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The Stanford Dish vs. The Lafayette Reservoir

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Lamorinda residents and those along the 24 corridor revere their Lafayette Reservoir recreation area, just as Peninsula residents cherish their Stanford Dish. Both venues provide outdoor enthusiasts with miles and miles of pristine scenic trails and paths.

For devotees of one or the other, is it worth a trip North or South to give the alternative a proper go? Based on the relatively short driving time between each (about an hour), the answer should be ‘yes.’ A change of pace is always good for the soul, especially when a spectacular view is involved.

The particulars:

Named for its iconic hilltop landmark, the 150-foot diameter radio telescope built by the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) in 1966, the Dish is one of most popular trails on the entire Peninsula. Walkers and joggers (without their dogs) traverse the hilly, well-paved path and are rewarded with panoramic views of the beautiful Stanford campus, and the entire Bay Area. Other sights: deer, rabbits, hawks, woodpeckers, and a variety of native plants.

There are three entrances to the Dish: The Stanford Gate at Stanford Avenue and Junipero Serra Blvd. (free parking allowed on Stanford Ave.), Gerona Gate near East Campus Dr. at Junipero Serra Blvd. (no parking), and the back Alpine Gate entrance off of Alpine Road adjacent to Hwy. 280 (free parking near entrance.)

Entering the back entrance will take you on a 5-mile lasso loop route. The other two Dish entrances cut the distance to 3.7 miles.

The Dish is open daily from sunrise to sunset: 6 or 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 to 8 p.m. depending on the season

The Lafayette Reservoir offers two trails: the paved 2.7 mile Lakeside Nature Trail and the unpaved challenging 4.7 mile Rim Trail. Both can be accessed at the main Reservoir parking area at 3849 Mt. Diablo Blvd. The Rim can also be accessed in Moraga on Paseo Grande off of Campolindo Dr.

Like the Dish, the Reservoir Rim Trail views (of Mt. Diablo and East Bay locales) are spectacular, the reward of some fairly heavy-duty hill climbs. The Lakeside Trail views, with varied vantage points of the Reservoir, are also lovely. It is impossible to walk the Lakeside loop without encountering neighbors and friends. The Res is truly the communal hub for active Lamorindans.

Unlike the Dish, dogs are always welcome, and bicyclists, roller bladers and scooters are allowed on Tuesdays and Thursdays from noon until closing and on Sundays from opening until 11:00 a.m. on the paved Lakeside Trail and roads. The Res also offers fishing, boating and picnicking.

The Res is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Parking is $7 per day, or $2.00 per hour at the metered spots.

Pros for the Dish: beautiful views, free parking, lunch or snack afterward at Stanford Shopping Center. Cons: no dogs.

Pros for the Res: beautiful views, dogs allowed, lots of other activities available. Cons: parking fee.

The verdict? Pick one…you can’t lose. Your waistline will win either way. With both locations so easily reachable in a day, why not try both and judge for yourself?

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