Walk Report: Fernandez Ranch

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There is a MeetUp based dog hiking group calls Wags n Trails Klondike and I have been wanting to join. This past Sunday morning Klondike was able to make some time and we joined Wags n Trails for one of their easier walks, a 3.72 mile, 105 minute medium paced loop through Fernandez Ranch, a public recreation area maintained by John Muir Land Trust, between Hercules and Martinez, roughly 25 miles north east of  Berkeley.

 A Good Walk

  • It was great to be out walking with a ten other devoted dog owners and their well cared for, well trained, much loved dogs
  • At less than two hours and just under four miles, this was a nice, medium sized hike accessible to most people and their dogs
  • There was a serene quiet and sense of space hard to get at even the best walks closer to the city
  • Lots of flora and fauna and a good mixture of environments – open plains, hills (nothing too outrageous), switchbacks  and swimming opportunities, which of course Mr. Klondike did not waste. The park brochure promises:

Breathtaking views await at the top of the Whipsnake Trail and kids can have a giggle rambling the hills and meadows looking for a variety of bugs, beetles and animal tracks. You may even catch a glimpse of a rare animal or two, including the endangered Alameda whipsnake, the California red-legged frog and maybe an American badger. But keep a keen eye out for the whipsnake — despite the two bright yellow stripes on its back, it is shy and hard to spot.

At dawn and dusk, the meadows at Fernandez Ranch come alive! Deer emerge from the woods and coyotes howl to one another. Oak-studded slopes and freshwater wetlands give way to Rodeo Creek, whose banks are cloaked in Coast live oak. In the springtime, poppies, lupine and the threatened Mount Diablo sunflower — which only grows in Contra Costa County — blanket the ranch in vibrant color.

  • Dogs officially allowed off leash
  • Trails are well marked – you shouldn’t get lost
  • Parking is not an issue

Of Course, It’s Not Perfect

  • The flora and fauna include lots of ticks, and we saw a rattlesnake. Neither was a problem – the rattlesnake was happy to get away from us and, probably due to his thick fur, Klondike only got one tick which was easily removed. Still, you definitely want to be aware of both. For ticks, by the way, consensus on the trail was that this is the product to get.
  • With traffic on a weekday, Fernandez Ranch can be 90 minutes from Berkeley, and possibly as much as two and a half hours from San Francisco. Without traffic it’s just 25 minutes from Berkeley. On a weekday, I’d skip the drive and head for the more accessible Inspiration Point , Strawberry Canyon,  or the always awesome Roberts Recreation Area. On a weekend, absolutely, yes, worth it.
  • Bicycles and horses are allowed on the trail, though we didn’t see any
  • Little or no cell phone reception except in the parking lot

Klondike Walk Score: 84%

Important Notes

Water is not available on the trail, there is no trash disposal on the trail and there are no restrooms on the trail. I would absolutely suggest bringing water for you and your dog. We went on a fairly cool morning (low 70’s) and really wanted it.

Printed maps weren’t available so I’d definitely suggest downloading the map below and printing out. Thanks Jenny B for pointing this out!

Access

Here is a Google link for driving directions. The official address is 1081 Christie Road, Martinez, CA, 94553. For those of your who enjoy such things, here‘s the Google Earth satellite view

Chris Road Exit
You will take this exit from Highway 4 to Christie Road. Note it is right before the rusty bridge and easy to miss.
Fer Ent
Entrance to the park is also a bit easy to miss. It is the third opportunity to turn right, the first two being a gate to a private house and what looks like a gated private road. It is 0.6 miles from where you leave the freeway.

 

Route And Pictures

FINAL MAP FOR WRITE-UP
Route is shown in orange highlighter. Click here for PDF map.
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Klondike happily trots across the bridge connecting parking and picnic area with trailhead
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Over the bridge and officially on the Windmill trail!
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This shady, covered area is right near the trailhead and where the walk offically began
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Along the Windmill trail
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The group in line. Don’t worry – it’s cool to open the cattle gates, just close them again
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More Windmill
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Whipsnake hits Windmill here
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Klondike reminds you: Fork to the left to take Whipsnake for just a little bit before hitting Woodrat. He also reminds you: the word is Whipsnake, a reptile, much as your eye wants to read the sign as Whisper. People language is so hard.
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And… we turn from Whipsnake onto Woodrat
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Klondike did not go into the pond on the left, unlike another dog, but did available himself of a swim opportunity a little further down the trail.
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Fork to the left, over the bridge, and you are back on Whipsnake and heading up toward the trailhead. Klondike has warned me to keep my lens cleaner. Sorry Mr. Klondike.
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This is one of a few switchbacks on Whipsnake. A well named trail.
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Another cattle gate. Just open and close as you go through
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Whipsnake pretty much turns into Black Phobes
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From Black Phobes it’s less than 10 minutes to the trailhead
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Klondike chilling in the shade, adjacent to the parking lot,  with his water bowl (after a tick check)
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Thanks Fernandez Ranch! It was nice meeting you, we’ll be back!
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6 thoughts on “Walk Report: Fernandez Ranch

  1. Excellent coverage of this dogtopia. I guess I would point out that for some dogs the name “ranch” may lead to disappointment as there appear to be no herding opportunities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very impressive, Wild. I love how you wrote “Dogs officially allowed off leash”. There are only two ways I like to hike: officially off leash or unofficially off leash, lol. Another negative might be there were no maps available. This is a newer park so maybe they haven’t printed any yet. But I’m glad I printed one off the website before we went!

    Like

    1. Thanks Jenny, and thank you for leading the walk! And thanks for the map – you probably noticed that when I put up my version I exactly copied your notation.
      Will modify the post to reflect.
      See you soon!

      Like

  3. Too late! Added a comment in the Good To Know section yesterday since it certainly is useful info.

    I used Preview on Mac for the arrows. It’s part of OSX, shockingly robust, and easy to use.

    Like

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