Sycamore Grove Park,
Livermore Area Recreation and Park District,
Alameda County
In brief:
Easy level loop through grassland in Livermore.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.2 mile partial loop hike is easy, with no significant elevation change. Park elevation ranges from about 450 to 950 feet.

Exposure:
Full sun.

Trail traffic:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces:
Paved and dirt trails.

Hiking time:
Just over a mile for this loop.

Season:
Hot hot hot in summer. A good choice for late winter or spring.

Getting there:
• From Interstate 680 in Alameda County, exit CA 84 east (exit 21b--from southbound 680 you must exit, cross under the freeway, get back on the the freeway, and then exit again). Drive about 6.5 miles east on CA 84, then turn right onto Holmes. Drive just 0.2 mile, and shortly after the road turns sharply left (becoming Wetmore), turn right into the park.
• From Interstate 580, exit Portola (exit 52a). Drive south on Portola about 0.5 mile, then turn right onto North L Street. Continue south (North L becomes South L, then Arroyo Road), altogether about 2.2 miles, then turn right onto Wetmore. Drive about 0.7 mile, then turn left into the park.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://transitandtrails.org/trailheads/376

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3738'41.64"N
Longitude
12146'55.33"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, stores, and restaurants north in Livermore. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Parking in a paved lot, with additional adjacent equestrian parking. $5 entrance/parking fee for each vehicle. Maps and drinking water at the trailhead. Pit toilets in the park, less than 0.1 mile from parking lot. There is no direct public transit to this park, but Livermore Amador Transit bus #18 stops along Holmes, within walking distance to the park. Visit the Transit Info website for details.

Rules:
Park is open from 7 a.m. to sunset. Some trails are multi-use, others are open to hikers and equestrians only, and a few are hiking only. Dogs are permitted, on leash only.

The Official Story:
LARPD's Sycamore Grove info
LARPD's Sycamore Grove brochure (pdf)
Ranger office 925-960-2400

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from LARPD (download the Sycamore Grove pdf)

Sycamore Grove in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


Just 2 miles Trailhead from downtown Livermore, Sycamore Grove falls into a recreation category somewhere between an orderly city park and a nearby natural outdoor destination such as Del Valle and Sunol. In this 774 acre park you'll find primitive restrooms, drinking water, and a series of paved and dirt paths, as well as high-tension power lines, and traffic noise. No, it's not wilderness, but Sycamore Grove is a pleasant place to stroll, run, or walk your dog.
      The bulk of the park runs along both sides of Arroyo del Valle. A paved path winds levelly through patches of sycamore, walnut, and a grassy valley, while lesser dirt trails unravel throughout the park. Sycamore Grove's newest addition, a parcel jutting out of the southwest side of the park, is comprised of oak-dotted rolling hills, where a handful of trails climb to the park's boundary and a viewpoint. Paved trail crosses a creekRanching, wine making, and farming are part of Sycamore Grove's rich agricultural history, and since housing developments are popping up like weeds all around the park, it's nice to see the land preserved.
      Most visitors seem to stick to the paved path, which stretches from the Wetmore Road entrance south to Veterans Park. This 2.5 mile (one way) trail is a flat and easy route, and can be supplemented with some of the park's lesser trails. I toured Sycamore Grove in summer, when the unshaded grassland was baked and dry, and dragonflies buzzed through the hazy, hot air. The heat was oppressive and I tried to visualize the area in winter and spring, when the grass is soft and green, wildflowers sprawl in the valley, and the park's almond grove lights up with fragrant blossoms. Through the valley
     Start at the edge of the parking lot on an unnamed paved path open to hikers and cyclists. The park's namesake trees tower above grassland and some coyote brush as the trail passes an information signboard and curves right. At about 300 feet a path departs to the left, just before the toilets. Continue straight. A few steps before the paved trail crosses Arroyo del Valle on a bridge, a signed trail sets out on the left, at 0.15 mile. Continue straight. The trail sweeps left, meeting an unsigned junction near the park boundary, at 0.21 mile. Remain to the left on the paved trail. Although the path follows not far from the creek, grassland now dominates the landscape. According to a handout I picked up at the information kiosk, some drought-tolerant annuals including vinegar weed, Indian tobacco, tarweed, and telegraph plant may be seen in bloom during the summer months. Path to almond orchard I did notice turkey mullein, but by far the most common flowering plant was the invasive yellow star thistle. Sycamore, valley oak, and walnut provide shade in little pockets, but the flat trail is mostly open. At 0.45 mile, a wide dirt trail approaches and then runs parallel to the paved trail -- this is an optional route if you'd rather not pound the pavement. Squirrels are abundant in this part of the park, as are birds of prey. I saw several hawks and a northern harrier hunting over the park's valley. At 0.64 mile, a path to the left leads to a partly hollowed-out sycamore. Continue straight. Shortly after, at 0.66 mile, a dirt trail crosses the paved trail, and at 0.68 mile, an straight alley lined with walnut trees sets off on the right. Trail along the park boundaryContinue straight at both junctions. To keep things interesting, the paved trail rarely sticks to a straight course for very long, curving right and left and taking occasional short forays through clusters of trees. Power lines stretch overhead, an unattractive accompaniment to a nature-minded walk. At 1.17 miles, you'll approach a signed junction with a wide dirt trail veering right. Turn right, and after a few feet, turn left onto a trail marked "no bikes."
     The narrow path travels through grassland, then runs along the edge of an almond grove. The last stretch cuts through the grove, then the path ends at 1.49 miles. Turn right.
     Remaining on a level grade, the wide multi-use dirt trail follows along the fenced park boundary -- hills on private property rise up on the left. As you make progress north, you'll begin to pass the other ends of already encountered trails on the right, the first occurring at 2.01 miles. Continue straight. Old winery buildings along the trailYou'll pass some decaying (and fenced off) winery buildings on the left. On the right you may see deer in the tall grass. In summer look for blooming milkweed along the trail. At 2.29 miles you'll reach a junction with the fire road which climbs to the park's view point. I had intended to explore the hilly part of Sycamore Grove, but honestly, at noon on the last day of July it was so hot that I skipped this out-and-back option. Continue straight. Two more dirt trails set off on the right, at 2.45 and 2.70 miles. Continue straight at each. Orderly rows of grapes sit just over the park boundary on the left. At 2.90 miles, the trail reaches a multiple junction. A hiking and equestrian trail continues on the left (an optional route back to the parking lot), but walk straight a few steps, then hook up with the paved trail once more, and turn left, retracing your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 3.15 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, July 31, 2002