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Copyright 1996 by Leonard G. Barton
Borges Ranch is a small demonstration ranch with barnyard animals and old unrestored farm machinery. It serves as the ranger headquarters for the ranch and for Shell Ridge Open Space. From this ranch you can access the upper reaches of Shell Ridge Open Space, Diablo Foothills, and Castle Rocks. Especially good views of Castle Rocks are available from this park
From the ranch you may hike west int o the Shell Ridge open space or south into East Bay Regional Park District holdings, both within the foothills of Mount Diablo. There is an annual Borges Ranch Day festival with music, dancing, demonstrations of rustic crafts and displays of operating restored farm machinery.
To get to Borges Ranch from Concord, take Oak Grove east past Northgate Road(the Mt. Diablo State Park acess), which there becomes Castle Rock Road. Just past the base of the hill, turn right at the sign and take the one lane road to the ranch.
From downtown Walnut Creek, take Ygnatio Valley Road to Walnut Avenue, Walnut Avenue to Oak Grove Road, and south the the turnoff sign. Procede up the one lane road to the park (a hard surface drainage allows cautious passing of vehicles). To your right is a horse staging area with plenty of space for trailers. You may also continue up to the ranch. Of interest here are examples of old farm machinery. Some farm animals are kept at the ranch for educational purposes.
Hike up the valley to the south. As you leave the ranch area the view back includes the farmhouse, several barns, and various outbuildings. At the top of the road upward you can turn right and either go into the Shell Ridge open space or continue south around some hills. Our hike here will instead go through the gate and continue on the ranch road.
A short walk will lead you to a pleasant vista, with Mount Diablo on the left.
Continuing you will see to your left a bare hill topped with an oak tree. Take the footpath to the top of this hill and then down into the woods to get a spectacular view of Castle Rocks.
Castle Rocks are sandstone monoliths tilted almost to the vertical. There are many small caves and holes that are nesting sites for raptors in the spring, and during this time the area is posted against human intrusion. At other times this is a favorite rock climbing site. It is also possible to hike among the monoliths without having to rock climb, but one must be cautious and it is best to go with an experienced guide. There is a place where you can enter a small cave from the back a few feet above ground level, with a vertical drop on the other side of 80 to 100 feet. Several larger caves are visible in the picture as dark spots. The lighter streaks elsewhere are bird droppings from smaller nesting sites. There are easy trails beyond the rocks.
On the south side of the view hill there is a steep footpath down to the canyon. This will lead to the old stage road at the bottom of the canyon. There is an easier road down to the north, which you passed on the way in. If you hike up the canyon in the wet season you will have to wade across the creek at several crossings.
(Note: after an early May hike through here I picked off five ticks - beware!)
See also [Wildland Hiking Precautions]