Round Valley: Miwok-Murphy Meadow-Hardy Canyon Trail Hike

Thursday, April 7, 2016

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*The area that is now Round Valley Regional Preserve was once home to California Indians. It was probably a boundary between several different tribal groups, an area where members of East Bay and San Joaquin Valley groups met periodically to trade and socialize. Evidence of Native American use has been uncovered at several archaeological sites within the valley.

Begin this hike at Round Valley Regional Preserve in Brentwood. Take the main path to the first trail junction .

Turn right on Miwok Trail and cross the bridge over Marsh Creek to the trail gate.

Head east on the Miwok Trail. *Riparian vegetation occurs primarily along Round Valley Creek, which the Miwok Trail parallels beginning about one-half mile from the staging area. The creek flows until late spring or early summer, after which the water pools at intervals along the streamcourse. Tree cover along the banks is sparse; vegetation includes spikerush, sedge, rabbitsfoot grass, watercress, curly dock, monkey flower, and willow.

Fields of wildflowers!

Miwok Trail continues through the gorgeous oak woodland on gentle terrain.

Grazing cattle dot the open grassland.


The trail continues through the valley along Round Valley Creek.

Cross the bridge onto the broad fire road towards Round Valley.


At Hardy Canyon Trail junction-go right to stay on Miwok Trail.

At Murphy Meadow Trail junction-go right onto Murphy Meadow Trail to the Round Valley Creek crossing.

Enter through the trail gate to stay on Murphy Meadow Trail-it heads south through Round Valley to the Fox Tail Trail junction.*The land was purchased in 1873 by Thomas Murphy, an Irish immigrant who established a ranching and farming operation. Murphy’s grandson, Jim Murphy, sold the core 700 acres of Round Valley to the East Bay Regional Park District in 1988. It was his wish that the land be preserved in open space for public enjoyment, rather than used for residential development, or, as was once proposed, a refuse disposal site. A few old pieces of farm equipment in the preserve date to the late nineteenth century or early twentieth. Remember that all archaeologic and historic objects in the preserve are protected by law; please leave them undisturbed for others to see.

Go straight to stay on Murphy Meadow Trail; it heads SW through the beautiful expansive valley floor. *The southwest corner of the preserve supports mixed oak woodland containing blue, valley, coast live, interior live, and black oak; California buckeye; and California bay laurel.

At the park boundary junction-turn left to stay on Murphy Meadow Trail. It continues around Round Valley with splendid views of the chaparral covered Black Hills around Morgan Territory and the foothill grasslands.


At the Round Valley Group Camp junction-go stray to stay on Murphy Meadow Trail. It heads southward into the stand of oak woodland amid grazing cattle.

At the Miwok Trail junction-turn right onto Miwok Trail. It heads northeast through the open valley with fabulous views of the surrounding soft rolling hills and verdant grassland.

The trail leads to a picnic area surrounded by a gorgeous stands of blue oaks.*The 1,911-acre preserve contains non-native grassland, oak woodland/savannah, shrubland and riparian woodland plant communities. The grassland occurs interspersed with extensive stands of blue oak woodland/savannah. Round Valley itself is primarily annual grassland with valley oak lining the intermittent drainages. Non-native grasses, inadvertently introduced to California by early settlers, comprise the annual grassland flora. The dominant grasses are annual ryegrass, wild oats, soft chess, and ripgut brome, with wild barley, foxtail chess, red brome, silver hairgrass, and annual bluegrass occurring in lesser amounts. Native and non-native wildflowers occur in spring.

Miwok Trail continues north along riparian vegetation as it exits the woodland area back out to the open grassland. Watch for rattlesnakes-this is a BIG one!

The trail rounds the flat valley floor to a cattle gate.

Miwok Trail leads you back towards Hardy Canyon junction.

Turn right onto Hardy Canyon Trail-it gently rises along the oak dotted hillside.

Stop for a break and enjoy the stunning panoramic view of Round Valley!


Hardy Canyon Trail continues on a single track through the rocky oak studded hills.

The trail goes upwards as it travels eastward across the grassy slopes with grand views of the Black Hills at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve. *The steep, northeastern-facing slopes in the southwestern portion of the preserve support mixed oak woodland and chamise/black sage/manzanita chaparral.

Pretty fields of wildflowers!

Hardy Canyon Trail continues uphill towards the rock outcroppings.

The narrow switchback cuts along the rocky hillside to the large oak with a low overhanging branch. *The bedrock geology of the preserve is Cretaceous Panoche shale and sandstone with deposits of recent alluvium on the surface in valleys and creek drainages. The preserve has small amounts of high-quality soils, located mainly in the level areas along Marsh Creek and in the valley proper. Most of the soil, however, is of a lower quality suitable only for range, wildlife and watershed uses. 

Hardy Canyon Trail continues on a narrow single track across the upper grassland.

Enjoy the magnificent views of Mt Diablo!

The trail winds down from the ridge towards the oak woodland and stock pond.

Hardy Canyon Trail continues across a huge crevice area as it leads into the woods. *The Marsh Creek (Mount Diablo) Fault is located about two miles southwest of the preserve. This fault has produced small earthquakes; two recent significant earthquakes (magnitude 5.5 and 5.6) occurred in 1980. 

The trail drops down through the shaded canyon along High Creek. *Riparian and wetland vegetation consisting of moisture-dependent grasses, rushes, herbs, shrubs, and/or trees occur along Round Valley Creek, which is a tributary of Marsh Creek originating in the uplands surrounding Round Valley.


Hardy Canyon Trail continues NE through the woodland.

The trail exits out along the eastern slope with great views of the neighboring equine facilities along Marsh Creek.

Hardy Canyon Trail cuts back into the oak stands as it continues downhill.

The trail winds around the valley meadows and grassland before coming to a trail junction.

Turn left to stay on Hardy Canyon Trail the cattle gate.

Hardy Canyon Trail continues through the lush riparian landscape and vegetation along Marsh Creek.

The trail leads you back across the bridge to the staging area parking lot.

This is a fabulous scenic hike around Round Valley! We did both loops in one day but you can also opt to do the flat loop along the valley floor on Miwok Tr >Murphy Meadow Tr > Miwok Tr or do the upper loop to the top of the ridge on Miwok Tr > Hardy Canyon. Hit the trails-they’re both equally amazing!

*The preserve is open for hiking, horseback riding and bicycling (with some restrictions). The climate at the preserve is arid and temperatures commonly exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer months. Be prepared for the summer heat: use sunscreen, wear a hat and loose-fitting clothing, wear good hiking shoes. Drinking water is available at the staging area. Be sure to carry plenty of water with you during your hike.


7.38 Miles with 1139′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 1086′
Time: 3 hours with a stop
Hike: Easy with gentle climbs
Parking: No fee at Round Valley Regional Preserve staging area at 19450 Marsh Creek Rd, Brentwood
Water & Pit toilets available. Bring plenty of water & food/snacks-NO facilites along the trails.
NO DOGS ALLOWED Due to the sensitive nature of the wildlife habitat at Round Valley.

Weather: Sunny and warm. Temps ranging from the high 60’s to the mid 70’s with brisk SW winds

Direction: Round Valley Staging Area > R-Miwok Tr > R-Murphy Meadow Tr > L-Miwok Tr > R-Hardy Canyon Tr > Round Valley Staging Area

Print Round Valley Trail Map

Round Valley



  1. Definitely, Watch out for those rattlers. I’ve had a number of close calls. From Michael and Maydene.


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