Del Valle Regional Park is one of the parks in the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) in Alameda County, California, south of the city of Livermore. The park is mostly east, but also partially west, of Lake Del Valle, an artificial reservoir made in 1968 by damming Arroyo del Valle, a small river.
Del Valle Regional Park is an EBRPD (East Bay Regional Parks District) Park. The EBRPD is a special district operating in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, California, within the East Bay area of the San Francisco Bay Area. The EBRPD maintains and operates a system of regional parks which is the largest urban regional park district in the United States. The East Bay Parks administrative office is in Oakland.
Construction crews began work on the lake in 1966. The construction of Del Valle Reservoir was finished in 1968. Del Valle Regional Park was opened to the public in 1970, 36 years after the EBRPD was founded in 1934.
California Drought in 2010s
In the mid-2010s, a severe drought struck the California region, including the East Bay. This situation caused 12 million trees in California to die, and resulted in the East Bay Regional Park District writing an article to help with the drought.
Flooding in the 2016-2017 winter
Shortly after the California drought in the 2010s, Del Valle Regional Park suffered widespread damage from the unusually heavy rains and La Niña that struck the East Bay in early 2017. Much of the damage was around Lake Del Valle, where runoff overflowed five times into beaches, campgrounds and picnic areas. Some of the trails were washed out and needed to be rebuilt. The park was closed for nearly three months, before reopening on April 15, 2017. EBRPD estimated the cost to repair this park alone at $1.8 billion, and said the cost would rise further if the rains continued.
Like Henry Coe State Park, Del Valle Regional Park has mountainous countryside, although Del Valle has more oak woodlands than it does pine forests. In the center of the park is a large reservoir, called Lake Del Valle. The lowest point in Del Valle Regional Park is near the Arroyo Staging Area to the far north. The park's highest elevations are in the southeast and far south, near Ohlone Regional Wilderness.
Fairly large cliffs are scattered throughout the park, but are most common along the reservoir shores and in the canyon to the north of the lake. There are notable cliffs near Arroyo Road that are clearly visible from around the Tri-Valley. The south is generally flatter, with a sandy delta area at the southern end of Lake Del Valle; this delta area is practically dry during droughts and can be completely covered with water after rainy seasons.
Nearly all of the park border regions are mountainous. These mountains are only grass-covered at lowest elevations, then oak tree covered on higher hills, and finally pine covered at the highest elevations in the park.
Flora and fauna
Although Del Valle Regional Park is mountain lion country, flora are more commonly seen in Del Valle Regional Park than fauna. Grass covers much of the land, and chaparral is only seen in shaded creeks in the east of the park and on the numerous cliffs and steep hillsides.
Del Valle has a Mediterranean climate, and can get hot in summer. There are small but noticeable temperature differences in varying regions of the park. Naturally, the hottest region of the park is low-lying region near Arroyo del Valle. However, temperatures could be as much as ten degrees cooler at the tops of the highest peaks, which can be nearly three thousand feet in height.
Generally, the mountains around Del Valle Regional Park receive snow when the main rainstorm moves into the area during the winter. This is often in December or January, and results in a few inches of rain falling in the region within a few days. Temperatures during the daytime, even in winter, are too warm for a snowfall, even in the park's higher elevations, but if rain falls during the nighttime, at the top of the mountain peaks, temperatures get low enough for snowfall. After temperatures rise again the next day, a lot of the snow melts, but at higher elevation, the snowfall resulting from recent storms can last a couple days.
This typically happens about once a year, with the storms being more substantial some years than others. In the 2018-2019 winter, a combination of cold temperatures and wet weather resulted in a good snowfall, especially in the mountain peaks in the Del Valle region.
After a snowfall, the mountain peaks are especially beautiful for viewing. From the Tri-Valley, you can see them in some places, but not others, due to buildings, trees, and hills.
There are two main ways to enter Del Valle Regional Park by car.
The southern entrance to the park is the more impressive of the two main park entrances. Del Valle Road goes from Mines Road across some large hills before coming down a steep slope toward the reservoir. Near the bottom of the hill is an entry kiosk and a junction. Driving straight on at the junction takes you to the southwestern park staging area, which includes a swimming area, the campground, and the Rocky Ridge Visitor Center. A right turn leads to the marina and a few campsites. To enter the park via the southern entrance, take Livermore Avenue (Tesla Road) out of Livermore. One you have reached the wine country, there will be a right turn onto a road called "Mines Road" this road is straight for one-fourth of a mile before it goes into a valley. If you follow Mines Road for a few miles, you come to a junction. If you take a left turn at this junction, you will go into the mountains and eventually go to Mount Hamilton and San Jose. If you continue straight at the junction, you will go along Del Valle Road to the park as described above.
