Now Open: Swimming at Cull Canyon in Castro Valley - 510 Families
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Now Open: Swimming at Cull Canyon in Castro Valley

~Cull Canyon is open weekends and holidays April 27 – September 2 for the 2024 season; and daily May 27 – August 16. Optional pre-registration is available for weekends and holidays. Non-holiday weekdays are walk-ups only.

Looking for a fun day trip where you can swim with your family? Just follow 580 to Castro Valley, about 20 minutes from Oakland, and you’ll find the Cull Canyon Regional Recreational Area, with an inviting sand-bottomed swimming lagoon with lifeguards on duty. I recently took my four kids, ages three to ten, for an afternoon of splashing, digging, and relaxing. Yes, the water is a bit chilly, but everyone is already asking to go back next weekend.

kids sitting on beach
Cull Canyon swimming lagoon in Castro Valley | Photo: Julie Herson

What to expect at Cull Canyon

The drive from Berkeley is about half an hour, with foggy skies sometimes opening up to warmer blue skies. Parking is free and ample, but you will need to trudge across a walking bridge and down a long pathway to reach the beach. ProTip: Bring along a wagon to make the beginning and end of your trip less stressful.  We chose to make reservations since it was Cull Canyon’s first open weekend of the season, but it wasn’t especially crowded as it turns out. For busier weekends, holidays or especially hot days, pre-registering is probably a good idea. If you don’t, you can pay at the entry as long as capacity limits haven’t been reached.  

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Reserve your spot at Cull Canyon >

kids digging in sand on a beach
When the water is a bit cold, playing on the beach offers hours of entertainment | Photo: Julie Herson

Swimming at Cull Canyon

Younger pre-swimmers will love the sandy beach where they can play in the sand and wade in the water. Adults will need to be within arm’s reach of their little ones if they want to go deeper in the water. ProTip: If you forget your toddler’s life vest, or want extra peace of mind, borrow one for free from the lifeguard tent (they have tons).  Lifeguards are very diligent and will call out younger swimmers who go beyond the chest limit. Older kids can take a swim test if they want to go into the deeper section. There is a large floating dock in the deep part where older kids and adults like to jump off into 11-foot deep water.

The dock in the deep area is the cool place to be for big kids | Photo: Liz Headley

The water can be a bit chilly on cooler days, which during our mild, foggy summers, can be common. ProTip: Consider coming later in the afternoon when the fog has burned off, and crowds have thinned.  Not warm enough to swim at Cull Canyon? Check out Castle Rock Pool in Walnut Creek, it’s usually a bit warmer there (opening May 25 for the 2024 season).

Cull Canyon Admission

  • $4 per adult (over 16)
  • $2 for ages 1 to 15
  • FREE under age one.

What to Bring

  • Towels, blankets, etc.
  • Sand toys, floats
  • Shade like this or this
  • Wagon
  • Lunch
  • Sunscreen, hats
child laying on beach
Chillaxing at Cull Canyon in Castro Valley| Photo: Julie Herson

The Bottom Line on Cull Canyon Swimming Lagoon

Cull Canyon is a great option for swimming in the summer in the East Bay. It’s not always super hot, and the water can be chilly, but kids don’t seem to care. Bring along sand toys and some floats, and your kids will be in seventh heaven. With such affordable pricing, close proximity, and a beautiful location, your family will have a blast.

Check out other fun swimming options here > 

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