Lafayette Ridge Trail starts at the southeast corner of Briones Regional Park. The trailhead is just off Highway 24, one exit east of Walnut Creek, so it's very close to home. Although the Briones webpage says parking is $5, at this trailhead it's free.
Lafayette Ridge Trail runs for several miles before it meets any other trails, which makes it a little impractical for any loop hikes. We did a straight out-and-back hike, walking the three miles to the Briones Crest Trail before turning back.
It's a stiff climb up onto the ridge to begin with, and it stays hilly once you're up. The ridge rolls up and down, so there are no really flat stages. It's not an easy six miles. A good hike for the weather, though: today was overcast, a little windy, and cold enough to encourage us to keep moving.
Despite the recent rain, the trails here were dry, except for a few muddy spots near the beginning. Choose the gravelled track, rather than the dirt trail, up onto the ridge to avoid the mud. But the advantage of the rainy winter is that it's a spectacular year for wildflowers. There were lots in bloom on this hike, with many of the slopes alongside the trail carpeted with vetch and California poppies.
It's a nice enough hike, but slightly unsatisfying. Too linear. And too close to Highway 24, so you're never completely out of earshot of freeway noise. I'll come to Briones again — there's a lot to explore here — but to the trails deeper within the park.