Water Dog Lake - SF Bay Area

Revised Jan 2005 - please send updates to the webmaster

home See Driving Directions > San Francisco Area for context and how to get here.
info GPS waypoints: download GPX file

Water Dog Lake is in Belmont, near I-280 and Hwy 92

This seems like a small park, but it's surprisingly isolated and has a wide variety of trails honeycombed into steep hills with trees and brush. Mountain bikes are allowed on all trails except Sheep Camp Trail, which isn't really part of Water Dog Lake Park... but then again some of the other trails appear to go out of the official park boundary also.

Water Dog Lake itself is really a small flood control pond, which can be viewed from the Dam Trail, the High Trail, and the Lake Trail. Trailhead signs are vague and trail junctions are entirely unmarked. I just made up these trail names because I needed to organize things in my head. You won't find the trail names anywhere else. By the way, some places call it Waterdog, but the USGS calls it Water Dog (two words).

Click here for:

These trail names match route names in the waypoint file, and each has a more detailed map and description below:

Trailheads - places to park and access points
(both official and unofficial)

Since it's in the middle of a residential area, there are many unofficial access points along with the signed (official) trailheads. Most people will exit Hwy 92 at Ralston, and head west all the way down the hill.

The Hallmark Drive trailhead (waypoint HALMRK) is just south of Ralston, the Lyall Way trailhead (waypoint LYALLW) is also south of Ralston but requires doubling back a bit to the west (at the intersection of Lyall Way and Lake Road). If you turn south off Lyall Way at Lake Road and follow Lake around the corner where it becomes Carlmont Drive, then follow Carlmont to a dead end, you'll find the Carlmont trailhead (waypoint CRLEND). The other entrances are unofficial. Look for them on or near Hastings, Club, Crestview, and Hallmark.

Belmont installed a roadblock to keep San Carlos residents out (waypoint RDBLCK) so Crestview Dr no longer connects to Hallmark Dr as far as cars are concerned. There are a couple of use trails leading down from bark-chip landscaped areas (like CRESTS and CRESTN) but no good trailheads near the roadblock.

If you can find parking, there are a couple of access points along Somerset Dr (take Leigh or Wakefield off Hallmark, to waypoints SOMRSE and SOMRNW) which have the best views (waypoint SOMRSE is the best, but SOMRNW has a use trail down to a hidden bench) for the shortest walk. The trail access points are somewhat hidden by fences, but are official right-of-ways.

Over on Hastings, however, there are several good (but unmarked) trailheads at waypoints HASTSE (near an electrical box) and HASTNW (at the end of Ridgewood Ct, just off Hastings near a playground). Just park on the street and notice that no signs limit you to sunlight hours here (as the official entry points do).

The Sheep Camp Trail (a county trail) connects to Water Dog at the Hallmark Drive trailhead (waypoint HALMRK) where there is no sign but you can find a trail just north of the pump building. That trail leads to a signed crossing of Saint James Road (waypoint STJAME), and Sheep Camp continues down under the I-280 freeway at a vista point exit. There is NO PARKING anywhere near the Sheep Camp trail, but you can drive up to the vista point (waypoints VISTAJ and VISTAP) and walk back down to the trail. Sheep Camp Trail then continues south to Canada Road at waypoint CANADA, where there is a small parking area and a sign that says no bicycles are allowed (unlike the other end, at VISTAJ, which has no such sign). The character of this trail is boring and noisy, unlike Water Dog Lake trails.

Lake Trail: 1.4 mi green line on the map below
(a dirt road north of Water Dog Lake)

This is the old road north of Water Dog Lake, connecting trailheads at Hallmark Drive (waypoint HALMRK, uphill to the west) and Lyall Way (waypoint LYALLW, downhill to the east). It's the easiest trail of all - road width and low slope the whole way.

The Dam Trail goes south past the lake from the middle of the Lake Trail. Other apparent trail junctions dead-end in brush and poison oak.

Dam Trail: 0.4 mi blue line on the map below
(goes across the dam, connects High and Lake trails)

Connects the Lake Trail (at waypoint DAMLAK) and the High Trail (at waypoints DAMHIE or DAMHIW) by going across the dam (waypoint DAMDAM) at the east end of Water Dog Lake.

It is very steep for a short bit just south of the lake, then levels off and almost touches High Trail (at waypoint DAMHIW) but continues west until it intersects the Condo Trail (waypoint CONDAM) and finally ends at a place where the High Trail drops a bit (waypoint DAMHIE).

Condo Trail: 0.3 mi purple line on the map below
(use trail down to a condo on Carlmont Dr)

Connects the High Trail (waypoint CONHIG) and the Dam Trail (waypoint CONDAM) to the parking lot of the condo at 2510 Carlmont Drive (waypoints 2510PL and 2510CD). It's a steep, narrow, unauthorized trail with bad footing near the bottom.

