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Kovar Trail to Mt. Diablo-Briones Trail via Ridge Top Trail

Undulating hill views and an expansive valley unfold in the foothills of Mt. Diablo at Shell Ridge Open Space Park
Rating: 4 out of 5 by EveryTrail members
Difficulty: Moderate
Length: 4.5 miles
Duration: Half day

Overview :  Kovar, Ridge Top, and the Briones - Mt. Diablo trails are the heart of this trip from the western edge of Shell Ridge Park in Walnut... more »

Tips:  This area can get quite hot in the Summertime, but is ideal for Spring, Fall, and mild Winter days. Carry plenty of water.

There is... more »

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Points of Interest

1. Kovar Trailhead and Elevation Profile

At the Howe Homestead Park's small parking lot just off Walnut Blvd. in Walnut Creek, you'll find a trailhead for a path heading eastward towards Kovar Trail and Shell Ridge Open Space.

The Elevation Profile image attached shows this trail's elevation changes in feet over the course of this loop route - click to see it in a larger, sharper image.... More

2. Oak Tree in the residential enclave

From the Howe Homestead Park trailhead you pass between a few residences by footpath. Continue up past a large building's parking lot, then behind a few more homes in a newer subdivison.

An open grassy stretch follows, slightly upwards. Spring blooms appear on a large Oak above the trail in this TrailPhoto POI, before you resume a steeper... More

3. The long view over Shell Ridge

As you continue your climb, you'll reach a small notch between two abutments of this hillside ridge. At this point, there is a ridgeline trail path to your right, but you won't take that. Instead, continue straight along the Kovar Trail. Near this junction at the top, a wide panorama of Shell Ridge and Mt. Diablo beyond appears ahead of you.

4. Junction with the Briones - Mt. Diablo Regional Trail

Continue down through mixed woods on Kovar Trail, and cross over Lone Oak Trail.

Kovar continues a short distance more, reaching a junction near a small creek bed. Bear left at this point, and after another brief spell, go left again on the connector trail to the Briones - Mt. Diablo Trail junction, towards the school building you see in the... More

5. The steep initial climb up to Ridge Top Trail

Pass a trailhead/parking area entrance on your left, and soon take a sharp turn back up a paved section of trail to the SE, or take the path parallel to it just to the north. Here your ascension of Shell Ridge begins alongside this steep paved portion. Past a water department facility, the trail becomes a footpath.

One of the first humped knobs ... More

6. Tree clinging to the grassy ridge side

The ridge trail begins to snake along the crest now in a narrow path framed by old boulders, up and down the ridge humps high up. A grand place to observe the world.

While soaking in the views all around, mind your step! Ridges appear almost wave-like, jumbled together with the grasses and tree at this TrailPhoto POI.

There are many spots on ... More

7. Waves of hillocks dominate the valley view

No need to hurry off the ridge, as each dip and turn brings more rewards from the views that come freely from this high perch.

Shell Ridge takes on richly appealing colors late in the day as twilight approaches. The effect is further enhanced by the varied topography and tree dotted hillsides. Traveling further over Ridge Top, the scenic bounty... More

8. Shell Ridge pointing towards Mt. Diablo

The final stretch of the Ridge Top Trail continues in a rolling fashion, with its narrow trail cutting through the grasses on the ridge. From here, you draw ever closer to Mt. Diablo, which looms majestically over the background in this TrailPhoto as the largest feature in the region.

After a few more dips and climbs beyond this viewpoint, a... More

9. Distant sunset from the Briones - Mt. Diablo Trail

At the bottom of the steep downhill end of the Ridge Top Trail, the Briones - Mt. Diablo Trail and Costanoan Trail meet. Turn right on the portion of the Briones - Mt. Diablo trail that bends back northwestward, doubling back below the Shell Ridge formation that you just descended. Continue along this valley floor.

On this valley trail, the... More