Nice Loop Around Lake Chabot
The earthen dam holding back Lake Chabot was completed in 1875, but was closed to recreation for 91 years. Today Lake Chabot Regional Park is popular for hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and picnicking. Very popular. Don't plan on hiking in solitude.
This describes the loop going counterclockwise. This loop isn't too difficult in terms of elevation gain, but I was surprised that my route came out to 1,535' AEG. The hike begins near the marina in the large picnic area. Indeed, this park will be full of partying picnickers every weekend afternoon. Follow the signs to the East Shore Trail. There are numerous kiosks in the marina area, and a few of them offer free park brochures with maps for you to take. The East Shore Trail is paved for its first 1.65 miles. It's somewhat of a downer, but you begin to appreciate the views you'll have on this hike. Live Oak Island in the middle of the eastern portion of Lake Chabot is provides an interesting sight with eucalyptus-covered slopes on the far side of the lake in the background.
The initial paved stretch tends to be crowded on the weekends, but this gives you the opportunity to people-watch, and people-watching in the Bay Area is always quite interesting. The pavement ends at a long wooden bridge branching off to the left. This bridge is about 500 feet long, and spans the swampy joining of San Leandro Creek with Lake Chabot. The water here is stagnant and warm in late summer so plan on running across it unless you enjoy being swarmed by insects.
The west side of the bridge joins the Live Oak Trail headed uphill to the right, and the Honkers Bay Trail to the left. Take Honkers Bay about a mile as it sticks close to the northeast arm of Lake Chabot which is not coincidentally referred to as Honkers Bay. I almost forgot to mention that you'll see many Canada geese and other aquatic birds. I saw a lot of mallards as well. After about a mile the trail begins a healthy ascent through a nice mix of coast live oak, bay laurel, and madrone which has characterized much of your hike to this point. The portion before the bridge is more lush with a profusion of ferns while it is drier past the bridge. As you ascend towards the highest part of this route you enter the dense eucalyptus forest that cloaks the north side of Lake Chabot. The non-native eucalyptus dominate the area, but at least they smell nice.
This stretch reaches its end as it crosses the typically dry Grass Valley Creek as the eucalyptus disappears and the native vegetation returns. There is a bench just past this crossing in the deep forest which is a good place to rest. Veer left onto the Bass Cove Trail which travels about 100 feet above the lake for 1.8 miles until it reaches the dam. Cross the modern dam which is now far bigger than its predecessor, and return to pavement. The last 1.8 miles are paved, and you're likely to see a lot of people. The views in this stretch are the best of the hike with the sunlit north/east shore across the lake. You reach the marina soon enough.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.