JMLT: Fernandez Ranch-Woodland-Pinole Valley-Vista-Canyon Loop Trail Hike

Friday, January 12, 2018

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The historic property of Bernardo and Carlotta Fernandez remained within the family for nearly 150 years. John Muir Land Trust approached the Fernandez family to preserve what remained of the original 7,000-acre ranch and raised funding for a $3.5 million dollar restoration project that began in 2008. Two years later, the property was opened to the public.

Located just off Highway 4, between Hercules and Martinez, Fernandez Ranch offers stunning views, shaded hiking trails and a variety of wildlife, including several threatened plant and animal species. Visitors can gaze at the glittering blue of the San Francisco Bay from the ranch’s summits and the northern Bay Area is visible from its ridge tops.*1

Exit the Fernandez Ranch Trailhead parking lot, cross Rodeo Creek to the first junction at Black Phoebe/Windmill Trail, turn right onto Windmill Trail.

At the Homestead Picnic Area junction, go right to stay on Windmill Trail. It travels across the open meadow to a trail gate.

Windmill continues SW through the gorgeous pastoral valley meadows to Woodland Trail junction.

Turn right onto Woodland Trail, it gently rises above the valley floor along the lower hillside to a trail gate.

The trail climbs up northerly through the beautiful dense oak-bay woodland with multiple little wooden bridge crossings.

Woodland Trail turns westerly as it continues across a stunning glowing carpet of miners lettuce!

The trail continues to traverse the hillside as it exits the woodland to the open ridge.

Woodland Trail comes to a T junction at Canyon Loop Trail. Go left onto Canyon Loop Trail to the next T junction at Franklin Ridge Trail.

Turn left onto the Franklin Ridge Trail to the EBMUD Bay Area Ridge Trail.

The Bay Area Ridge Trail turns easterly along the ridge top to the scenic picnic and vista bench. With the fog, there’s really not much to see, so we turn around and retrace our step back towards the EBMUD gate.

At the trail junction, turn left onto the unmarked Goat Rd, the fire road drops down into EBMUD’s Pinole Valley Watershed Area.

Enjoy the wonderful sight of the grazing cattle and the beautiful valley views!

At the water trough, turn right and follow the faint trail along the boundary fence to a green cattle gate.

Continue off-trail and make your way up towards the transmission towers onto a no-name cattle trail.

The cattle trail reconnects to Goat Rd for the return up to Franklin Ridge. Exit EBMUD watershed area and retrace steps back to the Canyon Loop/Franklin Ridge Trail junction. Continue straight on Franklin Ridge to Vista/Canyon Loop Trail junction.

At the junction, turn left onto Vista Trail, it climbs uphill to a scenic overlook area.

Enjoy the gorgeous hilltop panoramic views!

Backtrack downhill to the Canyon Loop Trail junction.

Turn left onto Canyon Loop Trail, it turns north as it drops down into the gorgeous wooded canyon.

Canyon Loop Trail travels along a tributary of Rodeo Creek through dense oak-bay riparian woodland.

The trail exits through the expansive miners lettuce covered slopes out to the lower valley.

Canyon Loop Trail turn easterly with wonderful views of Franklin Ridge and Franklin Hills!

The trail tilts up for a stiff steep climb back up towards the ridge.

At the Canyon Loop junction, turn right to continue uphill to the top of the ridge.

At the Woodland Trail junction, turn left and retrace the steps back through the wooded canyon up to the trail gate.

The trail turns southward on the return across the open hillside with magnificent views of the surrounding rolling hills and ridges.

Woodland Trail cuts across the pastoral meadows to the junction at Windmill/Homestead Picnic Area.

Return on Windmill Trail, cross the steel bridge back to the parking lot.

This is a fabulous local hike around the open valley meadows into the gorgeous woodlands and up to the ridge with magnificent vistas all around. Bring your EBMUD permit if you plan to explore the Pinole Valley Watershed Area.

This beautiful 1185-acre open space provides essential habitat for native wildlife and a delightful refuge for public recreation. Visitor enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Bay from elevated ridgetops, miles of multi-use trails, picnic areas, and calming walks through pristine East Bay ecosystems.*1


7.68 Miles with 1598′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 795′
Time: 3.5 hours with a stop
Hike: Challenging with s steep climb
Parking: No fee at Fernandez Ranch Trailhead at the end of Christie Rd, Martinez
Vault toilets-No potable water available
Bring water & snacks-pack out all trash
Open from dawn to dusk
Weather: Foggy and cloudy with some afternoon sun. Cool temps ranging from the low 50’s to the low 60’s with W winds.

From I-80: Head east on Highway 4. Take the first exit after the Franklin Canyon Golf Course onto Christie Road. Use caution; Christie Road is a minor exit off of Highway 4. Fernandez Ranch is .7 miles down Christie Road on your right.

From Martinez: Head west on Highway 4. Take the Franklin Canyon Exit. Turn left and merge onto Highway 4 eastbound. Take the first exit after the Franklin Canyon Golf Course onto Christie Road. Use caution; Christie Road is a minor exit off of Highway 4. Fernandez Ranch is .7 miles down Christie Road on your right.

Direction > Fernandez Ranch Trailhead > cross steel bridge > R-Windmill Tr > R-Woodland Tr > L-Franklin Ridge > EBMUD gate > Bay Area Ridge Tr > U-Bay Area Ridge Tr > L-unmarked Goat Rd > cross county up to transmission tower > reconnect to Goat Rd > L-exit EBMUD watershed > S-Franklin Ridge Tr > R-Vista Tr > U-Vista Tr > L Canyon Loop Tr > R at Y junction-stay on Canyon Loop Tr > L-Woodland Tr > L-Windmill Tr > cross steel bridge > Fernandez Ranch Trailhead

Buy EBMUD Trail Permit

Print Trail Map


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