Kovar to Indian Creek Trail (Shell Ridge)

16 Apr

Length: 4.4 miles
Time: 1.5-2 hours
Difficulty: Medium, there is a climb up and over a ridge (both directions)
Dogs: Yes! Rangers recommend dogs remain leashed at all times. If they are off leash, dogs must be under positive sight and voice command
Calories: 700 or so 
Elevation Gain: 573 feet.
Best Season: Spring is ideal, but anytime it’s not too hot will work fine
EBMUD Permit Required:  No
Highlights: The Indian Creek Trail is one of the most picturesque in Shell Ridge Open Space, and this hike provides an easy and scenic way to get to the trailhead!
Directions:  Take Highway 24 towards Walnut Creek and exit at Diablo Blvd. Take Diablo Blvd through downtown Walnut Creek (past Broadway Plaza).  After you pass Broadway, the road will turn into Walker Ave. Continue until you reach Homestead Ave. Take a left.  Then take the first right on Walnut Blvd.  You will see Howe Homestead Park on the left, which is your starting point.
Trailhead:  After parking, you’ll see a kiosk and bridge that crosses into the park.

This isn’t exactly Lamorinda, but easily accessible from the Lamorinda area.. only 10 min or so from the Lafayette BART station.

Most of you have heard of Shell Ridge and likely hiked or maybe mountain biked there before.  But you may not know about the Kovar Trail that starts out of Howe Homestead Park (only 3/4th of a mile East of Broadway Plaza) and leads you right to the beginning of the very picturesque Indian Creek Trail. It’s a perfect pairing!

West End of Shell Ridge Open Space – Click to Enlarge

Start the hike by crossing the little bridge and heading up the main trail through the park. Howe Homestead Park is the former home and orchard of James Howe, a foreign correspondent for the Associated Press.  After a short distance you will see a Community Garden on the right with 48 garden plots rented by residents.

Entrance to Howe Homestead Park

Then you will see the beginning of the Kovar Trail which branches off to the left, as show in the picture.

Beginning of the Kovar Trail

After a short and pleasant descent down the other side, you’ll reach a junction.  The beginning of the Indian Creek Trail is straight across.  So, just go straight. You’ll begin to see signs for the Indian Creek Nature Trail (shown in picture), which is a little over a mile long. The bird shown on the sign is an Acorn Woodpecker and the last time I was on the trail, there were quite a few of them that I noticed.

Indian Creek Natural Trail Sign

After a couple tenths of a mile, you’ll reach a fire road (Fossil Hill Loop Trail). Take a left, follow it around the corner, then you’ll see the continuation of the Indian Creek veer off to the right (see picture). 

Veer to the right here to continue on the Indian Creek Trail

On the rest of the trail you’ll be adjacent to the seasonal Indian Creek.  It’s a bit shaded and very scenic, with a few benches, a bridge, and nice set of stairs at one point.  There are scattered oak trees and most of the ones I examined were blue oaks.  They get their name from the dark blue-green tint of their leaves. Also, a few buckeye trees along the creek.

This is a good example of the Indian Creek Trail

When the trail dead ends at a fire road (Briones to Mt. Diablo Trail) this is the turnaround point for a 4.4 mile hike. You can obviously go further if you’d like – all the way to the top of Mt. Diablo!

At 1420 acres, Shell Ridge is Walnut Creek’s largest open space. It gets its name from the marine fossils left behind when the ocean waters that once covered the area receded. 

8 Responses to “Kovar to Indian Creek Trail (Shell Ridge)”

  1. Craig Isaacs April 16, 2021 at 9:01 pm #

    Last one???

    • stever April 16, 2021 at 9:06 pm #

      No! I plan to keep the blog going even though I’ve moved from Lafayette.

      • Craig Isaacs April 16, 2021 at 9:08 pm #


  2. rohanchaska April 16, 2021 at 9:20 pm #

    Is this a group hike? and if so; what date/time is proposed? Thanks in advance, Grant Reiling (FYI I am now fully vaccinated against Covid19); yet still follow CDC protocols in varied group settings.


    • stever April 17, 2021 at 12:05 am #

      No. These are just hike descriptions for people to use.. There are organizations (Lafayette Hiking Club, Sierra Club, Save Mt. Diablo) that organize group hikes in our area.. You’d have to do a little research to find out if there are any upcoming hikes.

  3. Jan May 5, 2022 at 12:22 am #

    I didn’t think this hike was “easy” — but maybe that’s because it was really hot out. It’s all exposed, all hills (no flat), and the path is mostly divoted and rocky (not great on the knees). It was beautiful, though! Lots of wildflowers. Maybe I’ll try it again late winter/early spring. (Full disclosure: I’m 61, in decent shape but trying to lose my Covid 40.)

    • stever June 8, 2022 at 4:32 am #

      Hi Jan, thanks for the comment and feedback. Yes, “easy” is probably a little misleading, especially since you have to hike up over a ridge. I’ll update the post.

  4. Barbara Price February 19, 2023 at 10:13 pm #

    We just did this hike on Feb. 19, 2023 and it was so nice and green! Thank you Steve! Do not recommend on a hot day. We cant wait to go back in March and April for the wildflowers. Definitely is hilly and less flat than one may think

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