The Contra Costa Feeder Trail #1 is most notable for its history. Originally built as a stagecoach road in the 1850s, in 1952 it was turned into an access trail for the California Hiking and Riding Trail. This audacious 3000-mile loop, with campgrounds every few miles, was never completed, but in an effort to encourage the use of the partially-completed segments for shorter trips, a system of feeder trails was proposed for populated areas. However, no other feeder trails were built in the county.
The trail starts at the Franklin Canyon Stables and is mainly used by horseback riders. The trail climbs over Franklin Ridge, where it passes through Dutra Ranch, a small open space preserve.
The trail doesn’t have any really great views. The best part is the descent, where the trail offers a unique view of the quiet countryside and a working ranch. In fact the trail is a lot more enjoyable if you start from Ferndale Road and hike only as far as the Dutra Loop, but parking isn’t allowed on Ferndale Road. However, there are plans to extend the trail to Pereira Road, where you can park; if that ever happens it would make this one of the area’s most enjoyable hikes.
Start at the pullout on Dutra Road just past the railroad underpass. The wide dirt road climbs past a large stable and through unexceptional woods. The road is heavily used by horses, can be very muddy, and stays muddy for as long as a month after it rains. Traffic noise drifts over from Highway 4.
Reaching Dutra Ranch, the trail breaks out into open grasslands but continues to climb.
As the trail leaves Dutra Ranch it becomes much quieter and little-used; there’s no more traffic noise or horseshoe tracks. Before it was made a part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail in 2010, this bit of trail was unmaintained and had deteriorated into an overgrown, barely-visible track. It’s now been regraded and now looks like a regular (if little-used) dirt road, making it easier to hike but removing some of the wonderful sense of cutting through remote countryside.
The trail levels out and reaches a farmstead. After passing through a gate, a sign directs you into an orchard where the trail completely disppears. Don’t take the dirt road past the farm buildings, since it’s blocked by a gate; instead, cut through the tall grass of the orchard, keeping the fence to your left, and pick up the trail on the other side of the orchard.
The trail effectively ends at Ferndale Road. To your right, the old roadbed continues in a heavily overgrown trench, but soon peters out completely.
On the way back, take the unmarked Dutra Loop, which offers the best views of the hike before it dives into laurel and oak woodlands.
© 2018 David Baselt