Long Ridge Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,
San Mateo County
In brief:
4.7 mile loop is just one more great trek in a cluster of open space preserve in this area. Look for wild turkeys and hope you don't meet up with any wild pigs.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.7 mile partial loop hike is easy, with about 500 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 2300 feet. On the featured hike you'll descend to about 2150 feet, then climb to 2500 feet. From the ridge, you can loop back to the trailhead, for an easy hike, or extend your walk for a more moderate to strenuous hike. The preserve's low point is at about 1900 feet, and hikes down into adjacent Portola Redwoods State Park require a long walk back to the trailhead, and are tough.

Mix of sun and shade.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
2 1/2 hours.

Nice any time; lovely in spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit Page Mill Road. Drive west on Page Mill Road to the junction with Skyline Boulevard (CA 35). Turn south (left) onto Skyline, and drive about 3 miles to the pullout on the right side of the road, across from Upper Stevens Creek County Park's Grizzly Flat Trailhead.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead
Latitude 3717'24.80"N
122 9'15.36"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Gas, pay phone, restaurants, and stores about 6 miles north at the junction of highways 84 and 35. There is no camping in the preserve, although you can hike into Long Ridge from Portola Redwoods State Park (good camping).

Trailhead details:
No entrance or parking fees. No toilet facilities or drinking water. Maps available at the information signboard at the trailhead. Decent roadside parking (can get dicey on weekends). No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not wheelchair accessible. There is no direct public transportation to this preserve.

One trail is hiking only. The rest are multi-use (though some are seasonally closed to bikes and horses). Access to Long Ridge with dogs is only allowed on a small section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail (1.4 miles). The entrance is on CA 35, and visitors with dogs must have the dog on a minimum 6-foot leash at all times, and must fill out a self-administered permit at the trailhead.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Long Ridge page.
MROSD field office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from MROSD (download the pdf).
• Order the Saratoga to Big Basin map from Redwood Hikes.
Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has an overview of the preserve, descriptions of hikes, and simple maps.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Long Ridge hike.
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
• Jean Rusmore's The Bay Area Ridge Trail shows some of the trails on a simple map, and describes a few trails (order this book from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map, trail descriptions, and suggested hikes (order this book from Amazon.com).
• 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by Ann Marie Brown (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and featured hike.

