HISTORY & HABITAT

The Franklin Hills are home to an intact wildlife corridor that allows animals to roam in pristine natural habitat. By 2003, JMLT had acquired two wonderful properties here — Sky Ranch and Gustin Ranch — but these did not connect. Historic 158-acre Dutra Ranch was the missing link between them, and JMLT acquired it from the Dutra Family in 2004. Collectively, these three beautiful properties comprise 480 acres of contiguous open space along the Franklin Ridge, dotted with native wildflowers and four varieties of oak trees.

Trails meander up grassy hillsides and down through the densely wooded canyon floor. Hikers, bikers and equestrians enjoy a truly enchanted setting. The family ranch site and interpretive signs along the Dutra Loop Trail provide a glimpse into the history of the land and how folks made a living here in the late 1800s. The cosy picnic area provides breathtaking views of Mount Diablo, the Carquinez Strait and indeed, much of Contra Costa County.

Habitat includes annual and perennial native grasslands, bay laurel, and coastal scrub. The property hosts blue oak, coast live oak, valley oak and California black oak. Poppies, lupines, yarrow, Sticky Monkey Flower and Mount Diablo sunflowers are abundant. A segment of the 550-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail runs along the upper reaches of the Alhambra and Rodeo Creeks. These creeks support reptiles and amphibians including the threatened California red-legged frog and the Alameda whipsnake.

A visit to Dutra Ranch usually begins on the Feeder Trail, then crosses Franklin Creek under bay laurel trees before climbing the ridge. Elevation gain to the Sky Ranch Kiosk is 700 feet. The Tina Batt Trail (3 miles) winds through grasslands and oak for great views of the surrounding area. From the kiosk one can take the Dutra Loop Trail (2.5 miles) through the canyon or simply return down the Feeder Trail (1 mile) to the starting point. Dogs are welcome!

GETTING TO DUTRA RANCH

From Highway 4 eastbound: Exit Alhambra Avenue. Turn right onto Alhambra Avenue. Make your first right onto Franklin Canyon Road.

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.

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