The Franklin Hills represent an important wildlife corridor that allows animals to roam and thrive in natural habitat. By 2003, JMLT held two wonderful properties there — Sky Ranch and Gustin Ranch — but they did not connect. The historic 158-acre Dutra Ranch was the link in between, so JMLT acquired it from the Dutra Family in 2004. Collectively, these three beautiful properties now offer 480 acres of contiguous open space along the Franklin Ridge, punctuated by a variety of native wildflowers and four kinds of oak trees. JMLT’s purchase of Dutra Ranch ensures it will remain unspoiled and wild, available for recreation and permanently protected from development.
The ranch’s trails meander up grassy hillsides and down through the densely wooded canyon floor, giving hikers, bikers and equestrians an enchanted setting for adventure. The Dutra family ranch site and the interpretive sign along the Dutra Loop Trail provide a glimpse into the history of the land and how the family used it in the late 1800s. Here you will also find a picnic area with breathtaking views of Mt. Diablo, the Carquinez Strait and indeed, much of Contra Costa County.
Dutra Ranch habitat includes annual and perennial native grasslands, bay laurel and coastal scrub. The property hosts a variety of oak trees – blue oak, coast live oak, valley oak and California black oak. Poppies, lupines, yarrow, Sticky Monkey Flower and Mt. Diablo sunflowers are abundant. A vital segment of the 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail runs through here, as do the upper reaches of the Alhambra and Rodeo creeks, supporting reptiles and amphibians including the threatened California red-legged frog and the Alameda whipsnake.
You can begin your visit to Dutra Ranch on the Feeder Trail, which crosses Franklin Creek under bay laurel trees before climbing the ridge. Elevation gain up to the Sky Ranch Kiosk is 700 feet. Extend your hike via the Tina Batt Trail (3 miles) through grasslands and oak for great views of the surrounding area. From the kiosk you can also take the Dutra Loop Trail (2.5 miles) through the canyon or simply return down the Feeder Trail (1 mile) to your starting point. Dogs are welcome!
From Highway 4 eastbound: Exit Alhambra Avenue. Turn right onto Alhambra Avenue. Make your first right onto Franklin
From Highway 4 westbound: Exit Alhambra Avenue. Turn left onto Alhambra Avenue. Turn right onto Franklin Canyon Road.
Then: Continue on Franklin Canyon Road for one mile. Turn left onto Dutra Road. The trailhead marked “Contra Costa County Feeder Trail #1” is on the left about one-tenth of a mile up the road. Watch for the yellow “END” sign on the left and park on the left side of the trailhead, just before the Franklin Canyon Stables. The Feeder Trail leads a mile up to the gate at the entrance of the Sky Ranch property. The Sky Ranch Kiosk is there, with signs and a map.