have a lot of options.
Continuing drought could limit access to lakes for fishing and boating due to lower water levels, but there are shores, picnic areas, and hiking trails to enjoy. (Given our current state of constant change, it’s best to check with rangers if you want to be in or on the water, not just next to it.)
Here are some of the Bay Area’s favorite places.
Napa County in the Vaca Mountains
Last year’s devastating Hennessey fire destroyed some structures and severely scarred parts of the woodlands around the region’s largest recreational lake, forcing a month-long shutdown. But the recovery is underway and Berryessa should be in full swing this summer.
Wedged between Blue Ridge and Cedar Roughs, Berryessa – with its 165 miles of oak-covered shoreline – is an ideal destination for boating and paddle sports, fishing, hiking, cycling, and bird watching ( keep an eye out for eagles, hawks and turkeys). And for swimmers there are especially good vibrations, as the water temperature in Berryessa reaches up to 75 degrees in summer.
Popular launch sites include the historic Markley Cove Resort, located between Winters and the Napa Valley, and Pleasure Cove Marina, which miraculously escaped fire damage.
- Cabins for up to 10 people are available for rent at Pleasure Cove (pets not allowed).
- The cottages at Markley Cove are closed until further notice due to fire damage.
- Swimmers can access the shore from day use areas managed by the Bureau of Reclamation. There are boat exclusion zones located in Oak Shores so families can swim safely away from motorboats. No lifeguard is on duty.
- Among Berryessa’s popular hikes is the Smittle Creek Trail, a 4.7 mile rated moderate trail, which follows the shoreline from Smittle Creek Park to Coyote Knolls in Oak Shores Park.
- Find details on the Markley Cove Resort at https://markleycove.com and Pleasure Cove Marina at https://goberryessa.com.
Lake del Valle
Central Alameda County, 5 miles south of Livermore
Del Valle, operated by the East Bay State Park District, is a local favorite that offers a variety of recreational options, including fishing, boating, windsurfing, and sailing. Algae levels have reduced swimming this season, and kayaking, stand-up paddling, and similar watercraft near water are not recommended.
But it is a hiker’s paradise. The 5 mile long lake is surrounded by 4,395 acres of parkland with a plethora of trails for hiking, horseback riding and nature study. The park also serves as the eastern gateway to the Ohlone Wilderness Trail and its 28 miles of scenic backcountry trails.
Download the park district’s full-color trail guides before you set off, so you know what wildflowers and plants you’ll see on your hike.
- Launching fees are $ 5 per day for towed boats, and several outfitters, including Rocky Mountain Recreation Company and Outback Adventures, offer rentals. The park also has 150 campsites.
- Parking costs $ 6 per car and $ 4 per towed vehicle.
- Bring Fido? There is a charge of $ 2 per dog, but guide and assistance dogs are free.
- The park gates are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily until Labor Day. Find details on www.ebparks.org.
Coyote Lake Harvey Bear Ranch County Park
10840 Coyote Reservoir Road, Gilroy
Coyote Lake and this park are nestled in the hills just east of Gilroy and offer a wide variety of entertainment including trails for biking, horseback riding and hiking, fishing, camping and boating. , when water levels permit. (Low water levels closed the lake to navigation last fall.)
The 6,695-acre regional park features an amphitheater, picnic areas, paved and nature trails – and your canine friends can join you, as long as they’re on a leash.
The lake is also popular with anglers, with black bass, bluegill, black crappie and Eurasian carp swimming in its waters.
- The park, which is part of the Santa Clara County park system, offers day use permits for $ 6. Camping fees range from $ 18 for backpacking tent sites to $ 44 for recreational vehicles.
- The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to sunset. Find details on www.sccgov.org/sites/parks/.
Crystal Springs Reservoir
950 Skyline Boulevard, Burlingame
The Crystal Springs Reservoir consists of two man-made lakes built in a valley fault created by the San Andreas fault. The lakes are part of the San Mateo Creek watershed and therefore no on-water activity is permitted.
But this stunning location is worth a visit, thanks to a 15+ mile trail that winds around lakes and through some of the most beautiful scenery you’ll find. This trail is popular with hikers, cyclists, skaters and runners of all ages.
The Lower Reservoir covers the once booming town of Crystal Springs, which at its height included a hotel, dairies, and a stagecoach stop. The city went bankrupt in 1875 and by 1887 it was covered by the Lower Crystal Springs reservoir.
