The 4 Hour Rule: Altamont
There are caves in the East Bay. And you’re going inside.
One of the best parts about living in the Bay?
Drive an hour in any direction, and you can find yourself in the middle of nowhere.
And in one of those middles of nowhere lies a cave ripe for exploration.
It’s got endangered animals. Rare plants. The occasional piece of etched Native American art.
It is the Vasco Caves Regional Preserve near Altamont, and it is truly one of California’s hidden treasures. Pair with a nearby aviation-themed restaurant and brewery tour before hanging your hat at a ranchside cabin for the night.
In order to become one with nature, we suggest you stay in nature. Thankfully there’s Reinstein Ranch, a family-owned enterprise that’s been in operation since 1884. About a 30-minute drive from Vasco, you can either camp on two site or glamp in the “Historic Hetch Hetchy Cabin” (pictured above), which was towed onto the property by draft horses in 1903. We say opt for the latter, which’ll get you a bed, outdoor shower and access to the onsite hot tub. Either way, you’re guaranteed lush mountain scenery that feels like that classic Windows XP background brought to life.
Despite the beauty of the ranch, no fires are allowed. So fly on over to Aviation in Livermore for supper. Their rooftop bar is replete with couches, heaters to stay warm and some of the best burgers in town. And for a nightcap? (Or a daycap, we’re not judging.) Altamont Beer Works is one of the best breweries in a very competitive region. Fill up a couple growlers to go.
The crux of this endeavor hinges on you getting a reservation to actually tour the caves (be forewarned: it needs to be done at least a month in advance). Why? Because Vasco is home to a number of rare plant and wildlife species, and to promote their survival, the Preserve limits the number of people who pass through each day. Another pro tip: be sure to bring a camera. You’re not allowed to bring your phone on the 3-mile hike, let alone take photos with it. That’s to ensure the nature stays as pristine for others as it is for you.
See the world from your inbox.
Sign up for The Journey, our Travel newsletter.