Saturday, August 11, 2012

Loch Lomond Recreation Area

View Loch Lomond Recreational Area - Aug 2012 in a larger map

  • Artificial lake reservoir in Santa Cruz
  • Hiking
  • Boating
  • Fishing
  • Island in the lake to which one can travel by boat 

More Info
  • $4/car entrance fee (Free after 4pm)
  • Five car parking spots
  • Restrooms near the car parking spots
  • Several picnic areas with BBQ pits
  • Park store inside
  • Free trail map inside the park store
  • No swimming in the lake
  • Click here for the trail map 

On a late Saturday afternoon, we planned to go hiking with friends to the Loch Lomond Recreation Area. One of my friends, who is an avid traveler suggested this place for hiking. As she can almost always be seen with a couple of travel guides and maps in her hands, I knew that I could blindly trust her recommendation.

After a little over an hour’s drive through the flexuous roads of the Santa Cruz mountains, we reached the Loch Lomond Recreation Area. The drive made my stomach a bit queasy. We did not know that parking was free after 4pm until we reached there and saw that the ticket booth was unmanned.

We took a break at the Glen Brae Picnic Area to drink maté (Argentinean tea), eat snacks and chocolates and then headed over to the Park Store to enquire about boating. The boat rental prices are quite economical. Pedal boat is $5/ hour and motor boat is $10/hour with a minimum of 2 hours of rental. There is a boat launch pad right next to the Park Store. A couple of snakes were caged inside a glass box and placed in the Park Store.

Loch Trail - Highland Loop

Length: ~5 miles; Elevation: 1100 feet; Time: 3 hours; Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous

We started our hike on the Loch Trail at the Park Store and continued on the narrow trail along the lake, noticing several coves along the lake such as Cunningham Cove and MacGregor Cove. Clar Innis, the small island in the middle of the lake is probably reachable within a few minutes of boat ride. One can boat to the island, use the BBQ pits on the island and enjoy food in the middle of the pristine, beautiful lake. We definitely intend to return another day to take a boat to the island and enjoy a BBQ lunch on the island.

Loch Lomond Lake

When we reached the MacGregor Cove, we noticed a few ducks paddling upside down with their heads underwater, forming circular ripples around them. It was such a cute sight.

Video of the ducks paddling upside down:

We continued to walk on the tapering Loch Trail along the lake, observing the Fir Cove and Huckleberry Cove until we reached the Deer Flat Picnic Area. There are a few benches here and a small dock on the lake. We spent some time enjoying the undisturbed lake and continued our hike on the Highland Trail. 

The Highland Trail, which is paved on the mountains, runs parallel to the Loch Trail with no view of the lake. Although the trail was well shaded with trees on either sides, the steep ascends and descends made us all weary and sweaty. There were pesky flies all over the trail and we were waving our hands vigorously most of the time to keep them away. After reaching the highest elevation of the trail, about 1000 feet, a scenic point that revealed the view of the narrow lake amidst the lush trees knocked our eyes out.

View of the lake from highest elevation (~1000ft) of the trail

The rest of the trail was so steep that every so often one of us in our group almost slipped while walking on the loose gravel. The park gates close at 8pm and as it was very close to 8pm, we tried to finish the hike as quickly as possible. It would have been a nightmare had we not made it on time, especially because the cell reception was almost null. We finally reached the paved road just 10 minutes to 8pm and literally ran to our car and darted out of the park exactly 2 minutes before 8pm.
Highland Loop trail

  • Bring lots of food and water if you plan to take the Loch – Highlands Loop
  • If you are interested in BBQ, definitely take the boat to the Clar Innis island and enjoy a BBQ in the middle of the lake. The experience, I think will be unique
  • Wear hiking shoes or bring hiking poles if you decide to take the Loch-Highlands Loop because the trail is very slippery due to loose gravel
  • Be aware that mountain lions linger in the forests here; we did not see any but be cautious of them
  • Wear covered clothing because the Highland Loop trail has a lot of flies around

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