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John Muir owned Mount Wanda and an adjacent homestead, and the naturalist and his family lived here from 1890 until the death of Muir in 1914. On the southern side of Martinez, both lands are now managed by the National Park Service. This was a remote area a hundred years ago that offered good access for Muir 's trips to Yosemite. Now it's an oasis of urban sprawl in a morass. His house sits on the north side of CA 4, and on the south side sits Mount Wanda (named after one of his daughters).


There are sweeping views of Mount Diablo and the rolling hills of Northern Contra Costa County from Mount Wanda's summit, as well as unimpeded Buttercups along the commercial Martinez trail views and some massive new homes on those surrounding hills. I guess we should be grateful for saving Mount Wanda. This 325 acre parcel could easily have been built as "John Muir Properties." Mount Wanda is delightful if you can turn a deaf ear to the noise and look beyond the smokestacks. During Muir's tenure, you can touch trees that stood, and gaze over grassy hills dotted with the same annual flower show he admired year after year.


A better time to visit than spring is hard to imagine. Leaves on the deciduous oaks screen of the park have some less favorable views, the grass is fresh and lush, and there are abundant wildflowers. In summer and autumn, Mount Wanda gets sunny, and in winter, the park looks a little lonely, with so many bare trees. There is only one partial loop, but a few firepaths radiate to the limits of the park.


Start at the park and ride a lot, and walk toward the railroad trestle along the side of Franklin Canyon lane. Turn left just past the John Muir National Historic Site sign after about 200 feet, walk up a few stairs, turn left and navigate the step over. On the left stands an information sign board. On a moderate grade, the unidentified multi-use fire path starts to ascend. A noisy accompaniment is traffic noise from nearby streets as you climb parallel to Alhambra Road. The path is lined by black and coast live oaks, buckeye, and the California bay. There are a few shrubs of poison oak, slightly from the sides of the trail, buttercups.


In spring, you may see shooting stars, California buttercups, woodland stars, lupines, fiddlenecks, and mule ear sunflowers. Oaks are beginning to dominate the landscape as the trail winds uphill. Initially, a combination of coastal live oak, blue oak, and valley oak were closely clustered together, but as the sounds of civilization started to die away, the blue and valley oaks dispersed to the grasslands. The grade speeds up a little, and hitting a signed intersection, at 0.6 mile, is a relief. On the John Muir Nature Trail, turn right.


Rest at the information signboard and pick up a map and a separate wildflower and flora list for the nature trail. Just a hiking trail snakes through the blue oak forests, as it circles the hillsides. There are benches that are sprinkled around the road here and there. There were quite a few woodland stars blooming in April on the sides of the trail, as well as some snakeroot, fiddlenecks, and bluedicks, but the buttercup was certainly the wildflower star. A pleasing contrast to the soft new grass and oak leaves was the great clouds of the yellow flora. The nature guide provides an engaging learning experience, with a segment on the oak trees of the park especially useful for hikers seeking to recognize live, blue , black, and valley oaks from the coast.


The John Muir Nature Trail maintains a gradient that is largely even, with a downhill trend overall. The path descends to a bridge and ascends again, then starts to follow a seasonal uphill stream along a ravine. This is a place that is peaceful and beautiful. A few stairs lead up to the edge of the forest on the other side of the bridge. On the right, several valley oaks tower above, but a grassy hillside on the left ascends toward the plateau of the range. This view provides a taste of what's to come, although the trail continues to skirt the hilltop. In April, the grass crowded the trail, brushing your knees. On the right, a steeply sloping hillside fostered bluedicks and buttercup sprinklings. Cows grazing on a grassy ridge were visible across the valley. At 1.3 miles, a marked intersection ends with the John Muir Nature Trail. Make a left turn.


     Back on the fire path, the trail climbs a bit, then rises to the grassy ridge top of the park. In April, along the trail and hillside on the right, there were staggering swaths of fiddlenecks. An unsigned fire route departs to the right at 1.4 miles. The right bear, and a fire road feeds in from the left at 1.5 miles. Continue straight through. You'll have a view of Mount Diablo on clear days, but the clouds blurred the mountain throughout my stay. Only a few miles to the south, you could see the hills of nearby Briones Park. At 1.6 miles, take the unsigned route to the left, to the summit of Mount Wanda.


An unattractive repeater is fenced at the top, but views of 360 degrees are perfect. The surrounding grass is a good alternative for a lunch break if it's not too windy. Retrace your steps back down the path to the Fire Road when you are finished, then turn right, going north. Passing some blue and valley oaks, the trail descends. Ignore a trail going right, at 1.8 miles, finally leaving the park. At 2 miles, you can once again reach the John Muir Nature Trail junction. Continue straight / right to the trailhead and trace your steps back.

Pleasant Hill, California has some of the most picturesque hiking trails in the region.  Here’s our top list This amazing attraction is located near the following must-see sights in Walnut Creek, California:

  • Contra Costa Canal Trail

  • Paso Nogal Park

  • Las Juntas Open Space

  • Hidden Lakes Park

  • Briones Regional Park

  • Pleasant Hill Park

  • Acalanes Ridge 

  • Bear Creek Staging Area

All of these wonderful hiking trails are located just a short distance from our location at 1261 Locust Street in Walnut Creek, California!

Mount Wanda Trailhead
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