One of the best things about the East Bay is the wide variety of excellent parks. California prioritizes parks and open spaces throughout the state, and the relatively spacious East Bay provides plenty of room for parkland to spread out and take over. Of those parts, which ones are the best parks in Walnut Creek?
If you’re heading to Walnut Creek or you live there already, you might be wondering where to go with kids, or where to take a nice walk with your dog. There are a lot of options in Walnut Creek and in neighboring towns like Moraga, but let’s look at some of the best Walnut Creek parks.
Heather Farm Park
Heather Farm Park is one of the jewels of the East Bay. It’s one of the top parks in the whole region, and is my pick for the best park in Walnut Creek. The park has nearly everything. There are multiple sports fields, which means ample parking, especially on days where games aren’t happening.
There’s also an equestrian center and a dog park, both of which are located towards the back of the park. Heather Farm has easy access to the Contra Costa Canal trail near the dog park, which then leads onto the vast Iron Horse Trail and other trail networks around the East Bay. The park is also served by buses.
Heather Farm has an aquatic center and tennis, too. There’s a community center in the middle of the park, although options there are often relatively limited. There’s a huge artificial lake in the middle of Heather Farm with giant, dramatic fountains. It’s stocked with fish, and people love to set up and fish along the edges. I’ve also seen people use remote control sailboats on this lake, and there are ducks, although you’re asked not to feed them.
For kids, there’s a huge all-abilities playground in the middle of the park. It’s massive and was built very recently. Heads up, though: the playground is very popular, and can get quite crowded, especially on weekday mornings. I tend to avoid it during busy times because it can be a little much. Still, it’s got a ton of different parts for kids of all ages and abilities.
Another great thing about Heather Farm park is the Gardens at Heather Farm. They’re run by a separate nonprofit, and they have event spaces, beautiful trails you can wander around, greenhouses, a rose garden, and more. They’re free and open to the public.
Heather Farm really does have it all.
Visiting Heather Farm Park
N. San Carlos Dr Walnut Creek, CA 94598
Parking is free throughout Heather Farm, and there’s tons of parking available.
This is another of my top picks for Walnut Creek parks. Civic Park is nice because it’s very central to downtown Walnut Creek. The park is located just a block from downtown, so it’s easy to get a picnic from a local store on Main Street and then take it to the park.
Services at this park are more limited, but there are nice fields to hang out in, and a small playground with a cool train-themed climbing structure. One of the best features of Civic Park is the Walnut Creek Library, which opens onto the park. It’s a nice, LEED-certified green building and has a great selection of books.
While in Civic Park, you can also see the actual creek that gives Walnut Creek its name. The park has public restrooms, but they’re often on the dirtier side. Civic is convenient, but its downtown location also gives it a more citified feel than the more placid Heather Farm.
During the Winter, Civic Park is also home to Walnut Creek on Ice, an outdoor skating rink that locals love.
Visiting Civic Park
1375 Civic Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
There is a dedicated lot off of Civic by the community center. You can also park in the library lot. Street parking is available but it’s metered.
Larkey Park is one of the hidden gem parks in Walnut Creek. It’s located near the Pleasant Hill border. You can access it near Geary Road. Larkey Park is smaller and much more manageable than the massive Heather Farm park.
Still, it has some great features. There are two playgrounds for kids of different ages. One has Adirondack chairs for adults to hang out in while watching their kids, which is a great feature. There’s also an aquatic center that’s open during the Summer and has an animal-themed splashpad.
Speaking of animals, Larkey Park is also home to the Lindsay Wildlife Experience, an awesome local animal museum. You can stop by to visit local wildlife like birds of prey, or you can stop by and visit the museum’s turkey vulture out front.
Larkey Park is smaller than other Walnut Creek parks, but it’s still very much worth a visit.
Visiting Larkey Park
Buena Vista Ave at First Ave Walnut Creek, CA 94597
Park at the south end of Larkey park by the aquatic center. Parking is limited, but it’s free.
Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area
Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area is a fantastic choice for those who love hiking and exploring nature. Located just outside Walnut Creek, this park is a part of the East Bay Regional Park District and offers stunning views, diverse wildlife, and various trails suitable for all skill levels.
The park features several picnic areas with BBQ grills, making it an ideal spot for a weekend family outing or a get-together with friends. Additionally, Castle Rock has a designated swimming area, perfect for cooling off during the hot summer months.
Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area is also home to the Diablo Foothills Regional Park, which has more trails for hikers and equestrians. With so much to explore, this park is a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.
Visiting Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area
1700 Castle Rock Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
There is a lot with no fee
Arbolado Park Arbolado Park is a quaint, peaceful park nestled in a residential area of Walnut Creek. It’s perfect for families with children, as it features two playgrounds suitable for various ages, a large grassy field, and several picnic areas with tables and BBQ grills.
The park also has tennis courts and a basketball court for those interested in sports. With its beautiful mature trees, Arbolado Park provides plenty of shade and a serene atmosphere for a leisurely walk or a relaxing afternoon.
Visiting Arbolado Park
3341 Arbolado Dr, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
There is a small parking lot available, and street parking is also an option. Both are free.
Shell Ridge Open Space
For those who enjoy the great outdoors, Shell Ridge Open Space is a must-visit destination in Walnut Creek. This 1,420-acre open space area features a vast network of trails perfect for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.
The landscape of Shell Ridge Open Space consists of rolling hills, grasslands, and oak woodlands, providing a habitat for diverse wildlife. The open space is also home to the historic Borges Ranch, which hosts events and educational programs throughout the year.
Visiting Shell Ridge Open Space is an excellent opportunity to connect with nature, take in breathtaking views, and learn about Walnut Creek’s local history.
Visiting Shell Ridge Open Space
1035 Castle Rock Rd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598
There is a small parking lot at the entrance to the open space area. Street parking is also available on nearby residential streets. Parking is free.