The upper reservoir, originally called Laguna Grande, marks the site of an encampment of the famous Portola Expedition, a Spanish exploratory voyage in 1769-1770, marking the first recorded landing of Europeans in what is now California.
- The trails are teeming with native wild plants and flowers, as well as a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles.
- The Crystal Springs Reservoir Trial has three segments – the San Andreas, Sawyer Camp, and Crystal Springs – with multiple entry points for each, so you can customize your hike to whatever length you prefer. Find trail maps and details about this San Mateo County park at https://parks.smcgov.org/.
3849 mount. Boulevard Diablo, Lafayette
Although boating is temporarily suspended from the reservoir – you can normally rent pedal and row boats here – there is plenty to see and do on this popular waterway, including hiking, fishing and picnicking – nics.
As the reservoirs in the Bay Area are disappearing, this one is relatively new. Construction of the earth-filled dam began in 1928, but soon encountered a problem. As the concrete deck was poured, the dam began to slide downhill, coming to rest 200 meters from its starting point. A redesign – and caution – delayed completion until 1933.
The reservoir is smaller than originally expected – and its eye-catching exit tower is oddly taller – but hikers on the paved 2.7-mile Lakeside Nature Trail don’t seem to care. The 4.5 mile unpaved Rim Trail that crosses the hills of Moraga and Lafayette offers more of a hiking challenge. Dogs are welcome on a leash. And fishing is allowed with a license.
- Cyclists and people on roller skates, roller skates and scooters are permitted on the lake trail and roads from noon until closing on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and open until 11 a.m. on Sundays.
- Only small picnics – 3 households and 25 people maximum – are now allowed. (The large reservable picnic areas remain closed.)
- The park, which is part of the East Bay Utilities District watershed, is open from 6 a.m. until dusk, 9 p.m. in June and July and 8:30 p.m. in August and so on. Parking is $ 7 per vehicle. Find details at https://www.ebmud.com/recreation.
17600, chemin du lac Chabot, Castro Valley
Lac Chabot Regional Park has long been considered one of the Bay Area’s best-kept secrets, but it probably won’t be for long.
That’s because there’s something for everyone here: beautiful scenery and abundant wildlife are Instagram-ready. The land is dotted with more than a dozen hiking and biking trails. There is an outdoor fitness area, grassy playground, picnic areas, horseshoe pits and more.
At the center of it all is a 315 acre reservoir filled with large trout and catfish and crisscrossed by boats of all types. Do you want to leave the duties of skipper to someone else? Visitors can relax aboard the Chabot Queen excursion boat.
And when it’s time for refueling, there’s the Lake Chabot Marina and Cafe, known among other things for its Skippy Burger (yes, that’s peanut butter on a burger).
- Access to fishing is $ 5 per day.
- Tent and RV camping is available year-round at the nearby Anthony Chabot Campground. To reserve, call the East Bay Regional Park District at 510-562-2267.
- Parking costs $ 5 per vehicle and $ 4 per towed vehicle.
- The park is open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. until Labor Day, and the cafe is open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. for take out. Find cafe and boat rental details at www.lakechabotrecreation.com and the park at www.ebparks.org.
Between Livermore and Brentwood, in the north of the Diablo Range
If you’re in the mood for big fish, check out Los Vaqueros Reservoir, touted by some as the best fishing lake in the Bay Area. Need proof? See photos of fishermen posing with their huge trout on the lake’s Facebook page.
Apparently, size matters when it comes to Los Vaqueros. With a volume of 160,000 acre-feet of water, it is twice the size of the San Pablo Reservoir. And because it relies heavily on water from the delta rather than storm runoff, it can withstand drought conditions better than many other lakes in the region.
It is also one of the best sites in the Bay Area to see and photograph golden eagles, incredible hunters that prey on ground squirrels and other rodents. Winter and spring are the best times to spot them.
- Los Vaqueros has over 60 miles of trails. There are departure points at both entrances, as well as departure points along main roads and at the marina.
- Because the reservoir stores potable water, swimming and personal watercraft are not permitted, but boat rentals are available at the marina. No dogs allowed.
- Parking costs $ 6 for the general public, $ 5 for seniors, and $ 4 for those who live in the Contra Costa aquatic district. Find more details at www.ccwater.com/losvaqueros.