Location: Lafayette Reservoir Recreation Area (Lafayette, CA)
Directions: Take Mt. Diablo Blvd exit from Hwy 24 (3849 Mt. Diablo Blvd). Lafayette Reservoir is about 30 minutes east of San Francisco.
Parking Fee: $7 (or use limited number of metered parking)
The Fourth of July weekend was filled with family reunions and catching up with my nieces and nephew who I haven’t seen in a year. My brother and his family have been living in Japan this past year and are back in the US for just the summer. Catching up also meant celebrating holidays and birthdays that we missed when they were away. So, we not only celebrated the Fourth of July, but we also celebrated Christmas by eating Beef Wellington (our family’s Holiday tradition), Easter by having an Easter egg hunt and everyone’s birthdays with a slice of cake and our own individual candle to blow out. We somehow fit this all in between swimming in the pool, having a kids baking championship and playing video games.
By the time the festivities were over, we were ready to do something a little more quiet and relaxing. Hiking the loop trail around Lafayette Reservoir was a perfect way to get outside and appreciate the outdoors with kids. Lafayette Reservoir is a recreation area in the East Bay (San Francisco Bay area) off of Hwy 24. This place has a 2.7 mile loop called the Lakeside Nature Trail (paved) which has some rolling hills, but overall is an easy hike. There is another more challenging trail called the Rim Trail which is 4.7 miles, unpaved, for anyone wanting more of a workout. My daughter, nephew and I arrived at Lafayette Reservoir around 11 am on a Tuesday (the day after the Fourth of July) and started hiking in the counterclockwise direction. It didn’t feel crowded, but there was definitely people around. This is a very popular place on the weekends.
We passed the colorful boats near the Visitor Center and talked about renting a paddle boat after our hike.During the first half of the hike, although there is beautiful scenery, much of the reservoir is hidden behind trees.There were more views of the reservoir later on in the hike.We found a dock with a picnic bench to have our picnic. There are many docks all along the Reservoir, you just have to travel down one of the many unmarked trails down to the water’s edge and see if you get lucky finding an unoccupied dock.
The last part of the hike had beautiful reservoir views and passed by a picnic area with a large grassy field and a playground.
When we got back to the parking lot, we decided that we still had plenty of energy for paddle boating, so we headed over to the Visitor Center.
We rented a paddle boat for $15/hour ($40 security deposit). Although there was a little wind, it was a gorgeous day and it felt great being out on the water. I especially liked the part where I could just relax in the backseat and let the kids paddle, although it didn’t seem like we were moving that much.
After all that hiking and paddle boating, I wanted to treat the kids to some ice cream. Smitten is just about 10 minutes away on Mt. Diablo Blvd and I had heard about Smitten before where they make ice cream made-to-order using liquid nitrogen. I’ve had ice cream made from liquid nitrogen before, but the ice cream at Smitten seemed so much more creamy and just tastier. We were in pure ice cream heaven! (A bit on the expensive side though, so a special treat)
If you’re in the East Bay in search of an easy hike to do with the kids, the Lakeside Nature Trail around the Lafayette Reservoir is a great one to do (the Rim Trail offers a more challenging alternative). Add some paddle or row boating, have a picnic at one of the many picnic sites or on a dock, let the younger kids run around the playground, ride your bike (only on certain days, check embed.com for specifics), and finish off the day with ice cream at Smitten down the street. My nephew kept saying how much fun he was having throughout the day, I hope I earned some auntie brownie points!