The Ridge Trail Kicks Our Butts in the Pinole Valley

APRIL 28, 2021 – The trail across the Pinole Valley Watershed from Pereira Creek to Sobrante Ridge undulates steeply through mostly shadeless grasslands. Our side trip through Fernandez Ranch included some welcome shade and a picnic area. We were too exhausted to tackle the Sobrante Ridge Trail, as planned, but returned three days later to enjoy the woods and view of San Pablo Bay.

  • Pinole Valley Watershed trail map here
  • Pinole Valley Watershed West and Sobrante Ridge Regional Preserve trail map here
  • Fernandez Ranch trail map here

We are hiking the 390-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sign up to follow our progress here.

Dan’s Journal

Unfortunately, sometimes a hike is defined by its worst moments.

The day began with such promise: We laughed at a wild turkey being chased through a corral by a resident horse. The 700-foot ascent into the watershed from Pereira Creek registered as a nice challenge with great views. And the three-mile extension through the woods at Fernandez Ranch and back yielded a pit toilet AND a picnic table as lunchtime arrived. Score!

But as the temperature rose into the mid-80s, the miles added up and steep grades kept coming, we ran out of gas. As we sat resting in the dirt for the fourth time on the shadeless mile-long grade up to the Sobrante Ridge Trail, we scanned the Google Maps satellite view for a short cut to reach our shuttle car parked in a neighborhood at the far end of the trail.

We lucked out. The app revealed an access road to the neighborhood at a nearby water tank, and the gate was unlocked. We were able to skip the Sobrante Ridge Trail entirely and walk suburban streets to reach the car. We had about six ounces of water left between us. Relieved but chastened, I swear we heard a rafter of wild turkeys laughing at us as we exited the trail.

In the spirit of getting back on the horse, we returned to the water tank three days later and knocked off the Sobrante Ridge Trail. For good measure, we also drove over to Crockett and checked off the hike through town and across the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge at the Carquinez Strait. No problem, but a few lessons learned as summer approaches.

Dawn’s Journal

It’s pretty rare that a trail defeats me. This one had me sitting in the dirt on the fire road from hell at least 4 times as we struggled up the final one-mile ascent from the Pinole Valley. Then we had to struggle up another one-mile ascent (with more fire road dirt-sitting) up to Sobrante Ridge.

We had made a big mistake earlier in the day — when we still had plenty of energy and water, but apparently no brains. We changed plan to add a 3 mile detour to Fernandez Ranch. This hike was not significantly longer or steeper than last week’s Crockett Hills hike, but the day was 15 degrees warmer. And that stupid detour left us struggling up 1,000 ft of elevation gain over 2 miles on completely exposed fire roads in the heat of the day.

Had I not been so busy grumbling about racing heart rates, ugly fire roads and the peculiar treelessness of this trail, I might have appreciated the magnificent view of the entire Pinole Valley from the top of one of those demon hills. I did have the sense to snap a picture.

Anyway, the lesson we had forgotten is that weather conditions matter A LOT. I console myself that this is not the stupidest thing we have ever done. After all, there was that time we decided to drive through a New Mexico blizzard in the middle of the night …

View from Ridge Road at the Pinole Valley Watershed. Dan Page/

Miles we hiked


(with returns and connectors)

Elevation gain






Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 21.8 out of 390 miles


4 thoughts on “The Ridge Trail Kicks Our Butts in the Pinole Valley

  1. Dawn, when did you drive through NM in a blizzard? Sharon and I have done that in one of sports cars back in the day. That was treacherous also! We followed a semi through parts of Missouri and into Oklahoma going to Amarillo around Thanksgiving. Yeah we have pulled some crazy things back in the day.

    1. We tried to outrun a blizzard while driving from LA to Amarillo for Christmas. The blizzard won. We sheltered in the parking lot of a defunct Stuckey’s store. We picked up a couple of college students who were stranded in a junker without heat, gorged ourselves on a tin of Christmas cookies, eventually followed a snow plow into town and checked into the worst motel in Santa Rosa, NM. They charged us triple rate for the privilege of being unfortunate. Ah, good times. – Dawn

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