So if you’ve been following any of these posts for any length of time, you’ll know that while we most definitely love all outdoor locations, part of what we like to do is share spots you might not already know about. The Bay Area has some areas that are… over-trafficked, let’s say. (Tennessee Valley, anyone?) While there’s nothing wrong with these areas, we believe there are many trails deserving of just as much exploration. East Bay MUD lands are a prime target for this exploration. What is EBMUD, you ask? It is the “municipal utility district”– or where the East Bay gets its water. Let’s be clear– some of the EBMUD lands, like the Lafayette Reservoir, are most definitely NOT under-utilized. But other areas (Pinole Valley, for example–look for a post in the near future) seem practically unknown to hikers.
Over the holiday break, we decided to head out for the San Leandro Reservoir, an area not unknown to the hyper-locals (i.e., people living in Moraga) but not a well-frequented spot for the rest of us. After a couple of reconnaissance missions, we’ve determined that the San Leandro Reservoir has a good amount to recommend itself. Read on…
The main staging area for San Leandro Reservoir is off Canyon Rd in Moraga– the Valle Vista Staging Area. From here, you have several options for hiking. One caveat to this area is that signage is… mostly clear. So definitely print out the map BEFORE you get there (EBMUD does not provide maps the way most East Bay Regional Parks do) and pay attention. If you have small hikers (age 2-3), I recommend heading out towards the Rimer Creek/King’s Canyon Loop but making sure that you stay to the right once you cross the bridge. This trail will wind through a little bit of pine forest and then bring you out to the edge of the reservoir. The trail is more of a dirt road, which can feel less-than-exploratory (great for strollers!) but it runs next to horse pastures and this can be exciting! About a mile down the trail, a lovely meadow marks the start of the Kings Canyon Loop and an opportunity to head up the hill to complete the Rimer Creek Loop. We stopped and had lunch and an art moment in this meadow (but no picnic tables, so bring something to sit on).
If you have hardier hikers, the Kings Canyon Loop (maybe 6 miles total from the staging area?) is lovely and less trafficked. The first mile or so of the Kings Canyon Loop has some views that look up and down the reservoir and some that are dominated by PG&E towers. However, when the trail heads back into the canyons of the reservoir, huge oak and bay trees tower over you, providing shade and creating mossy nooks for wildflowers. When the Kings Canyon Loop heads back toward the staging area, be forewarned that there are some stretches of very steep trail. Nothing that is exceptionally long, but most definitely not flat.
Those are the “main” trails of the San Leandro Reservoir, but EBMUD trails are delightfully connected to both Redwood Regional Park (joining up with East Ridge trail) as well as Las Trampas, so if one was feeling creative and had the ability to either hike many miles, OR if one figured out a point-to-point with two cars, it could be the start/finish of an epic adventure. (The hike to Redwood is definitely closer– the point-to-point to Las Trampas will be over 10 miles.)
Of note: You absolutely must purchase a trail permit through the EBMUD website here. They are inexpensive but they will most definitely check permits and issue tickets. When you start at the parking lot, look for the sign-in spot to write down your permit and license plate. Dogs can go on leash on the Kings Canyon Loop– I am assuming this means you would take the dog on Rimer Creek trail to get to Kings Canyon, but it’s not clear from the website.