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%
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!
Route And Pictures