The Pinole Watershed

Length 8.9 mi · Climbing 1630 ft
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The Pinole Watershed

The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail follows a horseshoe-shaped ridge around a broad, grassy basin, with nice ridgetop views throughout. The trail is little-used with, according to EBMUD, only 2–3 people per week. I think that’s mostly because the Pinole Watershed doesn’t have any good loop options.

Not all of the intersections are marked, so without a map it’s easy to get lost.

The beginning and end of the trail can be faint and overgrown, and there are some really steep sections, but otherwise the trail is usually in good condition.

A $10.00 annual permit is required to use this trail. The permit can be purchased online and printed out on your printer.

Start at the prominent gate at the intersection of Alhambra Valley Road and Castro Ranch Road. There’s space to park on the shoulder next to the gate. A nearby windmill squeaks away.

The trail is sometimes almost completely invisible at first; it can be obscured first by a firebreak and then by a thick mat of grass. As it starts to climb the hill, the grass gets a little thinner and the dirt road a little clearer.

There’s a long climb up a grass-covered ridge with views over the Pinole Watershed. The trail then descends to the floor of the Pinole Watershed’s central basin, where it meets up with a much better-maintained dirt road. Turn left onto the road, which gradually ascends the gently-sloping basin with a few houses visible nearby.

The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail runs along the basin floor for a while

The trail climbs through a little canyon to reach the ridge again. When it reaches the ridge there’s a nice level stretch of trail with some views of the Pinole Watershed on the right side and scattered suburban developments and distant San Pablo Bay on the left. Ahead is a prominent knoll with a dirt road going over it; this is where you’re headed.

The trail descends to a four-way intersection and an entrance to Franklin Canyon. From here a singletrack trail (opened when the trail was rerouted in 2013) climbs a hillside, passing through a sparse copse of trees. The trail turns into a dirt road the road climbs over a knoll, descends, and then makes a steeper climb up Pinole Peak, the prominent knoll that’s been visible for the past few miles.

The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail

There are some nice views over the Pinole Watershed’s central basin and Alhambra Valley Road from the Pinole Peak.

The Pinole Watershed

The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail

The trail then makes a short but very steep descent off the peak. When the road ends at the bottom of the hill, turn onto a singletrack trail that makes a pleasant and enjoyable descent. Near the bottom, the trail becomes increasingly overgrown with grass.

The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail

The Pinole Watershed Ridge Trail

The trail ends at Pereira Road. Sludge Road would make a good loop, but ever since it opened in 2018, the first 0.7 miles has been very rough, heavily overgrown, and almost invisible, making it really unpleasant to walk.

The easier option is to walk back on Alhambra Valley Road, which is also less than ideal. It’s at least fairly scenic, although there’s a lot of trash by the side of the road. Walk on the left side so that you can see the cars as the approach, and also because for most of the way the road has a gravel shoulder on the left side.

Alhambra Valley Road


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