What's up with this closely guarded secret of Lafayette locals–aside from its iconic tower?
First, the bad news: there's a big lake and you can't go in. It's a water reservoir, so swimming isn't allowed. Boating and fishing are big attractions here, but dogs have to stay ashore (for the sailing dog experience, you'll have to go to Del Valle).
But neighborhood dogs in the know have been shrugging off these limitations and bringing their peeps to the Lafayette Recreation Area for decades. The place offers sights, sounds, and sniffs galore for the active and the more contemplative, with trails, vistas, and conveniently located benches. It's a great place to spend a day or a lunch hour; you'll find lots of canine-human teams joining with joggers, bike riders, and the stroller set along the two-lane, 2.7-mile paved path that winds around the reservoir. If you'd like a more strenuous hike, head to the ridgetop for the hilly, unpaved 4.5-mile trail; you can also explore many side paths, and reserve picnic areas, barbecue pits and other amenities.
Tips: Even on weekdays, people and dogs flock here. On weekends, crowd scenes are common; if you'd prefer a more tranquil experience, avoid them.
Especially on warm days, be sure to bring enough water for both of you; there are a couple of water fountains (and water bowls) at the beginning of the trail near the visitor center, but running water becomes a distant memory further along the path. Food concessions are also sparse. Be prepared, and bring whatever other supplies you need, including and especially poop bags–sternly worded signs suggest that this is an issue.
Hours vary by month. Parking is $6 per day; $2 per day per dog. Short-term metered parking is $1 per hour (2 hour limit) which may be a more affordable option for your first visit; bring plenty of quarters. If you decide you love the place and you want to become a regular, an annual gate pass is a good value.