There’s a lesser known hiking haven located in the northern range of the East Bay Hills. Fernandez Ranch has beautiful trails through the park’s golden hills and under oak savannahs. Thank the John Muir Land Trust for its efforts in conserving Fernandez, among other ranches, farms, open space, and shoreline.
This 4-mile recommended loop hike bonuses with glorious view of San Francisco Bay. Start on the Black Phoebe Trail, named for the bird that frequents the fence posts separating the pasture from the trail. Cross Slot Creek’s dry bed and start an ascent among mixed forest on the Whipsnake Trail.
As you climb, the surrounding forest gives way to open plains and giant oaks. Views come easy once you reach the park’s “Upper Meadow” as marked on the map.
Make your way through the golden hills and watch your step for the endangered Alameda Whipsnake (non-venomous). It’s pretty much mandatory to take a break and soak in the views from logs set up as chairs overlooking San Francisco Bay.
The views fade as you continue along the trail and descend into the valley. After crossing a small bridge, follow the Woodrat Trail up a ridge for the last views from an elevated point on the trail. It’s a quick and steep descent back into the valley on the Windmill Trail and a wooded section of trees making their autumn color transition.
Follow the trail paralleling Fern Creek ravine back to the parking lot.
The exit to the Fernandez Ranch parking lot is difficult to spot along Hwy. 4 for eastbound traffic as Christie Rd. is designated as a “minor exit.” The Fernandez Ranch entrance and parking lot is located at 1081 Christie Rd., Martinez, CA 94553. No drinking water is available at the trailhead. Dog-friendly!