The northern entrance is very different. For the northern entrance, drive along Arroyo Road south out of Livermore. This road goes into wine country and eventually leads into a narrow canyon. After a few miles, there will be a golf course and Wente Vineyards on your left, and Veterans Park and the Veterans Memorial Hospital on your right. Most drivers turn off Arroyo Road at this point, but if you're going to Del Valle Regional Park, continue straight until you reach the end of the public section of the road. If you turn left just before the gate, there will be a parking lot; this is the Arroyo entrance to the park.
Cyclists can get to the park by taking Mines Road south from Livermore and then Del Valle Road to the southern entrance to Del Valle Regional Park.
You can hike into the park by walking from Independence Park (in Livermore), through Sycamore Grove Park and Veterans Park, and then taking the narrow trail from Veterans Park to Del Valle Regional Park.
Fees and permits
You need a permit to get into the Ohlone Wilderness to the south, but only fees are required to enter Del Valle Regional Park. For the northern entrance, there is only a parking fee, not a general entrance fee, so by walking into the park you avoid having to pay any entrance fees.
Particularly in the south, there are roads which connect the parking lots, camping sites, and general staging areas. However, the northern parts of the park do not have roads.
Please note that some trails used to be ranch roads, and the road names were kept on park trail maps when the ranch roads were converted to trails. Just because a trail route includes the name "road" does not necessarily mean that ordinary vehicles can drive along it.
A several-mile trail connects the southern and northern ends of the park. Most of this trail is as wide as a dirt road, although there is a relatively narrow part of the trail in the southern part of the park. The many bays and inlets of Lake Del Valle make the journey across the park feel like a long and tiring one. Unless you are a marathon runner or expert hiker, plan a whole day to hike across the park.
Many other, shorter trails go around specific sections of the park. There is a network of trails in the southeastern section of the park, although there are a few trails in the western and far southern regions of Del Valle Park.
From the oak woodlands to Lake Del Valle to the cliffs along Arroyo Road, Del Valle Regional Park has scenery that is surprisingly varied. The variation is partially due to the elevation throughout the park, and partially due to the water supply from Arroyo del Valle creek and Lake Del Valle.
The main sight in Del Valle Regional Park, though, is just the park itself - the general scenery associated with the park.
Del Valle Cliffs
The Del Valle region is the only part of the Tri-Valley with notable sedimentary cliffs. The most dramatic of these are just north of the Del Valle Reservoir and are not only visible from the Arroyo Road entrance to the park, but also to residents of the nearby city of Pleasanton and parts of the city of Livermore.
- 1 Arroyo del Valle - Major Cliffs. 300-foot-high cliffs are in a dramatic canyon a short distance north of the lake. These can be seen from around the Tri-Valley, but the best views are from a narrow, steep trail which branches off from the main one about half a mile from the Arroyo Staging Area and goes up the canyon to some dramatic views of the cliff. There is also an unofficial trail up the cliff, but it is extremely difficult and dangerous to climb.
- 2 Arroyo del Valle - Minor Cliffs. Although no Del Valle Regional Park trails lead to these cliffs, you can see them if you hike along the northern part of the Eastern Shore Trail. They are smaller and less dramatic than the Major Cliffs but are still an interesting sight.
Lake del Valle
The centerpiece of the park, this reservoir was built around 50 years ago by constructing a dam near what is now the Arroyo Road Park Entrance.Lake Del Valle provides a source of recreation for visitors including swimming, fishing, and boating, although lifeguards are present at designated swimming areas. There are several bays and inlets on Lake del Valle, including Heron Bay in the north, and Swallow Bay and Badger Cove in the middle section of the lake.
- 3 Badger Cove. This long, narrow inlet is just southeast of Swallow Bay. its southern boundary is a steep, oak-covered slope, while its northern boundary is the peninsula that divides Badger Cove and Swallow Bay. A creek flows into Badger Cove's eastern end.
- 4 Heron Bay. The northern end of Lake Del Valle, some of which is known as Heron Bay, is the widest and most impressive part of the lake. Heron Bay is more than half a mile wide and half a mile long and is a popular destination on boat tours and other boat excursions. Part of the East Shore Trail goes around Heron Bay, and viewing this bay is one of the most scenic views in Del Valle Regional Park.
