Diablo Foothills: Twin Ponds-Sugarloaf Shell Ridge-Franco Ranch-Hazard-Hanging Valley-Buckeye Ravine Trail Hike

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Diablo Foothills is an imposing gateway to the beautiful parklands of Mt Diablo State Park and Walnut Creek Open Space. The Foothills 1,060 acres are valued for their striking geologic formations, their sweeping panoramas of the San Francisco Bay Region and the rural quality of the adjacent rolling grasslands.*1

This hike goes for a clockwise loop around Diablo Foothills Regional Park from Castle Rock Park out to Twin Ponds, Bullfrog Pond, and up Sugarloaf Shell Ridge. The rolling terrain goes along the park boundary on Franco Branch and Hazard Trails to Hazard Pond before exiting out at Livorna Staging Area. The return goes up Hanging Valley to Stonegate and Briones-Mt Diablo Trails before taking Buckeye Ravine back to Stage and Castle Rock.

Head south from the parking area through Castle Rock Park to Diablo Foothills.

Exit the park onto Stage Rd to the next junction at Fairy Lantern Trail. Go right on Fairy Lantern, it heads up through the woodland to the Shell Ridge junction.

Turn left to stay on Fairy Lantern, the trail turns westward past Buckeye Ravine junction and continues with an uphill climb out towards the open grassland.

The trail cuts between the rolling hills before dropping down to the T junction at Briones-Mt Diablo Trail.

Turn right into Briones-Mt Diablo, the trail exits the park into Walnut Creek Open Space. It cuts across the grassland area to the trail junction at Borges Ranch Trail.

Go straight to stay on Briones-Mt Diablo followed by an immediate left onto Borges Ranch Trail. Borges Ranch Trail drops down around the hillside to Twin Ponds.

At the trail split, turn right and follow the trail onto Twin Ponds Loop Trail. The single track goes through the scattered woodland and out across the open hillside.

The trail continues around the hillside to Sugarloaf Shell Ridge Trail junction.

Go straight onto Sugarloaf-Shell Ridge, it takes you out along Bullfrog Pond to the next trail junction.

Go straight to stay on Sugarloaf-Shell Ridge, the rolling terrain takes you up along the ridge with wonderful panoramic views of Shell Ridge!

At the crossroad, turn left onto Franco Ranch Loop Trail. It winds around the lower hillside to the next junction at Hazard Trail.

Turn left onto Hazard, it tilts upward for a short climb up to the park boundary at Foothills Trail.

Stay on Hazard, it rolls along the top of the hill before dropping down to Hazard Pond.

The trail continues along the park boundary before exiting out to the Livorna Staging Area parking lot.

Turn left on Livorna followed by a right on Serafix Rd. Turn left before reaching the stone bridge; at the triple wooden bollocks. The unmarked Serafix Trail turns eastward along the residential neighborhood.

At the trail split, turn right onto the unmarked AlamoTrail. It climbs uphill along the creek through the shaded woodland to the Alamo Trail post.

Go straight to stay on Alamo Trail, it continues uphill across the open hillside to Hanging Valley Trail junction.

Go straight onto Hanging Valley, the steady climb leads up to the top of the ridge with gorgeous views of the rolling hills!

Drop down Hanging Valley Trail to Stone Gate Trail junction.

Turn right onto Stone Gate, it rolls across the valley to the next junction at Briones Mt Diablo Trail. Go straight onto Briones Mt Diablo Trail to the second Buckeye Ravine Trail junction.

Turn right and take Buckeye Ravine, the single track drops down into the ravine through the beautiful woodland to Fairy Lantern Trail junction.

Turn right onto Fairy Lantern and retrace your steps back down to Stage Rd for the return through Castle Rock Park.

This is a wonderful scenic hike around the rolling hills and valleys at Diablo Foothills Park and Walnut Creek Open Space!

*1 http://www.ebparks.org/parks/diablo_foothills 

*2 http://hiking.bondon.com/Main.cfm?Page=HikeDetails&ID=1404

Stats:
7.46 Miles with 1326′ of elevation gain
Max elevation: 843′
Time: 3.5 hrs with one stop
Hike: Moderate
Parking: No fee-Diablo Foothills Reg Park Trailhead parking-informal parking near the park entrance at the end of Castle Rock Rd in Walnut Creek
Water & restrooms at Castle Rock Park ~1/4 mile from the parking area
Dog-friendly

Weather: Cloudy and cool. Temps ranged from the high 50’s to the low 60’s with SW winds.

Directions:  Route will be across the grass field, through the gate and left on Castle Rock Trail, continuing on Stage Road, right on Fairly Lantern Trail, left to continue to top of hill, right on Briones to Mt. Diablo Trail, left on Borges Ranch Trail, right on south Twin Ponds Loop Trail to Bullfrog Pond. Right on Sugarloaf – Shell Ridge Trail, left on Franco Ranch Trail, left on Hazard Trail, right on Foothills Trail to the Livorna Staging Area.

After a short rest/snack stop return on Alamo Trail, left up Hanging Valley Trail, right on Stonegate Trail, left on Briones to Mt. Diablo Trail, right on 2nd Buckeye Ravine Trail, right on Fairy Lantern Trail, left on Stage Road to return to Castle Rock Park. *2

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