Walkabout California

Hiking Inn to Inn

A Wildflower Hike in Morgan Territory Regional Preserve

Morgan Territory Regional Preserve is a land of rolling hills, forested valleys, beautiful vistas, and in the spring, a magical wildflower wonderland.

The 5,000 acre park connects Mt. Diablo State Park, Round Valley Regional Preserve, and Los Vaqueros Watershed, creating an extensive network of hiking trails.  Yet it is one of the more seldom visited parks in the East Bay Regional Park System.

Summer heat turns the hills brown, but they are restored to brilliant green by winter rains.  In the spring, when the soil is moist and temperatures climb to the 70s, wildflowers emerge and grace the hills in great swaths of yellows, oranges, and blues.  We took this 5.5 mile hike in late March, just as the wildflower show was starting.  It peaks in April and should continue into May.

Our hike starts at the main entrance, Morgan Territory Road Staging Area.  The parking area had only two other cars.  You can grab a trail map as you enter or get a map online. 

Take the lower trail from the east side of the parking area and hike toward a small pond.  On the day of our journey, a pair of mallards paddled in the open water, redwing blackbirds trilled from shoreline reeds, and thousands of pollywogs swam in the shallows.

Turn left on Coyote Trail and enter a forest of oak, buckeye, and big-leaf maple.  The trail gradually descends along an unnamed seasonal creek that grows and cascades as small streams join it, draining the surrounding hills.

After 1.4 miles, you emerge from the woods into the open hills.  Turn right on Stone Corral Trail.  Now, the wildflowers get serious.  The park hosts 90 species.  We hiked past wild hillside gardens of yellow buttercups, red Indian paintbrush, blue-eyed grass, unfolding fiddlenecks, orange California poppies, deep blue lupine, and dozens of species we could not name.

Stone Corral Trail gradually winds and climbs the hills for 0.7 miles.  Raptors circled overhead.  The many ground squirrels scurrying among rock outcroppings look like a tasty meal.  Mt. Diablo (3,818 feet) suddenly comes into view to the northwest, a double pyramid towering over the countryside. 

Turn left on Volvon Loop, which circles Bob Walker Ridge.  On a clear day, you can see Mt. St. Helena 70 miles to the north.  Carquines Strait and the broad Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta spreads out below you.  The snow-capped peaks of the Sierra Nevada Mountains shine brightly, 150 miles to the east.

Turn left on Volvon Trail, and hike for two miles back to your car.  Gradually descend through open hills and groves of blue oaks, 50 feet high and wide with spring leaves on a beautiful tangle of branches.  Manzanitas stand 20 feet high with gnarled trunks and smooth reddish brown skin.  Finish the hike with a stroll through a field dense with bright yellow buttercups.

Morgan Territory is a little bit off the beaten path but easy to reach.  Come in the spring and relish a wildflower spectacle.

 

Directions

From the south – Take N. Livermore Avenue north from Highway 580 in Livermore.  Turn left on Manning when N. Livermore ends.  Turn right on Morgan Territory Road.  The road narrows to a winding single lane for the final four miles.  Morgan Territory Road Staging Area, the park entrance, is on the right.  It is 9.7 miles from 580 to the staging area.

From the north – Take Clayton Road from Concord to Clayton where it becomes Marsh Creek Road.  Turn right on Morgan Territory Road three miles from Clayton.  The staging area is 9.4 winding miles from Marsh Creek Road.

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Comment by Pam Browning on April 2, 2016 at 10:40am

What a wonderful description of this hike.  Makes me want to drop everything and get out there!

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