Monday, October 22, 2012

The Best Kept Secret in Hayward: the Whispering Creek Trail of Don Castro Regional Park


Place: Don Castro Regional Park, Hayward, California
Coordinates: 37.69251, -122.05465
Date of hike: 10/2/2012
Difficulty level: easy

Don Castro Regional Park, which is located at North of Hayward next to I-580 is well known for its swim facility. The swim facility attracts many people each summer. Many others use the numerous picnic sites, or go fishing in the lake that's behind the swim area.
However, not many know that Don Castro Regional Park also has a hiking trail. I too, discovered it by chance, looking at the park's pamphlet while waiting with the chikas to enter the lagoon.

The trailhead is well hidden behind the Whispering Creek picnic site, east of the parking lot. Its beginning is visible on the lower said of the lawn, going eastward between the eucalyptus trees and the blackberry bushes. Quickly enough, the blackberry is replaced with catttails.

Cattails by the trail
The trail curves around a low field of cattails that in my previous visits was flooded with water. Maybe it's the season or maybe it's sedimentation, but this fall the ground looked dry and only the abundance of wetland vegetation gave evidence of water close to the surface.
I did meet the water littler further, past one solitary picnic area, where the trail came down near San Lorenzo creek.
The creek in that area is wide, full,and slow moving. It is completely shaded with trees and is accessible in only a few points where the lower vegetation has been trampled down by people and dogs. Otherwise - it's all nettle, ivy, berry bushes and poison oak. 

San Lorenzo Creek
The deep, cool shade feels great in a hot, sunny day. The almost still creek, completely shadowed by arching boughs reflecting in the water, green up and down, reminded me of an enchanted forest from a fantasy book. I could almost imagine little forest fairies rowing their leaf-boats down the creek.
Fallen leaves accumulated mid-stream.
Early fall in the East Bay. Everywhere around the annual plants are dry and deciduous trees are shedding their leaves but here spring reigns still.
A teasel in bloom
There's a fresh minty smell alongside the creek. Here's its origin:

I continued on the wide trail along the San Lorenzo creek up to the bridge and crossed it to the south side, going on the Whispering Creek trail. The area there looked much drier and summery buth there were still quite a few berries to be found.

A spider lurking in the middle of its web:

The trail crosses a small, flowing tributary. A low board bridge allows for crossing without wetting the feet. I found it easy to simply jump over the trickle.

 A local Cyperus in full bloom:

And a thistle shedding its seeds. An interesting mix of the seasons on display.

The trail makes a small rise and comes right by the lake, on it's south side. The lake is surrounded by lush cattails and tule grass. A patch of water lilies spread on the surface.

Eucalyptus is fairly common in this park. This one fell into the water some years ago but remained alive. Its branches now grow upward from the partially submerged canopy. 

The dam which makes the lake - part of the flood control dam system in the East Bay.

Near the dam the trail gets really close to the water. I went down to get a closer look at the horsetail shoots in the shallows:

There I found this caterpillar munching away:

The trail goes up onto the dam, on which is the entry road to the park. On previous visits I took the road back into the park and finished the hike there. This time I crossed the road and continued onward, downward. There, at the bottom of the trail, I discovered a magical corner: the little collection pool at the bottom of the dam's chute.

It appeared almost wild, and completely overlooked. Sadly, it also appeared neglected, with trash items littering its shore.
The trail continues around the pool and across the creek. The map marks the crossing as 'seasonal'. At the end of summer there was no problem crossing it.

San Lorenzo creek, below the dam.
The crossing point is the most lovely part of the trail. Wild, clean, lush and very much alive. I sat there for some time, soaking in the sound ... of a waterfall:

Sitting there, listening to the water and not seeing hardly any evidence of human activity save for the trail, it was almost possible to forget that I was, in fact, in the midst of a large urban area. Almost. If not for the constant noise of I-580 coming from just a few yards away.

The source of the waterfall is, of course, the chute from the dam, but the chute only became visible to me when I went down to the pool again, on it's north side.
From the pool there's a steep but short climb back to Don Castro's parking lot. The entire trail is just short of 1.5 mile. A perfect hike for a lunch break from work or for a weekend stroll with the children. A spot of lovely nature nestled right within the city.


  1. יפהפה!
    תודה על הטיול המענג שם בטבע.

  2. זה נראה טיול חביב ונעים מאד :-)
    איזה כיף!
    ותמונת העכביש היא פשוט אומנות! נפלאה!
    הרבה פעמים ניסיתי לצלם עכבישים ברשת, מעולם לא הצלחתי להגיע לכזו תמונה מצויינת!

    1. Thank you! I had better photos of that spider, but this one shows the entire web so I decided to include it. The camera makes a difference too.

  3. the reflection pictures are great and the berries make me hungry...

    1. What, do you think the berries remained there after the photograph? I love berries myself, you know ...