Scenic Loop Near South Entrance

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Terrain: Very steep first half of walk.
  • Highlights: Spectacular views, lots of animals, groves of oaks, changing terrain, last half is a gentle down hill route.
  • Recommendation: Walk in winter and spring months, when trails are dry.
  • Hike Date: 2/13/11
  • Please Note: In late spring and early summer, this trail may be closed due to Golden Eagle nesting.
  • View the Scenic Loop Map (JPEG).
Crossing the  Rock Wall on the Los Vaqueros Trail on a quiet morning can be surprising with views li
The trails that begin at the south entrance of the Los Vaqueros Watershed near Livermore are often overlooked and are among our least-used. During the cooler months especially, they provide rewarding trips with spectacular sweeping views and changing terrain that you wouldn’t expect at Los Vaqueros. We recently hiked the Black Hills, Valley View and Homestead trails, located next to the South Entrance gate off Vasco Road, and were surprised by the lush canyon oak groves and number of animals.

Winter & Spring

In the winter and spring, the grass is dark green and trails are soft. There aren’t many wildflowers yet, but everything is green, with some silver from old growth providing a surprising contrast in the right light. We would not recommend this trip in hot and windy July, unless you started very early.

We started west on the Black Hills Trail, and continued the climb up the treeless Valley View Trail. This heads to the edge of Los Vaqueros’s property line. Since this is Los Vaqueros, the trails fool you, just as they do on the south side of the watershed. You may think you’re reaching the top of a peak, but no, there’s another hill ahead and probably another steep climb hidden behind it.

The route we took climbs steadily for the first 2.5 miles. At the top, you’ll take in a grand panorama of rolling hills leading to the reservoir, the valley way below where Morgan Territory Road cuts through and parts of Livermore, Mount Diablo to the north and Brushy Peak to the south.

We hiked these trails in February. The fog was sweeping and receding across the green watershed valley below like very slow massive waves. Every time we looked, the view dramatically changed with the reservoir’s blue surface appearing and disappearing under a thin white blanket.

Once the climb was complete, we cut down through the Homestead Trail and the wide path sliced through pockets of oak groves filling small canyons where we saw deer, red tailed hawks, kestrels, a coyote, the footprints of all kinds of animals and heard lots of birds. We also saw two groups of cattle, but they moved well ahead of us.

We crossed over to the Black Hills Trail at the end of our journey and down into the parking lot. In all, we hiked five miles on our hike. Almost half of it straight up, the other half a surprisingly pleasant gentle rolling descent. Before you go, check the weather on our Conditions page, be aware that you may see some cattle (here are some tips), and -- of course -- bring your own water!

If you wait until late spring, please be aware that some of these trails may be closed by golden eagle nesting. We'll let you know in the newsletter and on our website.