MAY 21, 2021 – The hike out Contra Costa Feeder Trail No. 1 on the Bay Area Ridge Trail includes a peaceful canyon hike to a dead end before boomeranging back across the grassy Franklin Ridge Ranches to the stunning oak-studded hillsides of Mount Wanda at the John Muir National Historic Site. The trail connecting the ranches to the historic site opened only last year, when the John Muir Land Trust purchased neighboring Almond Ranch. Find a trail map here.
We are hiking the 390-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. Sign up to follow our progress here.
I wasn’t expecting much from a trail named “Contra Costa Feeder No. 1.”
The hike up the fire road from Dutra Ranch is nothing special, but as the trail leaves the Franklin Ridge Ranches and enters East Bay park district land it dives down a lovely little canyon that parallels an unnamed creek bed.
Stretching for less than a mile, the sun-dappled, wooded descent to a private farm was wholly unique to my Ridge Trail experience. It’s hard to explain, even for a son of suburban Chicago, but the trail oozed Midwestern charm. lt was very nostalgic.
After bouncing back up the feeder trail to a ridgeline bench for a highly “present” lunch at a bench with a view of Suisun Bay and Martinez, CA, we discovered more nice surprises on the newly opened trail at Almond Ranch.
For starters, the Almond Trail connects two previously unconnected out-and-back tracks, and that’s always a win on the Ridge Trail. But practical matters aside, I enjoyed how the trail builds to a crescendo: It runs straight alongside a fence line before passing through a gate and winding gently through grassy foothills with increasing numbers of oaks until the extraordinary woodland at Mount Wanda unfolds. Mount Diablo rises in the distance.
This time the charm was pure California.
I rate this hike as one of the best of the Ridge Trail so far. The East Bay Park District section felt like a walk on a country road as we passed fences, cows, deer, barns and orchards. We strode from stand to stand of old-growth oaks on the Almond Ranch Trail. We could see Mt. Diablo through most of Franklin Ridge and the John Muir National Historic Site. We had lunch on a bench with panoramic views of the Suisun Bay. The day was sunny and warm; the clouds were fluffy; a turkey vulture coasted by for a picture. Days like this keep hikers hiking.
We made one planning mistake in deciding to shuttle from the Dutra Road feeder trail to shorten the hike distance by a mile and a half. We should have just planned an extra hour and hiked out and back from the John Muir parking lot. In return for the hassle/cost of a second car for the 52-mile drive, the Dutra feeder trail proved to be unremarkable outside of offering views of a hurried coyote and the inevitable flock of East Bay trail turkeys.
Miles we hiked0
(with returns and connectors)
Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 50.9 out of 390 miles12.9%