The Muir Heritage Land Trust recently purchased the Fernandez Ranch, a 702-acre stretch of pristine land and critical habitat. The property, one of the largest open spaces in western Contra Costa County, is currently being restored to make it more hiker-friendly, so it won’t be open to the public until next summer. When it’s finished, it will provide a key thoroughfare for the Bay Area Ridge Trail—but you can get a sneak preview of the land from the Dutra Loop trail, which traverses a 2004 Land Trust purchase.
Starting Point: From Highway 4, take the
Alhambra Avenue exit in Martinez, and head south. Turn right on
Franklin Canyon Road, then left on Dutra Road. You’ll soon see the
starting point, a trailhead marked Contra Costa County Feeder Trail #1.
The Hike: It’s a simple one-mile ascent into rolling grasslands. Take the left trail at the fork just past the Sky Ranch kiosk to reach the peak. There you’ll find views of the tree-covered ridge of Fernandez Ranch to the northwest—as well as Mount St. Helena to the north and the Sierra Nevada range to the east.
On the Lookout: The land is teeming with small rodents, which guarantees the presence of red-tailed hawks, as well as snakes. Wildflowers pepper the landscape throughout the summer. “With incredible, unobstructed views of Contra Costa County, you see the margins between urban development and open space,” says Muir Heritage’s Linus Eukel. “You get a picture of where the county has been: It’s a walk back in time.”
Muir Heritage Land Trust’s Fresh Aire
Affaire fundraiser will be held at the John Muir estate in Martinez on
August 20, (925) 228-5460, www.muirheritagelandtrust.org.