Ken Dyleski helps Save Mount Diablo with mapping and on-the-ground stewardship work. He collaborated on producing the first edition of the Mt. Diablo map published by Save Mt. Diablo. His GPS enabled digital trail map of the Diablo Grand Loop was published on the National Geographic Topo site. He has a California State Certificate in Geographic Information Science from Diablo Valley College.
Mr. Dyleski's previous articles on the outdoors have been published in Sierra magazine, Northern California Explorer, and the Tahoe Daily Tribune.
Car (Drive up)
Hikers call the shape of this hike a lollipop because it’s a loop with an extension like the handle of a lollipop. And yes, it is one sweet hike visiting both well known and less visited corners of the Open Space! Ring Mt. like Mt. Diablo, visible occasionally to the East, is an ecological island of its own with endangered species, unique plants, inspiring views and wonderful recreational opportunities for their respective communities. Both mountains urban wilderness appeal are largely due to a long standing supportive outdoor activist community in the Bay Area. Special thanks go to Ron Van Dette for generously sharing this and many other hikes he developed while President of the Contra Costa Hills Hiking Club, founded by an associate of John Muir over 93 years ago.
Ring Mountain Open Space is visibly what locally remains of the smaller ancient Juan de Fuca Tectonic Plate being caught between the San Andreas and Pacific Plates. Thrust upwards and metamorphosed into serpentine rock, results of those tectonic forces show here as scattered beautiful rock outcroppings. The views, rock petroglyphs, butterflys, flowers and plants evolved to this inhospitable soil make for interesting exploring and qualify this hike as one of the Bay Area’s best short nature-rich day hikes. The route climbs nearly to the summit of Ring Mt. on the divide between Tiburon and Corte Madera and stays on a scenic high ridgeback before returning across a rock studded landscape with fine examples of the Tiburon Mariposa Lily found blooming no where else in the world, during the Spring.
Begin at the main Paradise Drive Trailhead taking the Phyllis Ellman Trail. Staying left at two “Y’s” and climbing up a few wooden steps on easy to moderately climbing trail gets hikers onto the almost parallel Loop Trail and up to a level spot with an interesting balancing rock outcropping. Continue with increasingly expansive views of San Pablo Bay and several counties worth of landscapes unfolding in the distance. Split Rock can now be seen below and to the left. Watch for an unexpected view of San Francisco skyline framed by hills to the South. A short steep loose footing trail descends left to Split Rock, a worthwhile quick detour for the view of Mt. Tam and the climb to the top of Split Rock.
Return to the junction where you first descended to Split Rock and follow the trail left as it curves towards the West and descends to a 4-way trail junction soon visible below. Turn right at the junction and soon pass a small rocky knob covered with large eucalyptus trees. Immediately watch for a small grassy trail leaving the main wider trail and leading right gently uphill towards a rock outcropping. Follow that trail across a slope with two seeps draining down it, which you can easily cross on the pieces of wood provided. The rock outcropping is the landmark Turtle Rock and the top rock does indeed resemble a turtle viewed from the West. Descend left from Turtle Rock downhill to a “T” in the trail. The area ahead is fenced, posted and closed for habitat restoration from a 2012 fire. Turn right at the “T” and follow the perimeter of the fenced area around and uphill on fire road to a flat area with more great views. Drop down the fire road and follow it staying on the ridge top dividing the housing developments below on either side. Follow the road through a gate and leave the Ring Mt. Open Space on what is the signed Tiburon Ridge Trail a.k.a. as the Ring Mt. Fire Road on public maps. Just before reaching a house on the left with a fence around it, a trail branches right through bush studded grassland. For scenic variety, take the trail and follow as it curves back to the right and intersects the original ridge top fire road. Return as you came, ascending to the high point next to the fenced corner of the habitat restoration area.
Descend down briefly to the signed junction of the Phyllis Ellman Trail and take it left, changing your return route at this point. This section of the Phyllis Ellman Trail, named after the conservationist who lead the effort to preserve Ring Mountain Open Space, contains examples of the extremely rare Tiburon Mariposa Lily in the Spring. Please walk carefully staying on the trail to preserve these endangered flowers! End this intriguing day of nature exploration on downhill trail to the staging area.