Brought to you as a community service by your Tenth Congressional District Democratic Clubs.
This hiking area is the personal favorite of the home page editor. It is close to the urban area of Walnut Creek, offers interesting ridge hiking with spectacular views. It also offers one of the most interesting and accessible places for radio control sailplane flying ("Hike and Fly") for the experienced pilot.
When you drive out highway 24 just before highway 680 (at "Disfunction Junction"), you have a great view of Mt Diablo. Shell Ridge is the prominant sawtooth ridge proceding down from the mountain right to left.
From south central Walnut Creek, take Mt. Diablo Road east across Broadway, continue to Homestead. Left on Homestead to Marshall Drive (at stop sign), right on Marshall Drive to the end at Indian Valley School. From Ygnacio Valley Drive turn onto homestead going South, left on Marshall Drive at the first stop sign. Park on the street at the end of Marshall Drive at Indian Valley School. Shell Ridge is on your left.
To get to the most spectacular ridge hike, double back to your left inside of the park and either take the service road up to the big water tank or cross the toe of the ridge and use the new trail up the north side. There is also an old trace up the crest of the ridge to the tank. From the north side of the ridge you may procede directly to the ridge crest (avoiding the poison oak to the right of the notch in the ridge) or may go a little further to the east for an easier access. From here you may continue to the end of the first part of the ridge at Ginder Gap.
Recently improved alternate trails around the peaks offer an easier hike for less vigorous hikers. After many ups and downs you can get to the end of the first part of the ridge (overlooking Ginder Gap) for a nice view of mount diablo, then backtrack a bit for an easy trail down the pleasantly wooded north side of the ridge. A tricky path down the steep end of the ridge requires careful footwork. Walking on the clean exposed stone gives better traction than the loose dirt.
There is an old, little used foot trail down the south side that begins just before the steepest part of the descent down to Ginder Gap. I have seen baby rattlesnakes on this trail so watch your step.
Once at the base of the ridge in Ginder Gap you may loop back to the right and return via Indian Valley, left and return around the north side of the ridge, or continue toward Borges Ranch by road on either side of, or by trail up the continuing ridge.
This trail has views of Walnut Creek, Concord and Martinez to the North, Lafayette Ridge to the West, Rocky Ridge and Las Trampas Ridge to the South and Mount Diablo to the East.
Click here for a large panoramic view - 80kb (not for NetScape 2.x)
Almost full circle panorama, with Shell Ridge on the right and mount diablo in the right distance.
Full circle panorama of view from west end of ridge, with landmarks noted (64kb, 2092 by133, ).
Shell Ridge consists of alternating planes of sandstone and limestone. These planes are tilted up from north to south. Some of the limestone contains embedded shells and shell fragments. These are displayed at excavations at the top of the service road near the EBMUD water tank.
The north face of the ridge is heavily forested with Oak and other trees. A few Almond trees can be seen at the crest of the ridge. Native wildflowers on the ridge include California Sunflower (on the north face) and California Fucia (on the crest) (a favorite of migratory hummingbirds). This blooms in the fall with bright orange-red trumpet shaped flowers.
My personal catalog of common sitings includes ground squirrels, red tail hawk, turkey buzzard, redwing blackbird, swallow, deer, coyote, rattlesnake, and gopher snake. More rairly seen is the red fox (an imported exotic), golden eagle and migratory hummingbird.
Shell Ridge Open Space connects with Borges Ranch, Castle Rocks, and Mt Diablo State Park.
See also [Wildland Hiking Precautions]