Bishop Ranch Regional Preserve,
East Bay Regional Park District,
Contra Costa County

In brief:
2.1 mile loop winding through mostly oak grassland, at the edge of San Ramon.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.1 mile partial loop hike is easy, but there are a few steep trail sections. Trailhead elevation is about 450 feet. Preserve's high (trail) elevation is around 1000 feet. Total elevation change on this hike is about 500 feet. Even with the steep trail sections, you'll likely fail to exhaust your resources at this small preserve.

Exposure:
Mostly exposed, with some shade.

Trail traffic
:
Light.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt fire roads and trails.

Hiking time
:
1 hour.

Season
:
Too hot in summer. Best in late winter and early spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 680 in Contra Costa County, exit Bollinger Canyon Road (exit 34). Turn west onto Bollinger Canyon Road, and almost immediately turn south (left) on San Ramon Valley Boulevard. Drive south about 0.7 mile, then turn right onto Morgan Drive. Drive on Morgan about 0.2 mile, to the signed trailhead on the left side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://transitandtrails.org/trailheads/451/

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude
3744'57.83"N
Longitude
12157'47.70"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, restaurants, and stores back at Bollinger Canyon and San Ramon Valley Boulevard. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Ample roadside parking at the edge of a residential neighborhood. No parking or entrance fees, maps, restrooms, or drinking water. There is a map under glass at the information signboard. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are ill suited for wheelchairs. There is no direct public transportation to the park, but you can walk to this trailhead from the County Connection route 121 bus stop: visit 511.org for details.

Rules:
All but one trail are multi-use; that trail is designated hiking only. Dogs are permitted. Preserve open 5 a.m. - 10 p.m. Trails may be closed to cyclists and equestrians during wet conditions.

The Official Story:
EBRPD's Bishop Ranch page.
EBRPD headquarters 510-652-PARK

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from EBRPD

Bishop Ranch in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from the featured hike.
View photos from an out-and-back April hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Bishop Ranch does not offer day-long hiking challenges. TrailheadIt's a 529 acre chunk of land not far from I-680 and the residential neighborhoods of San Ramon; open space best suited to dogwalks, pre- or post-work human exercise, and springtime picnics under old oak trees.
      Three main multi-use trails, and one narrow hiking-only path (so minor, that in this cow-grazed preserve you may have trouble finding it) comprise Bishop Ranch's trail network. There are a couple loop options combining Stream View, Grey Fox, and Red Tail Hawk Trails, or you can hike out and back from the southeast preserve boundary to the northwest border on Grayfox and Red Tail Hawk Trails. If you have a free afternoon, the preserve is small enough to explore extensively in a few hours. Grayfox TrailBut it was hard for me to drag myself past the junction of Red Tail Hawk Trail and Stream View Trail. From one spot near that junction on the grassy ridge, if you position your gaze correctly you can see Mount Diablo and its foothills, without a single building, street, or freeway visible. Rolling treeless hills block out civilization, if only for a few degrees of longitude.
     Although the transition to autumn is marked appropriately at Bishop Ranch (the deciduous valley and black oaks take care of that), spring boasts gentle temperatures, grass of the greenest green, and wildflowers. When the wind ripples through the verdant, flower-dotted grassland on a balmy April day, you may just want to sit and stare at the perfect and astonishing ordinariness of nature.
     Start out from the corral-like staging area on the obvious trail. Tall clusters of wild mustard line the path in spring, while tangles of willow guard a seasonal creek on the left.Stream View Trail  The trail curves left, crosses the creek, then passes through a cattle gate and after about 300 feet, reaches a signed junction. Hiking-only Stream View Trail begins on the right, while Grey Fox Trail continues straight. Continue uphill on Grey Fox Trail.
      The trail, open to hikers, equestrians, and cyclists, climbs very sharply through valley oaks and grassland. After only a couple hundred feet, on a clear day a view back over your shoulder will reveal Mount Diablo. Traffic noise from I-680 is audible. California buttercups, spring vetch, and blue-eyed grass dot the grass in springtime. The trail may be rutted and bumpy from cow traffic. Grey Fox Trail nears the preserve boundary, a fence guarded by poison oak, then turns right and continues to climb, but the worst is over. At 0.22 mile a fire road heads out of the preserve to the left. Climbing on Stream View TrailContinue straight. The trail passes beautiful large valley oaks gracing the grassland. At 0.31 mile, Grey Fox Trail meets Stream View Trail at a signed junction. Turn right onto Stream View Trail.
     The wide multi-use trail heads downhill through stands of valley oaks. Buckeyes cluster together in the creases of the hillside. At a moderate grade, Stream View descends on a series of broad switchbacks. The hiking-only segment of Stream View heads back toward at the trailhead from a signed junction on the right at 0.47 mile. Continue straight on the fire road.
     Coast live oaks blend into the white oak woodland as the trail continues downhill, then levels out. The seasonal stream sits off to the right, but is only visible a bit further up the trail. You may notice the remnants of a large landslide near the park border and houses. When I hiked here on a September day, some of the preserve's cattle scampered away from me like timid deer. Black oaks mix through coast live and valley oaks, shading the trail. There isn't much in the way of an understory, but poison oak and snowberry are common. Red Tail Hawk Trail Stream View Trail begins to climb, somewhat steeply, away from the creek. The trees thin as the trail rises into grassland, gaining elevation in a series of sweeping curves and straight ascents. Finally, as Stream View Trail approaches the ridge, pure grassland flows uphill. In spring the grass is a wave of lush green. At 1.24 miles, Stream View Trail ends at an unsigned junction. Turn left onto Red Tail Hawk Trail. (You could also turn right and follow Red Tail Hawk Trail to the preserve boundary, about 1 mile, then return to this junction.)
     The ridge falls away on the right, west side of the multi-use trail. This treeless grassland fosters wildflowers in the spring; you might see owl's clover, spring vetch, broadleaf filaree, crimson clover, fiddlenecks, and California buttercup before Easter, then California poppy, lupines, and mule ear sunflower a bit later. By autumn the grass is golden and inhospitably infested with yellow star thistle. Descending on Grayfox Trail on the return Since the small size of this preserve prevents a long hike, if you're visiting in spring you may want to plop down in the grass and watch the redtails soaring through the sky, or creep close to the ground and look for the owl in owl's clover. Red Tail Hawk Trail's grade is nearly flat, and on my springtime hike the wide trail was mostly covered with grass, enabling a very cushy stroll. The trail descends a bit, to a signed junction at 1.41 miles. The trail straight is a dead end. Turn left on Grey Fox Trail.
     Descending at a moderate grade, there are sweeping views of Mount Diablo and the San Ramon Valley. Grey Fox's grade steepens, levels off, then descends some more, to a familiar junction with Stream View Trail. Continue straight, and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 2.11 miles
Last hiked: Monday, September 16, 2002