Marsh Explorations at Rush Ranch

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Growing up in Suisun, Rush Ranch was always a place that I went to on school field trips and various Boy Scout events. I learned all about local wildlife at the nature center, dissected owl pellets in the barn, and had a Boy Scout camporee there one year. Heck, I even had my Eagle Scout Court of Honor at the event hall at Rush Ranch. Many times over my youth I spent hiking its trails and exploring the tepee and Indian grinding rock they have on site. dn fact, Rush Ranch was my first real experience with hiking way back when I was in Cub Scouts. You could say that Rush Ranch holds some special memories for me, so I was excited to finally get back and explore its trails as an adult with a fresh new perspective.

Rush Ranch, located in the Suisun Marsh south of Fairfield/Suisun City, has three main loop trails, the Marsh Loop, South Pasture Loop, and Suisun Hill Trail. Each are approximately a two mile loop. On this particular day, I did the Marsh Loop and part of the South Pasture Loop. The Marsh Loop runs through the northern part of the property and predictably, provides a great opportunity to view a section of the Suisun Marsh. I started out from the gate just to the north of the parking area. You’ll see a sign board with a map posted on it. Go through the gate and follow the trail north. At first you’ll be hiking through pastures and after about a half mile, the trail turns to the left around a hill and heads into more marshy landscapes.

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I was surprised at the beautiful scenery and tranquility that I experienced. The trail follows a slough, though it’s not always in view due to tall reeds and grass around you. The water was blue and glittering in the afternoon sun, and the breeze gently rippled the grass and plants. And just like at Grizzly Island, I found myself falling in love with the marsh all over again. It may not seem like the prettiest landscape from a distance, but when you get up close you’ll be surprised what you find. Continue to follow the trail as it bends to the left again and heads back to the nature center.

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After completing the Marsh Loop, I started the South Pasture Loop. As the name indicates, this loop has a bit of a different look to it than the Marsh Loop. The South Pasture Loop heads south and loops around through rolling pastures that harken back to the day when this property was owned by the Rush family and grazed cattle. Soon after the trail begins, you’ll see a turnoff to the right for the Indian grinding rock. Turn right and take a look, as it’s an interesting piece of early history. A sign explains the significance of the rock, which was used by the early Indians to grind acorns. Climb up the short hill and get a cool view of the marsh slightly below you. Here you’ll return to the original trail and head south again.

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In the distance you’ll get great views of the rolling Potrero Hills and Mt. Diablo to the south across the strait. Normally I would say that I continued along this path until it looped back to the nature center, as this is what you would do in most cases. However, I was forced to turn back because a very large herd of cattle was blocking the path and I couldn’t find where it rejoined. Alas, another day I will be back to complete the loop fully.

Stats

Distance: 3.81 miles

Time: 1.5-2 hours

Elevation gain: Negligible, trail is almost completely flat

Fees: Parking and entrance are free

Directions: From I-80, take Highway 12 towards Suisun City. Turn right onto Grizzly Island Road and follow the road south into the marsh. The ranch is on the right about 4 miles down the road.

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Hiddenbrooke Trail in the hills above Vallejo

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Of all the places you’d expect to see a trail leading to hilltops with soaring views, it’s probably not in a suburban housing development. Yet this is exactly what the Hiddenbrooke Trail offers. The trail is so named for the nearby housing community, an outpost of the city of Vallejo. It’s a fairly short out and back or semi loop trail that heads up into the open space that separates Hiddenbrooke from the rest of Vallejo and offers great views from the top of Vallejo/Benicia, San Pablo Bay, and beyond.

The only bad part about this hike is there’s no parking at the trailhead, so you’ll have to park down the hill at the small park-and-ride lot at I-80 and McGary Road. Walk up Hiddenbrooke Drive to the east and the trailhead is 0.4 miles up the road. The trailhead is on the right side of the road marked by a large signboard with a Bay Area Ridge Trail map.

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Immediately, you’ll start to climb into the hills, with views of Hiddenbrooke to your left and behind you at times. The trail is fairly easy to follow, though at times it seems to disappear into the grass. Climb the first hill and you’ll start to get a taste of some of the views you’ll experience at the top. About half way you’ll see a fork where the trail splits. Take the left split and go around the hill. You’ll climb around the side and eventually loop around it and summit.

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From here you’ll get your best views of the hike. Vallejo/Benicia and San Pablo Bay come into view, as well as most of the East Bay, Mt. Tam, Mt. St. Helena, and other nearby landmarks depending on how clear it is. I spent several minutes at the top just soaking it in. It helped that there was a nice breeze rippling the wildflowers around me; a very peaceful scene. You’ll also notice an old boxcar at the summit of the hill, which is a bit odd and curious when one thinks about how it must have gotten up to the top of this hill. At this point you can head back the way you came, or the trail continues downhill in the opposite direction and eventually dead ends among houses at the bottom of the hill. I chose to make it an out and back hike and headed back the way I came. Total hiking time was only about 90 minutes; a nice, quick sojourn into the hills with big payoffs in terms of views. I’d recommend it for those who are in the area but want something quick, or if you live in Vallejo/Benicia. It’s also a great after work hike during the warmer months with more daylight.

Stats

Distance: 4.12 miles

Time: 1.5-2 hours

Elevation gain: 600 feet

Fees: None, parking and entrance are free

Directions: From I-80, take the Hiddenbrooke Rd/American Canyon Rd exit and turn right (from eastbound), or turn left (from westbound). Turn right onto McGary Road and park in the small lot to your right. Walk up Hiddenbrooke Drive for 0.4 miles to the trailhead.