1.5 mile out and back through Belmont canyon.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
The trail is well-graded, and this 1.5 mile out and back hike
is easy. Trailhead elevation is around 535 feet. Lakeside elevation is around
1 hour or less.
Nice any time.
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit CA 92 East (exit 33). Drive
east and exit Ralston (exit 9a). Drive east about 1 mile, and turn right
onto Hallmark Drive. Continue a short distance downhill and turn left onto
Lake Road. Park on the side of the road before the gate.
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, restaurants, and stores: you'll have to drive a while for
any services, as there are none in the vicinity. No camping.
No parking or entrance fees. Limited side of street parking, and additional
parking nearby in residential neighborhoods. There is a map under glass,
but none to take with you. No restrooms, but there is a drinking fountain
near the gate. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not suitable
for wheelchairs. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead,
but SamTrans buses 260 and 262 service the trailhead via Ralston Avenue
and Continentals Way.
Open sunrise to sunset. Trails are multi-use, but you're not likely to see
horses here. Dogs are permitted on leash.
The Official Story:
City of Belmont Parks and Recreation 650-595-7441
Belmont's Waterdog page
Use AAA's San Mateo, Redwood City and Vicinity map to get
there (this map also shows the main trail at Waterdog).
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Central Peninsula has
a fantastic map of Waterdog (order
this map from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and park
this book from Amazon.com).
Map from Belmont's Parks and Recreation.
in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
View photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
wooded bay area canyons shelter more than birds, wild skunks,
raccoons, and deer. They also are generally passed over for development
as cities grow. Developers reluctant to build on steep rocky terrain focus
their attention elsewhere, and often agencies and towns purchase the land
and preserve it for primitive recreational use. Thus we have canyons of
open space in suburban and urban areas, such as Mills
Canyon in Burlingame, Big Canyon in San Carlos,
Glen Canyon in San Francisco,
and Waterdog Lake Park in Belmont. Waterdog Lake Park is a heavily wooded
canyon with an obstructed stream, once dammed to provide domestic water
to Belmont in days past. The park is now comprised of a wide fire road
descending from Hallmark Drive to the lake, and then continuing to Lyall Way.
Since parking near Waterdog is always described
as "limited," I figured that starting from the vista point exit
on Interstate 280 was the easiest and most scenic way to get to Waterdog,
until I tried it. I got a parking ticket (you can't park anywhere except
at the vista point lot), and although Sheep Camp Trail was nice, the easement
path down to Waterdog rates pretty high on my creepy index. Better to
park closer to Waterdog, where parking isn't all that limited (I consider
limited parking room for 3 cars; there's a lot more parking than that
Start at the gate at the end of Lake
Road. The wide fire road splits almost immediately. Bear left.
(You might see a sign for John S. Brooks Memorial Open Space; the
trail initially winds
through this open space preserve, and Waterdog Park picks up where the
open space leaves off.)
Poison oak is prominent, and you might
also see buckwheat and clematis (both conspicuous in summer), along with
California sagebrush, toyon, sticky monkeyflower, coyote brush, and honeysuckle.
You may also notice plants usually found in "wilderness" locations,
such as bush lupine, pitcher sage, and hollyleaf cherry. There are nice
views east out of the canyon, and on a clear day you may see across the
bay. As you descend on the gently graded road, trailside vegetation shifts
to tree cover from coast live oak, California bay, elderberry, and buckeye.
Some rough paths and steps lead left and uphill to houses on the canyon
rim. To the right, look for a glimpse of the lake. At about 0.69 mile,a
trail breaks off to the right at an unsigned junction. Turn right.
After a few steps downhill, you'll reach
the lake (a man-made reservoir really). Broom and yellow star thistle,
two invasive plants, are common. This is the turnaround point of the hike.
There are new trails, some of which are visible from the lakeside, but
I was reluctant to explore without a map, especially considering all the
poison oak in this park. Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.
Total distance: about 1.48 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, June 13, 2001