A less crowded trail? Twin Ponds Loop checks all the boxes

Want to escape the crowd? Twin Ponds Loop trail checks all the boxes

Columns Hit the TrailCONTRA COSTA COUNTY — I’ve got some boxes I need to check before I decide to give a hike a green light.

My top two are lack of crowds and the trail less traveled, so Shell Ridge was a natural target.

The southerly most portion of Shell Ridge is neatly tucked between Mount Diablo State Park and Diablo Foothills Regional Park, both outstanding in their own rights. With multiple trailheads to choose from (you pick as I don’t really like nasty notes from neighbors), all options offer easy access.

Twin Ponds Loop Trail provides two options at the start, heading either up or down. Take the lower trail for an easy stroll through carpets of green grass, oaks and yellow wildflowers scattered throughout the hillsides. The trail moves along Vierra Creek for the first half mile. Even without flowing water normal for this time of year, it was nice to hike near.

In addition to the greens painting the hillsides and the browns of the trees and trail, I found sandstone rock outcroppings peppered along the way. This made for a unique color pattern set against a setting sun and a sky of exploding colors.

Upon reaching Bullfrog Pond (it was empty), make a jog around a bench and stay on Twin Ponds Loop up and around Old Man’s Hill. There were other unmarked trails that looked tempting, but I decided to stay the course and follow the map.

Sweeping arc around the hillside

This section of the hike was my favorite, as the trail routing made a long, sweeping arc around the hillside with Walnut Creek and beyond in the distance. I could see the next section of trail across the ravine, with Buckeye Hill and Gypsy Ridge as my backdrop. The trail makes a gradual U-turn at Twin Ponds (both empty) and starts an easy descent with some areas of rocky trail, but mostly perfect grading for hiking.

Twin Ponds Loop junctions at a trailhead adjacent to where I started, but if you stay to the right along the park boundary, it takes you back to the start point. Being a detailed outdoor researcher, I knew that a mere 50-minute loop wasn’t enough. So with some sunlight left, I kept on hiking.

Back at the starting point, I took Twin Ponds Loop Trail to the left for a gradual climb that looped me into the opposite direction and through a few sections of trail I hadn’t previously covered. A roller-coastery trail routing up and over hills and down along almost empty creeks put a little skip in my step.

At this point, I retraced my steps on Twin Ponds Loop in the opposite direction. Both hiking directions were very even in terms of grading, and I never really felt like I was going up or down hill.

Enjoying the view

With benches a plenty for enjoying the view and a neatly cut trail to maximize the scenery at almost every turn, this is a place worth visiting.

If you are looking to expand this route, I would suggest starting at Borges Ranch and hiking in via Borges Ranch Trail. See what you learn once you do it.

Now get out there and do something good for yourself.

Twin Ponds Loop Trail

  • Trails: Walnut Creek Open Space—Shell Ridge
  • Distance: 5.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 794 feet
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Trailheads: Two trailheads off Rudgear Road, no water or maps, dogs allowed

Contact Kevin Parker with comments or questions by email at LukeHollywood@gmail.com