- 5 Swallow Bay. This bay marks the central section of Lake Del Valle. A creek flows into the northern part of the bay and a peninsula cuts into the bay's southern end. Although Swallow Bay seems to be closer to the northern end of Lake Del Valle when it is viewed on a map, the bay is best accessed from the southeastern Del Valle staging area.
- 6 Abandoned Cabin. An abandoned cabin building can be seen in the far eastern section of Del Valle Park. It is a small, wooden cabin that is next to a creek.
- 7 Bridge to Nowhere. On the far side of the Cedar Camp Pond is a wonky bridge that leans treacherously toward the pond. It can be reached by walking through a group of bushes and then going around the back of the lake to get onto the bridge. When it comes to walking on the bridge - do so at your own risk! It is not in good condition and is at such an angle that it is hard to walk on. Nowadays, the bridge just punctures one side of the pond and serves no purpose as an actual bridge.
- 8 Orchard. There is a small orchard near the Arroyo staging area. When the orchard was planted and what purpose it served is unknown.
Although hiking is a popular activity at Del Valle Regional Park, swimming and boating are also popular pastimes. There is a designated swimming area in the southern section of the park.
Self-guided hiking routes
Although trails abound in the park, there are some specific routes that include the best scenery and most scenic views in the park.
- 1 "Cedar Camp Hike" (Hilltop parking area (Southeastern Del Valle)). There is a parking area near the top of the hill along Del Valle Road. If you park at this parking area and then walk alongside Del Valle Road about one-fifth of a mile to the east, you should see a gate on your right and a trail beyond it. If you follow this trail, it follows the contours for some time before intersecting with another trail and beginning a steep descent into a canyon below. If you continue deep into the canyon, you will go past several ranches and have excellent views of the mountain ranges around the Del Valle Park. The trail then passes an abandoned cabin before reaching some interesting forested country. You should eventually reach a trail called the "Cedar Camp Trail". If you take a right onto this trail, you will go about one-third of a mile along a valley until you reach the Cedar Camp. There are picnic benches and restrooms at the campsite. It is an approximately 2-3 mile hike to the Cedar Group Camp, and if you come back the way you came, it should be approximately 4-5 miles.
- 2 "Deer Jaw Trail" (Southwestern park staging area). Only the southern portion of Del Valle's western shore has any trails, but once you get away from the swimming section and the Rocky Ridge Visitor Center, the western shore trail is peaceful and gives you a better understanding of the flora and fauna of southern Del Valle Reservoir - which is different from the areas to the north of it. This section of the West Shore Trail is called the Deer Jaw Trail and goes north from the Rocky Ridge Visitor Center, along the shore of the lake, to a canyon. The trail is about one mile long.
- 3 "East Shore Trail" to Swallow Bay (Southeastern park entrance (by the marina)). This section of the East Shore Trail begins at the marina in the southern part of Del Valle Regional Park and makes its way along the eastern shore of the lake to Badger Cove and Swallow Bay. The trail begins to become quieter when it narrows near Badger Cove and follows the slope of an oak-covered ridge. It then passes Badger Cove and continues to the nearby Swallow Bay. Although this section of the trail is about two miles, the East Shore Trail continues for another few miles from here to the northern Arroyo Entrance to the Del Valle Park.
- 4 "East Shore Trail" to the ridgetop (Arroyo Road park entrance). This hiking route begins at the northern Arroyo entrance to the park and follows the same trail as the one that leads to Swallow Bay - except that it begins at the northern end of the Del Valle Park. From this entrance/staging area, the trail divides in two and crosses an orchard. The trails then come back together and cross the main Arroyo del Valle Creek. After the creek is a gate before the trail begins to ascend the ridge. A small trail branches off to the left and leads to views of the Arroyo del Valle Cliffs, while the main trail more directly ascends the ridge. At the top of the ridge, there are two scenic vistas - behind you is the trail you just took and the Tri-Valley, and in front is Lake del Valle and Ohlone Regional Wilderness. Farther along the ridgetop section of the trail is an oak tree where you can sit at a bench and view the lake. The only downside to this hike is that, from the first part of the route, the dam is clearly in view. The trail (from the staging area to the ridgetop) is about a mile in length; however, the trail continues for several miles past the ridgetop toward the southern section of the park.
- 5 East Del Valle Trail Network (Arroyo Road park entrance). There is a trail network in southeastern Del Valle that leads from the East Shore Trail into the ridges above it. The East Ridge parking lot (at the ridgetop, along Del Valle Road) and the marina are both staging areas near this trail network, and several of the turn-offs along the southern section of the East Shore Trail lead upwards towards the East Ridge. Cutting into the ridge are several canyons that the eastern trails pass through, including Hidden Canyon. This region of the park is good for those who want a taste of Diablo Range cowboy country.
