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.
Paved and dirt trails.
Just over a mile for this loop.
Hot hot hot in summer. A good choice for late winter or spring.
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:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* 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.
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.
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:
Grove brochure (pdf)
Ranger office 925-960-2400
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from LARPD (download the Sycamore Grove pdf)
Grove in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
2 miles 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. Ranching, 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.
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. 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. Continue 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. You'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