Located just off Highway 4, between Hercules and Martinez, Fernandez Ranch offers stunning views, shaded hiking trails and a variety of wildlife, including several threatened plant and animal species. Visitors can gaze at the glittering blue of the San Francisco Bay from the ranch’s summits and the northern Bay Area is visible from its ridge tops.
The historic property of Bernardo and Carlotta Fernandez remained within the family for nearly 150 years. John Muir Land Trust approached the Fernandez family to preserve what remained of the original 7,000-acre ranch and raised funding for a $3.5 million dollar restoration project that began in 2008. Two years later, the property was opened to the public.
Recreation opportunities abound at Fernandez Ranch! Miles of multiuse trails are available for hiking, mountain bikes and horses, including 1.5 miles of ADA-accessible trails and connections to adjacent protected lands. Dogs can be off-leash on the ranch’s trails as long as they are under control at all times. There are three picnic areas and a staging area for horse trailers. Fernandez Ranch is accessible to those with limited mobility.
Hike the Windmill Trail to see a mid-20th century dairy farm, the old windmill and Fern Creek, before ascending to a segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail and into the Pinole Valley Watershed. Or, enjoy a meal and bird watching after walking the ADA-accessible Black Phoebe Trail, where you’ll find picnic tables and benches at the edge of South Meadow.
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.
From I-80: Head east on Highway 4. Take the first exit after the Franklin Canyon Golf Course onto Christie Road. Use caution; Christie Road is a minor exit off of Highway 4. Fernandez Ranch is .7 miles down Christie Road on your right.
From Martinez: Head west on Highway 4. Take the Franklin Canyon Exit. Turn left and merge onto Highway 4 eastbound. Take the first exit after the Franklin Canyon Golf Course onto Christie Road. Use caution; Christie Road is a minor exit off of Highway 4. Fernandez Ranch is .7 miles down Christie Road on your right.
Fernandez Ranch is ADA-Accessible
Pocket-sized docent tours - Berkeley Engineering - September 24, 2015
Conservation group gets $515,000 for Fernandez Ranch - Contra Costa Times -
September 30, 2008
Muir Heritage Land Trust gets grant from coastal conservancy - Business Times -
October 3, 2008