- 6 "Sailor Camp Trail" to Ohlone Regional Wilderness (Arroyo Road park entrance). The one-mile Sailor Camp Trail goes up a large ridge in the far south of Del Valle. After one mile, you need a permit to continue into the Ohlone Regional Wilderness, which, although part of the East Bay Regional Parks District, is a separate park and is not in Del Valle Regional Park. Permits can be obtained at the Del Valle Park southern entrance if you do want to continue into Ohlone Regional Wilderness, which (to cross) is more than twenty miles over numerous mountain ranges and mountain peaks. The Ohlone Wilderness Trail, the only major trail in the Ohlone Wilderness, goes to Sunol Regional Wilderness and the city of Fremont.
- 7 Sycamore Grove - Del Valle Trail (Veterans Memorial Park entrance; Arroyo Road entrance). A short trail connects the Veterans Memorial Park (and adjacent Sycamore Grove Park) with Del Valle Regional Park. It follows Arroyo del Valle and passes the Taylor Foundation campsite before crossing Arroyo Road to enter Del Valle Regional Park from the north.
Other tours and activities
There are specific buildings at Del Valle that assist in the park's most popular recreational activities.
- 8 Lake Del Valle Marina, 7000 Del Valle Road. The public may rent motorboats, patio boats, pedal boats, and canoes at the East Beach marina area. Kayaks can be rented at the Kayak Center at the east beach. Any size boat may be launched at the public boat ramp.
- 9 Rocky Ridge Visitor Center (Take Del Valle Road to the very end and turn right). The visitor center is open weekends June 1st through September 30th; 10:00am-5:00pm. The visitor center is on the lake's west side and contains exhibits and information about the history of Del Valle and surrounding wilderness. Campers and park visitors are encouraged to visit and talk with naturalists and student aides about the park and the lake, and to take part in the programs that happen during the summer. Campfire programs at the campground amphitheater begin Memorial Day weekend; campers and park visitors can join naturalists for an evening around a campfire, with activities including songs, stories, games, and marshmallow roasting. Park visitors can also enjoy a scenic boat tour of the lake with naturalist staff.
Buy, eat, and drink
Water is available at some of the campsites for those who are camping in the park. For a day trip to the park, bring your own food and drink.
For lodging, it would probably be best to head back to Pleasanton or Livermore, where you can sleep at many decent hotels. These towns are also only a few miles away from the park, so they would work as a good base for exploration if you do want to camp at Del Valle Regional Park. However, cabins will be added to the park's camping facilities in October 2018.
There are several campsites at Del Valle.
- 1 Ardilla Camp (West side of the lake, past Lichen Bark, 0.1-mile hike, near flush toilets and water). Capacity 50. Hike-in only; vehicles may not be used to transport equipment.
- 2 Cedar Camp (About .21 miles from the park’s southern entrance road). Capacity 50. Hike-in only; vehicles may not be used to transport equipment.
- Eagles View Camp (East side). This camp includes a restroom and paved parking. Capacity 50.
- 3 Hetch Hetchy Camp (It is 0.7 miles north of the East Side Boat Launch). This large meadow on the east side of the lake about one mile from the boat ramp is well-suited for camporees. Capacity 150. Hike-in only; vehicles may not be used to transport equipment.
- 4 Punta Vaca Camp (Family campground). Less developed than Wild Turkey Camp. Capacity 75.
- Venados Camp (East side of the lake, 1.5 miles from the boat ramp). Leave vehicles in the parking lot near the concession stand. Capacity 50. Hike-in only; vehicles may not be used to transport equipment.
- Wild Turkey Camp (In the family campground stone fire circle in the amphitheater). More developed than Punta Vaca Camp. Capacity 50.
- Main article: Diablo Range#Stay safe
For the most part, Del Valle Regional Park is fairly safe. Concerns are typical for California hikers, varying from earthquakes to animals to weather.
- Lick Observatory - down Mines Road to the south of Lake Del Valle, there is a small semi-abandoned community and observatory at 4,000 feet on the top of Mount Hamilton.
- Pleasanton - town to the northwest of Lake Del Valle, with wine country, upscale restaurants, and historic district
- Livermore - one of only a handful of places on Earth that has an element on the Periodic Table named after it.
- Ohlone Regional Wilderness - a more than twenty-mile-long wilderness area with numerous ridges