High Trail: 3 mi red line on the map below
(stays as high as possible, on the SW side)

Western portion:

Eastern portion:

Connects from the Hallmark Drive trailhead (waypoint HALMRK) to the Canyon Trail (at waypoint HIGCYN), staying as high as possible on the southwest side of the park the entire way. This is the place to be if you like long views across the bay.

By far the best view from the entire trail system is at waypoint VIEWHI. Also, look for the old "No Parking" sign (at waypoint NOPARK) which dates from the days when this area was a tourist destination - a huge tree has literally engulfed the sign's post over many years.

Some road-width, some single-track, this is the most poison-oak-free trail other than the Lake Trail. There are numerous connectors to the Middle Trail, Rocky Road, View Trail, and Dam Trail in addition to many access points at unofficial trailheads.

Middle Trail: 1.8 mi yellow line on the map below
(parallels the eastern half of the High Trail)

Connects the High Trail (at waypoint MIDHIG, just south of Dam Trail) to the Canyon Trail (at waypoint MIDCYN, just west of where the Canyon Trail intersects that High Trail).

The western end of Middle Trail (waypoint MIDHIG) is a 3-way junction in a grove of Bay Trees. Take the lower trail from either direction of the High Trail to get to Middle Trail (lowest of the three triangle points).

It is almost all single track, sometimes slopes sideways, and has the highest risk of poison oak. It also has a cool bridge across the top of a buried car (waypoint CARTOP).

View Trail: 0.3 mi purple trail on the map below
(connects the High and Middle trails via a bench)

Connects the best viewpoint on the High Trail (waypoint VIEWHI) with the Middle Trail (waypoint VIEWMD) by way of a poor use trail that goes past a secluded bench (waypoint VBENCH). This is not an official trail, and there are many indistinct use trails that could be confused with it.

Rocky Road: 0.4 mi blue line on the map below
(from Carlmont trailhead to High Trail, all uphill)

This is the shortest connection from the Carlmont Trailhead (waypoint CRLMNT) to the High Trail (at waypoint RCKHIG). It is steep and (surprise!) rocky at the top.

If you want to do short steep 15-minute laps, combine Rocky Road with the Ditch Trail and part of the Middle Trail, connecting waypoints CRLEND, DITCHJ, SMRMID, RCKHIG, RCKMID, and back to CRLEND.

Rocky Road and the Somerset Trail form a triangle of intersections between the High Trail and the Middle Trail (RCKHIG near SOMRSE to either RCKMID or to SMRMID).

Somerset Trail: 0.1 mi purple line at the middle of the map below
(connects the High and Middle trails)

Connects from the High Trail (waypoint RCKHIG, near the SOMRSE access point) to the Middle Trail (waypoint SMRMID), forming the south side of a triangle with Rocky Road and the Middle Trail.

Canyon Trail: 0.5 mi purple line in the middle of the map below
(where Carlmont Dr would go if it didn't end)

From the lower end parking (waypoint CRLMNT) to the upper end where it hits the High Trail (waypoint HIGCYN), this is a narrow overgrown unmaintained trail.

The only reason to take it is to reach the eastern end of the Middle Trail (at waypoint MIDCYN). Otherwise the Hastings Trail is more pleasant.

Hastings Trail: 0.8 mi green line on the map below
connects Hastings to Carlmont)

This is a fire-road-width trail from the end of short side-road Ridgewood Ct (waypoint HASTNW) or a tiny playground (waypoint HASTPG) down to Carlmont Trailhead (waypoint CRLEND, just up-canyon from the parking lot at waypoint CRLMNT), or down and up to High Trail (waypoint HIGCYN), or all the way back up to an unmarked access point on Hastings (waypoint HASTSE, near a large electrical box, behind a lamppost).

There are other single track unofficial access points in the area, some of which cross grassy empty lots to connect to Hastings, but the correct trail stays wide and level. There are junctions to both ends of the Canyon Trail and the east end of the High Trail.

Ditch Trail: 0.1 mi red line on the map below
connects Carlmont to the Middle Trail)

A short steep connector between the Carlmont trailhead (waypoint CRLEND, just up-canyon from the parking lot at waypoint CRLMNT), and the Middle Trail (at waypoint DITCHJ).

The west end of the trail splits into a branch that follows the ditch and a branch that loops to the south, but the split is short and the trails converge clearly at both ends. The branch that follows the ditch is eroding and may collapse, the other branch is steep and slick. Both problem spots are very short.

Loop Trail: 0.1 mi purple and blue lines on the map below
two connectors between High and Middle trails)

Connects the High Trail (at waypoint HIGLOO) to the Middle Trail (at waypoint MIDLOO) with two options that go the same place. The eastern path is in good shape, the western path is deeply eroded and somewhat overgrown.

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