How to stay cool in the parks

by Beverly Lane;           


If you’re looking for places to stay cool during these hot summer days, the East Bay Regional Park District can help.

One obvious option is any of the park district’s swim areas. The district operates six open-water lakefront swim beaches, three chlorinated swim lagoons and three swimming pools, all with lifeguard service. There’s a swim area near you anywhere in the East Bay.

There are also two swim beaches on San Francisco Bay — one in Alameda, the other in Richmond. Neither has lifeguards; you swim at your own risk.

Two of the swimming pools are available on a drop-in basis. One is convenient to Central County: at Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area on Castle Rock Road in Walnut Creek. The second is at Roberts Pool in the Oakland hills. The third is at Little Hills Picnic Ranch in San Ramon, which is a picnic park available to organized groups by advance reservation only.

There’s a swim lagoon at Contra Loma Regional Park in Antioch. Like several of the others, it’s separate from the reservoir that it adjoins, with a lawn area and small sand “beach.”

In general, the swim areas are open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days per week in the summer, depending on weather, park attendance and lifeguard availability. Fees vary. For more information on specific swim areas, and for important information on swimming safety, check out the park district web site at Click on “Activities” on the left side of the home page, then click again on “Swimming.”

Apart from swimming, a unique way to stay cool is to visit the Mining Museum and Greathouse Visitor Center at Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in Antioch. It gets hot at Black Diamond Mines, but the museum and visitor center are underground, where the temperature is always about 57 degrees.

Both are open on summer weekends. Museum tours take a 90-minute walk through 1,000 feet of restored sand mine workings. cost $5 per person and are restricted to ages seven and older for safety reasons.  Some tours require advance reservations, while others are first-come first-served. Tickets are available at the nearby Greathouse Visitor Center, which is open to all ages free of charge. For advance reservations call the park district reservations department at 888-327-2757. Select option 2.

Black Diamond Mines is located at the end of Somersville Road, five miles south of Highway 4 in Antioch. For information, call 1-888-327-2757, ext. 2750.

For a cool place to hike, check out Redwood Regional Park in Oakland. A stroll through the beautiful redwood groves is a nice break on a hot day. There’s a Trails Challenge hike at Redwood Park too. It’s one of the strenuous challenges, a 6.6-mile loop on the Stream, Tres Sendas, French, Orchard and Bridle Trails. At least it’s mostly in the shade. The park entrance is on Redwood Road about two miles past the intersection with Skyline Boulevard in Oakland.

For more information on the Trails Challenge program, visit the park district web site.

Another good park for a hot day is Lake Chabot. It’s on Lake Chabot Road in Castro Valley. Either the East Shore or West Shore Trail will take you to pretty vistas of the lake, or you can rent a boat and get out on the water. You might even see the bald eagles that have taken up residence there. Like humans, the eagles go fishing at Lake Chabot.

Some reminders about summer hiking in the regional parks and other open space: Always take plenty of water, use sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat and, especially if you’re hiking alone, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. Be safe and have a good time.