Waterdog Lake Park,
City of Belmont Parks,
San Mateo County

In brief:
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 345 feet.

Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trail.

Hiking time:
1 hour or less.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
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:
Latitude 3730'30.09"N
(* 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.

Trailhead details:
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

Map Choices:
• 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 descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
Map from Belmont's Parks and Recreation.

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

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Small wooded bay area canyons shelter more than birds, wild skunks, raccoons, and deer.Trailhead  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. The canyon at Waterdog Lake Park
      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 here).
      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.)Trail down the edge of the canyon
      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.Waterdog Lake
      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