Shell Ridge: Bob Pond-Haystack Hill-Sulpher Creek-Deer Lake-Ridge Top Trail Hike

Thursday, February 15, 2018

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Shell Ridge is located in the heart of Walnut Creek beginning just a short distance from downtown and continuing all the way to Mount Diablo. It is the city’s largest open space area and is made up a series of parallel ridges and valleys. Shell Ridge gets it name from the marine fossils left behind when the ocean waters that once covered it receded. There are plenty of hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities along ridge tops, creek ways, and hillsides. Shell Ridge is also home to the Borges Ranch, a historic cattle ranch; and Howe Homestead Park, the former home and orchard of James P Howe of the Associated Press. *1

Begin this hike from Hanna Lane Trailhead at Bob Pond.

Stay on Hanna Lane up to the junction at Costanoan Trail.

At the split, turn right to stay on Hanna Lane. The trail continues northwards as it winds around the hillside to the junction at Flat Top Trail.

Head west on Flat Top, it climbs uphill through the scattered oaks to the next trail split.

Go left onto the unmarked single track leading up to Haystack Hill.

Enjoy the panoramic views!

Descend Haystack Hill to Flat Top Trail junction.

Turn left to stay on Flat Top, it continues downhill to the Costanoan/Sulphur Creek Trail junction.

Turn right onto Sulphur Creek Trail. The single track travels westward along Sulphur Creek to Sulphur Creek Pond.

At the next trail post, turn right to stay on Sulphur Creek, the trail turns north as it continues through the riparian landscape along the creek to the park boundary at the green gate.

Cross the gate and follow the trail onto a paved road. Turn left and go uphill to the trail gate to the unmarked Costanoan Trail.

Costanoan Trail turns southward with a moderate climb uphill towards the ridge.

At the next junction, turn right onto Upper Buck Loop Trail, it continues climbing towards Deer Hill to the next trail split.

Go right to stay on Upper Buck Loop Trail, it heads westward with extended views of the valley and mountain ridges.

At the next unmarked split, go left to stay on Upper Buck Loop Trail, the gentle terrain winds around the hillside to the next junction at Lower Buck Trail.

Go left to stay on Upper Buck Loop Trail to the next junction at Deer Lake Trail.

Turn right onto Deer Lake Trail, the single track drops downhill through the scattered oaks to the trail gate.

Continue on Deer Lake Trail down to Deer Lake.

Follow the trail around the west edge of the lake towards the valley grassland.

Cross the trail gate to the next Y trail split, turn right onto the unmarked Corral Spring Trail.

Cross the trail gate and head west across the valley meadows along the park boundary towards Ridge Trail junction.

Make a sharp left turn onto Ridge Trail, 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 to 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.

Lunch stop

Continue east along the ridge to the next trail split, turn left. Ridge Top Trail drops downhill through the shaded oak woodland to the 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.

Cross Costanoan Trail, continue on through the trail gate to stay on Ridge Top Trail. Ridge Top winds along the ridge across the rolling hills towards the transmission tower.

The trail drops down to the T junction at Briones Mt Diablo Trail.

Turn left onto Briones Mt Diablo Trail, it leads up to the trail gate at Borges Ranch Trail.

Go left and take Borges Ranch Trail for the return to Bob Pond.

This is a great scenic hike around Shell Ridge Open Space from Bob Pond up to Haystack Hill and Deer Lake to the top of the ridge. You’ll enjoy the fabulous panoramic vistas!


7.15 Miles with 1511′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 845′
Time: 3 hours with one stop
Hike: Moderate-Challenging
Parking: No fee at Bob Pond Picnic Area, north of Borges Ranch at Shell Ridge Open Space in Walnut Creek
Water & restrooms are available

Weather: Sunny and cool with temps ranging from the low 50’s to the low 60’s with brisk NE winds.

Directions: Bob Pond > Hanna Lane Tr > R-stay on Hanna Lane Tr > L-Flat Top Tr > L-Haystack Hill > U-Haystack Hill > L-Flat Top Tr > R-Sulphur Creek Tr > R-stay on Sulphur Creek Tr > L-paved road > R-Costanoan Tr > R-Upper Buck LoopTr > R-stay on Upper Buck Loop Tr > L-stay on Upper Buck Loop Tr > R Deer lake Tr > R-Corral Spring Tr > L-Ridge Top Tr > S-stay on Ridge Top Tr > L-Briones Mt Diablo Tr . L-Borges Ranch Tr > Bob Pond

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