2.3 mile partial loop through grassy hills and oaks adjacent to John Muir's
home in Martinez.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.3 mile partial loop hike climbs about 400 feet in 1/2 mile,
but after that the hiking is easy. Total elevation change is about 600 feet.
Trailhead elevation is about 130 feet. The park's highest point is about
About equally shaded and exposed.
Dirt fire roads and trails.
Best in spring.
From CA 24 in Contra Costa County, exit Pleasant Hill Road (exit
14). Drive north on Pleasant Hill Road about 2 miles, then stay to the left
on Taylor, which feeds into Alhambra Avenue in Pleasant Hill. Continue north
on Alhambra Avenue about 3 miles, then, just before the junction with CA
4 (you'll see a railroad trestle), turn left onto Franklin Canyon Road.
Make an immediate left into an unmarked lot.
From CA 4 in Contra Costa County, exit Alhambra Avenue (exit 9).
Turn south, then turn right (immediately, if you've exited eastbound) onto
Franklin Canyon Road, and make an immediate left into the parking lot.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 7'46.59"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Stores, restaurants, and gas in Martinez. No camping.
Parking for about 18 vehicles in a park and ride lot. There are two designated
handicapped parking spots, but the trails are not wheelchair accessible.
No parking or entrance fees. No drinking water or restrooms. There is a
map at an information signboard up the trail, but there are no maps to take
with you. This trailhead is accessible by public transportation: visit the
Transit Info website
Open sunrise to sunset. Most trails are multi-use, but one is hiking only.
Dogs are permitted on leash.
The Official Story:
NPS's John Muir
Park headquarters at the John Muir site 925-228-8860
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get to the park.
A Rambler's Guide to the Trails of the East Bay Hills, Northern
Section, published by The Olmsted &. Bros. Map Co. (order
this map from Amazon.com) is a useful map.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of Mount
Wanda's segment of the Ridge Trail.
Wanda in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Wanda and an adjacent homestead belonged to John Muir, and
the naturalist and his family lived here from 1890 until Muir's death
in 1914. Both properties, on the southern edge of Martinez, are now managed
by the National Park Service. One hundred years ago this was a remote
region that featured good access for Muir's trips to Yosemite. Now it's
an oasis in a morass of urban sprawl. His home sits on the north side
of CA 4, and Mount Wanda (named after one of his daughters), sits on the
south side. From Mount Wanda's summit there are sweeping views of Mount
Diablo and Northern Contra Costa County's rolling hills, as well as unobstructed
vistas of industrial Martinez and some huge new homes on those surrounding
hills. I suppose we should be thankful Mount Wanda has been preserved. This
325 acre parcel could easily have been developed as "John Muir Estates."
If you can turn a deaf ear to the noise, and look past the smokestacks,
Mount Wanda is delightful. You can touch trees that stood during Muir's
tenure, and gaze over grassy hills dotted with the same annual flower
display he admired year after year.
It's tough to imagine a better time to visit
than Spring. Leaves on the park's deciduous oaks screen some less desirable
views, the grass is fresh and green, and wildflowers are plentiful. Mount
Wanda gets hot in summer and autumn, and the park looks a bit lonely in
winter, with so many bare trees. There is just one partial loop here,
although a few fire roads radiate to the park's boundaries.
Start at the park and ride lot, and walk
along the side of Franklin Canyon Road toward the railroad trestle.
After about 200 feet, turn left just past the John Muir National
sign, walk up a few steps, turn left, and navigate the step over.
An information signboard stands on the left. The unnamed multi-use fire
road begins climbing on a moderate grade. Traffic noise from nearby streets
is a loud accompaniment as you ascend parallel to Alhambra Avenue. Black
and coast live oaks, buckeye, and California bay line the trail. There
are a few shrubs of poison oak, slightly back from the sides the trail.
You might see shooting stars, California buttercup, woodland star, lupines,
fiddlenecks, and mule ear sunflowers in spring. As the trail winds uphill,
oaks begin to dominate the landscape. Initially a mixture of coast live
oak, blue oak, and valley oak are clustered tightly together, but as the
sounds from civilization begin to fade away, blue and valley oaks spread
out into grassland. The grade picks up a bit, and it's a relief to reach
a signed junction, at 0.50 mile. Turn right onto John
Muir Nature Trail.
Stop at the information signboard and pick
up a guide to the nature trail and a separate wildflower and flora list.
The hiking only path snakes through blue oak woodland, as it circles the
slopes of a hill. There are benches sprinkled here and there along the
route. On the sides of the trail there were quite a few woodland stars
blooming in April, as well as some snakeroot, fiddlenecks, and bluedicks,
but the wildflower star was definitely the buttercup. Great clouds of
the yellow flower were a pretty contrast to the soft new grass and oak
leaves. The nature guide offers an interactive learning experience, with
a section on the park's oak trees particularly valuable for hikers intent
on identifying coast live, blue, black, and valley oaks. John Muir Nature
Trail keeps a mostly level grade,
with the overall trend a downhill one. The trail drops to a bridge and
ascends again, then begins to follow a seasonal stream uphill along a
ravine. This is a quiet and lovely place. On the other side of the bridge
a few stairs ascend to the edge of the forest. Some valley oaks tower
overhead on the right, but on the left a grassy hillside ascends toward
the mountain's plateau. Although the trail continues to skirt the hilltop,
this view offers a hint of what's to come. When I hiked here in April
grass crowded the trail, brushing my knees. A steeply sloping hillside
on the right fostered sprinklings of bluedicks and buttercups. Across
a valley, cows were visible grazing on a grassy ridge. At 1.09 miles,
John Muir Nature Trail ends at a signed junction. Turn left.
Back on the fire road, the trail climbs
a bit, then levels off at the park's grassy ridgetop. In April there were
staggering swaths of fiddlenecks along the trail and hillside on the right.
At 1.20 miles, an unsigned fire road departs to the right. Bear right,
1.27 miles, a fire road feeds in from the left. Continue straight.
On clear days, you'll have a view to Mount Diablo, but on my visit clouds
obscured the mountain. I could see the hills of nearby Briones Park, just
a few miles to the south. At 1.33 miles, take an unsigned path left,
to Mount Wanda's summit. An unattractive repeater sits fenced at the
top, but there are great 360 degree views. If it's not too windy the surrounding
grass is a fine choice for a lunch break. When you're ready, retrace
your steps back down the path to the fire road, turn right, then return
north. Bear right onto a connecting fire road, and at 1.56 miles, bear
right again to return to the original fire road (some trail names
would be helpful here; basically you want to continue east).
The trail descends, passing some blue and
valley oaks. Yet another unsigned fire road heads right at 1.62 miles,
but this one, like the rest, is a dead-end. Continue straight.
Look downhill to the right, where you might see ducks in a small pond.
At 1.83 miles, you'll reach a previously encountered junction with John
Muir Nature Trail. Continue straight and retrace your steps back to
Total distance: 2.33 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, April 4, 2002