Shell Ridge: Ridge Top-Costanoan-Haystack Hill-Flat Top-Hanna Lane-Borges Ranch-Briones Mt Diablo-Coyote Pond-Indian Crk Trail Hike

Thursday, September 28, 2017

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Shell Ridge comprises a series of parallel ridges, which cut diagonally into the heart of Walnut Creek, forming a wedge of open space running all the way to Mt Diablo. As the city of Walnut Creek’s largest open space unit, it has trails for biking, hiking, and horseback riding through oak woodlands and grassland savannah.*1

This hike heads east along Shell Ridge on the Ridge Top Trail to the out and back climb up Haystack Hill before dropping down to Borges Ranch. The route includes a jaunt along Coyote Creek and Indian Creek before the return to the start/finish.

Begin this hike from the trailhead at the end of Marshall Dr in Walnut Creek.

Enter through the trail gate and turn left onto the unmarked fire road, it turns northwards along the park boundary towards Ridge Top Trail.

Turn right at the Ridge Top Trail junction, the single track trail turns eastward along the open hillside with views of Mt Diablo in the far distance.

The trail snakes its way back along the lower section as it continues uphill towards the rock outcrops and scattered oaks with views of Ygnacio Valley.

Ridge Top Trail turns eastward along Shell Ridge.

Enjoy the phenomenal panoramic views of Las Trampas Ridge, San Ramon Valley, and Ygnacio Valley!

The sandstone covered trail continues uphill to the scattered oak lined ridge with gorgeous vistas.

At the trail split, turn left, it takes a detour along the hillside before reconnecting to the main trail.

At the second trail split, turn left again. Ridge Top Trail drops downhill through the shaded oak woodland to a cross junction.

Go straight to stay on Ridge Top Trail, it continues eastward with an uphill climb.

The trail rolls in and out of the scattered oaks across the open grasslands with glorious views of the rolling hills.

At the gate, go straight, the trail continues around the grassland. At the next trail split, turn left through the trail gate to stay on Ridge Top Trail.

The trail continues on a horseshoe loop around the lower ridge area to the next trail junction.

At the scenic bench overlook, turn left onto Costanoan Trail, it winds downhill to the next trail junction.

At the Sulfur Crk/Flat Top Tr junction, go straight onto Flat Top. The trail kicks up for a short 0.15 mile to the T junction at Flat Top.

At the junction, make a hard right onto the unmarked trail for a moderate out & back climb up to the summit of Haystack Hill at 806 feet.

Haystack Hill-Enjoy the panoramic views!

U-turn and drop back downhill to Flat Top Trail, at the junction, turn right to stay on Flat Top Trail. It winds downhill through the shaded oak woodland to the T junction at Hanna Lane Trail.

Turn right onto Hanna Lane, the broad fire road turns southward as it continues downhill with beautiful foothill views of the surrounding landscape.

The trail comes to a T junction at Costanoan Trail, turn left to stay on Hanna Lane Trail.

At the next trail junction, go left onto Borges Ranch Trail, it leads down to the picnic area at Bob’s Pond.

Continue past the parking lot and turn left at the next trail split, take the wooden steps up to Borges Ranch Rd.

Turn right onto the paved road and take the high road into Borges Ranch.

Stop at Borges Ranch. A major feature of Shell Ridge is the historic Borges Ranch, which was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981. Established in 1899, this cattle ranch complex features weathered barns and ranch buildings, corrals and the restored Borges family home. *1

Continue through Borges Ranch to its south end.

At the Ranger Station, turn left onto the unmarked Briones Mt Diablo Trail. It continues south along the east edge of the park with a gentle uphill climb.

At the next junction, go straight to stay on Briones Mt Diablo Trail, it turns eastward as it continues around the hillsides to a high point at Gpypsy Ridge.

Briones Mt Diablo Trail drops downhill to the next trail junction at Sugarloaf Ridge Trail.

Go straight to stay on Briones Mt Diablo Trail, it continues downhill past Joaquin Pond to a trail gate.

Enter through the gate and make an immediate left onto the unmarked Coyote Pond Trail. The single track travels through the scenic oak woodlands along the creek area to Coyote Pond.

At the next trail split, go right uphill onto an unmarked connector trail.

Turn left onto Indian Creek Trail, the single track trail rolls eastward through the shaded oak woodland and riparian landscape along Indian Creek to Bramhall Pond.

At the Fossil Hill Trail junction, go left to stay on Indian Creek Trail, it continues along the creek towards Indian Valley Pond.

At the next trail junction, go right uphill onto the unmarked Briones Mt Diablo Trail. The fire road climbs northward for the return to the start.

Enjoy the grand views of Shell Ridge!

Every trip can unveil a mystery and a payoff. So it is at Shell Ridge Open Space. Exploring the ridge and the rock outcrops can reveal marine fossils embedded in the sandstone, as the area once was the bottom of the ocean. Rolling foothills, ravines, and sub-ridges make for pretty foothill views, excellent hiking and mountain biking, and wildlife sightings.*2

Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails! You’ll love the expanding panoramic views along Shell Ridge and Haystack Hill along with the tour around the Historic Borges Ranch!



6.45 Miles with 1327′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 771′
Time: 2.5 hrs with one stop
Hike: Challenging
Parking: No fee-street parking at the end of Marshall Dr in Walnut Creek
No facilities-plan accordingly

Weather: Sunny and warm temps ranging from the high 60’s to the high 80’s with WNW winds.

Directions: Marshall Dr > L-Briones Mt Diablo Reg Tr > R-Ridge Top Tr > L-stay on Ridge Top Tr >

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