Desolate Beauty above Martinez on the Ridge Trail

MAY 26, 2021 – The Ridge Trail crosses rolling pastureland atop the bluffs at the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline, with views of the strait, Benicia-Martinez Bridge and city of Martinez. The trail then dips from the bluffs to city streets on the northwest end of town and tacks east to the 880-acre Martinez Refining Co. operation at the foot of the bridge.

Trail Maps:

  • Carquinez Strait National Shoreline (Hulet Hornbeck Trail) here.
  • Martinez City Streets here.

(Note: We had hiked Mount Wanda during our ramble across the Franklin Ridge Ranches earlier in the month. We deferred the walk across the Benicia-Martinez Bridge to another day.)

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

Dan’s Journal

I texted an image from the Ridge Trail on the bluffs above the city of Martinez to some friends who live near Chicago. “It looks like a desert,” one scoffed. The next day, I showed the picture to my two grandsons. I got the same response. All that scoffing aside, the Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline is not a desert. But the bone-dry pastureland looks desolate in late May. At least the day was cool.

To be fair, the views from the bluff are nice. In addition to the view, we enjoyed an enthusiastic greeting from a rancher and his toddler son as we ambled past the cow pies on the fire road that doubles as a trail. The resident cattle were congenial, too. One drove stepped to the side of the trail without prompting to let us pass.

But as we hiked down from the bluff, we seemed to lose our enthusiasm for the walk along the city streets. The historic cemeteries on the west end looked interesting, but we didn’t stop. We considered dining at a restaurant, but with the pandemic still lurking we stopped at a picnic table to eat the sack lunch we had packed instead. The final mile of the hike past the Martinez Refining Co. fell flat.

Frankly, I thought the hike was kind of a dud. Blame it on the timing. Maybe we should return next March, when the spring flowers are blooming on the bluff and the pandemic is a fading memory. I expect the hike would be more fun.

Dawn’s Journal

Some hikes are all about the photo ops … and only the photo ops. This was one of those hikes. I usually seek towering trees, unique rock formations and meandering streams on my hikes. Instead, we had crispy grass, bare hills and forests of transmission lines. In fact, we saw evidence of almost every kind of power source, from natural gas line warnings and a massive refinery to solar and wind farms. The people of Martinez are well energized.

Even without lush natural features to awe me, I enjoyed the walk. The bare landscape made a perfect canvas for photos featuring singular themes — an old barn, a transmission line tower covered in technicians, a lonely palm tree, cattle traffic on the road. I found myself anticipating the next unique sight as we crested each hill. It was a field trip in photography composition.

As we walked I remembered the excitement I had when I first picked up my camera 5 years ago, photographing everything I saw from every angle.

Miles we hiked


(with returns and connectors)

Elevation gain






Our Progress Hiking the Bay Area Ridge Trail – 56.3 out of 390 miles


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