It’s a shame that going hiking or swimming so often entails firing up the old greenhouse gas generator. But thanks to its proximity to BART, Quarry Lakes Regional Recreation Area in Fremont provides an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors without enlarging your carbon footprint. With easy trails, plentiful wildlife, and a swimming area, this is also a fun outing for kids.
To get there from the Union City BART station, exit onto Union Square St. and go left (south) to Alvarado Niles Road; left again two blocks, past Osprey Drive to the locked gate that excludes cars from Fox Avenue, a weed grown but smooth asphalt track to the park. There’s a pedestrian entrance, and once past it, you’re screened by feral pines, eucalyptus and coyote brush from nearby traffic and the BART tracks, passing an undeveloped hay field active with meadowlarks and song sparrows. This backdoor entrance enters the park behind its parking lot, becoming Western Pacific Trail (gravel, and not entirely smooth) after 0.5 mile as it passes the swim beach and its fully accessible restrooms. From there to the “Natural Unit” near Alameda Creek, where volunteers have planted wildlife friendly vegetation and constructed nest boxes and platforms, is another half-mile along the shore of Horseshoe Lake. It’s possible to make a three-mile loop around the lakes, on generally medium smooth gravel, or extend your expedition to take in as much as you wish of the 12 mile trail along Alameda Creek.
Most of the park’s 539 acres are open water, six lakes born in the eponymous gravel quarries and now reshaped for recreation and habitat. Much of the rest is parking lot and lawn, but near Lago Los Osos and Willow Slough, wild-flowers bloom and plantings both native and exotic create an interesting if raggedy green environment. The small trees give little shade, but folks see deer and jackrabbits frequently, and the lakes are stocked with trout and catfish for the benefit of anglers, also attracting cormorants, terns, and white pelicans, so the birdwatching can be choice. Near the main entrance, there is a rather grand ramp to a fishing pier for wheelchair users, and a swimming area that is open every day in summer and weekends in spring and fall.
Getting there: BART to Union City. By car from I-880, take Decoto Road east, right on Paseo Padre, left on Isherwood; entrance on right. Fees for parking, dogs, swimming, fishing.
Parts of hike published in the July 2008 issue of Bay Nature magazine