East of Mount Diablo, a huge swath of open space stretches nearly to the Central Valley. Lush green in spring, much of this land is owned by the Contra Costa Water District (CCWD), which operates Los Vaqueros Reservoir.
Expansion of the dam at the reservoir's north end began early this year, so the water has been drawn down, leaving a barren shoreline, and nearby trails will be closed until construction is complete. But the south end of the reservoir is another story. Just a few miles off Interstate 580, you'll find a marina for fishing and two parking lots with access to a variety of trails and terrain.
For a leisurely stroll, take the trail along the shoreline to the west side of the reservoir. If you have time, you can even walk to Round Valley Regional Preserve on a nearly level and well-maintained trail. With a little climbing, you can make a loop by taking a side trail that provides great vistas of the water and dam. Look for osprey, white pelicans, and burrowing owls. Try to visualize how the area will change once the reservoir is filled to its higher capacity.
For more of a challenge, take the Canada Trail, climbing steeply into woodland and chaparral to Morgan Territory Regional Preserve.
Getting there: Take the Vasco Road exit north off I-580; turn left at the reservoir sign. Parking: $6, $4 (CCWD ratepayers). No dogs or mountain bikes. CCWD has an active fishing program; rented boats only.