Review: visiting Shadow Cliffs’ brand new Interpretive Pavillion


Daniel Cruz

Featuring beautiful artwork, educational boards, and a detailed model of the Tri Valley’s watershed, Shadow Cliffs’ new Interpretive Pavilion is truly a welcome addition to the regional park.

With its beautiful lake and hiking trails with great views, Shadow Cliffs has been a popular destination for Tri Valley residents since it opened in 1971. Additional features have steadily been added throughout the years, including fishing docks, a larger trail system, rental boats, and even dirt jumps for bikers who think the trails are a little too tame. The most recent addition is the Interpretive Pavillion, located near one of the main trailheads. 

The Interpretive Pavillion was established just last month, with a ribbon-cutting event in mid-December. Made possible by generous donors Gary and Nancy Harrington, the new installation offers fun facts about Shadow Cliff’s diverse habitat, with both plants and animals being featured on informational plaques. 

Plaques present information on Shadow Cliff’s origins, with its roots in the gravel industry. Others describe how the quarry was transformed into the park we know so well today–all pretty interesting explanations, available in both English and Spanish. 

This shaded pavilion exhibits some of the coolest metal engravings, with each one telling a different story. Some are cut as intricate designs, showing the staggering amount of biodiversity that occupies the park. Others show the history of Shadow Cliffs, from its quarry beginnings to its current state as a regional park. 

One of the most unique features has to be the three-dimensional model of Alameda Creek Watershed, which shows the flow of water to the San Francisco Bay in high detail.

The pavilion offers some amenities for visitors as well, such as a drinking fountain and  map of the surrounding trails. Visitors can sit on the concrete slabs and enjoy lunch or rest after a hike around the lake. 

Visitors won’t spend much time at the pavilion, as there isn’t much to do there besides reading the informational plaques and admiring the different features. Unfortunately the main parking lot for Shadow Cliffs is closed off at dusk, so guests have to park at a different access point past 5 P.M. One of the things that left me wondering was why the lake is at such a low water level at the time of visiting, as none of the plaques explained this.  

Visiting this attraction at sunset truly enhances the experience. The view of the sunset is unparalleled, especially through those beautiful metal engravings. The pavilion is relatively dog-friendly as well, with a dog bag dispenser nearby. My favorite feature had to be the metal statues of animals you can find around the park, with some being hidden around the pavilion. The little additions like this show the attention to detail the designers had when building the pavilion. 

Featuring beautiful artwork, educational boards, and a detailed model of the Tri Valley’s watershed, Shadow Cliffs’ new Interpretive Pavilion is truly a welcome addition to the regional park. 

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  • Visitors can view a model of the Tri Valley’s watershed, crafted with extreme detail.

  • Shadow Cliffs is a popular area to walk dogs, and the Interpretive Pavilion provides dog bags for pooches.

  • My favorite detail were the life size sculptures of animals. Hidden around the pavilion, each one is waiting to be discovered.

  • Visiting the pavilion at sunset enhances the experience. The cutouts look really pretty with the colorful sunset as a backdrop.

  • The new pavilion overlooks verdant, expansive hills, perfect for family outings or picnics with friends.

*Please note that Shadow Cliffs lake is currently at a very low level, so any water-related activity is unavailable as of 01/20/23.