View 63 photos from the featured hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Many bay area hikers will never take advantage of Long RidgePreserve boundary  Open Space Preserve's most unique feature. Long Ridge's trails connect to Portola Redwoods State Park, creating a unique opportunity to trek along hiking-only trails in the eastern section of the state park. However, it's a long out-and-back journey; starting out at around 2300 feet on Skyline Boulevard and traveling 1.6 miles downhill to the park's boundary at around 1900 feet. From there a sturdy hiker can explore Portola Redwoods for a few miles (descending all the while) before turning around and doubling back to the trailhead.
      If the out-and-back hike to Portola is more than you bargained for, there are a few other delightful and easier hikes at Long Ridge, with a few loop options, and a couple of out-and-back hikes into other adjacent parks and preserves. The Bay Area Ridge Trail travels north from Long Ridge toLong Ridge Trail  Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, and south through the western edges of Upper Stevens Creek County Park and Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve. Either direction on the Bay Area Ridge Trail is an out-and-back hike. One long, challenging loop is the combination of Grizzly Flat Trail, Canyon Trail, and an unnamed hiking only trail through Upper Stevens Creek County Park, followed by the Bay Area Ridge Trail (Hickory Oaks, Long Ridge Road, and Peters Creek Trail), and then finishing up on Peters Creek Trail. This long haul is a nearly 9-mile loop, with plenty of elevation change along the way.
      Loops and semi-loops inside Long Ridge typically include Peters Creek Trail, Hickory Oaks Trail, and Long Ridge Road. Hickory Oaks and Long Ridge Road travel through mostly grassland, while Peters Creek Trail spends a good part of the time in the shade alongside its namesake.
      One thing that always surprises me about Long Ridge is how much noiseView from the ridge  drifts from Skyline Boulevard to the preserve; on a still day you can hear motorcycles and cars on most trails. Luckily one quiet place is the Wallace Stegner Memorial Bench, which sits near the junction of Long Ridge Road and Long Ridge Trail. The bench, dedicated in 1996 to Stegner, who lived nearby in Portola Valley, features amazing views of Butano Ridge and the ocean.
     Long Ridge is renowned for springtime wildflowers. You can spend the better part of a morning creeping along the trails, finding flowers in the woods and grassland. By summer the grassland is dry, but views to the west are usually crystal clear, with none of the smog that is common on the east side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Dusty trails make it easy to track some of the preserve's wild animals, which include turkeys, feral pigs, and coyotes. There are patches of autumn color at Long Ridge, and in winter, when trails are empty (most are closed to horses and bikes during muddy months) the grassland returns to a lush and vibrant green.
     For the featured hike, start atView from Long Ridge Road the Grizzly Flat Trailhead and hike downhill on Peters Creek Trail. The multi-use trail winds through grassland, where you might see mule-ear sunflowers, vetch, and California buttercups in late spring. After passing through a stretch shaded by Douglas fir, madrone, and big-leaf maple, where springtime flowers include hounds tongue, milkmaids, mission bells, western heart's ease, starflower, and woodland star, Peters Creek Trail emerges into grassland at a signed junction at 0.43 mile. The Bay Area Ridge Trail heads north to the right, on its way to Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. Continue straight on Peters Creek Trail.
     After a few feet, Peters Creek Trail dips beneath cover of Douglas fir and live oaks, and edges close to Peters Creek. The path crosses a bridge, then ducks beneath a large fallen Douglas fir and reaches a signed junction at 0.53 mile. (The hike can head in either direction from here; continuing on Peters Creek Trail, essentially taking the rest of the featured hike in reverse, is actually an easier option.) Long Ridge RoadTurn right onto Long Ridge Trail.
     Right away the climbing is tough, but tall California bay, live oaks, madrones, and Douglas firs almost completely shade the trail, which is open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians. Hazelnut shrubs, strawberries, common snowberries, and wild roses also flourish along the cool slopes. As Long Ridge Trail reaches a switchback, the path levels out dramatically. There's one sunny spot where some felled trees allow light to filter down to the trail, but most of Long Ridge Trail is cool and dark. After cresting, the trail actually descends just a bit, then maintains a mostly level pace. The path crosses a private road and turns to follow a short distance from private Portola Heights Road, which is occasionally visible through the thick vegetation. You might notice overgrown shrubs of poison oak and thimbleberry. Long Ridge Trail briefly passes through a sunny chaparral patch, with manzanitas, chamise, and yerba santa, switchbacks downhill slightly, shoots uphill to a clearing, then approaches a signed junction at 1.23 miles. The trail to the left heads downhill to Peters Creek Trail; this is an option if you'd like to cut your hike short. Bear right and continue uphill on Long Ridge Trail.
     On an easy ascent through madrone, tanoak, live oaks, and Douglas fir, the path passes some sandstone boulders and crosses through a few grassy areas on the way to the ridge. In late spring, look for carpets of lupines, checkerblooms, and clover in the grassland. Once through a gate (installed to restrict Peters Creek Trailtrail use to cyclists and equestrians in the wet months), Long Ridge Trail steps out into the grassland and ends at 2.03 miles. Long Ridge Road (to the left) is the only trail option from here, but first visit the Wallace Stegner Memorial Bench, a few steps away from the junction.
      The simple stone bench is a fantastic rest stop, with unobstructed views to the west and southwest of the forested mountains receding toward the ocean. In early spring, a riot of flowers dot the grass, but even in late spring, a few California poppies, checkerblooms, scarlet pimpernels, redmaids, lupines, and clovers persist. Wallace Stegner, author of Big Rock Candy Mountain and Angle of Repose (two of the best western novels ever written, in my opinion), was an advocate for the preservation of open space in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and a quote of his is inscribed on a plaque affixed to the bench. One of my visits to Long Ridge was four years to the day of the bench's dedication, which I didn't realize until I was editing the photos. When you're ready to continue, head east on Long Ridge Road.
     A few live oaks and BridgeDouglas fir line this wide fire road, which is open to cyclists, equestrians, and hikers, but grassland dominates the landscape. Long Ridge Road winds levelly along, with small changes in the elevation that are barely noticeable, particularly if you find yourself captivated by the vistas. There's a well-worn path off the right side of the trail; it loops back to join Long Ridge Road after a few feet, and it's a fine spot to take one last lingering look west before heading back downhill. On a summer hike, I noticed turkey prints on the trail, and I followed them as they wandered on and off the trail for almost 1/2 mile. Finally, just past Peters Creek Trail, I saw them strutting up the fire road: three large turkeys just strolling along. Although I was as quiet as possible, they soon acknowledged my presence by leaving the trail and entering the woods. At 2.54 miles, you'll reach a signed multi-trail junction. (If you'd like to extend your hike a bit more, you could turn right onto Ward Road, then take Hickory Oaks Trail and turn left when you reach Long Ridge Road again. This option adds about 1.2 miles to the featured hike. You can also continue straight on Long Ridge Road, which dumps into Hickory Oaks, and turn back whenPeters Creek Trail  you wish, retracing your steps to this junction.) Turn left onto Peters Creek Trail.
      After passing through another seasonal closure gate, the multi-use trail gently switchbacks downhill through madrone, oaks, and Douglas fir. Creambush, wild rose, poison oak, and common snowberries all can be found on the side of the path. Peters Creek Trail abandons the woods for grassland, where in the spring, California buttercups, checkerbloom, lupines, and clover bloom. The trail crosses over a bridge and edges along a pond. The pond and the surrounding land to the right are private property, so stay on the trail. Peters Creek Trail makes a sharp turn left at a signed junction with a gated service road at 3.04 miles. Stay left on Peters Creek Trail.
     After ambling levelly through the shade along Peters Creek for a while, the trail crosses the stream and cuts through patches of grassland. Poison hemlock is common, along with more benign plants such as columbine, currant, nettles, horsetail, and cow parsnip. At 3.38 miles, two legs of an unmarked trail break off from Peters Creek Trail; the path ends at a pullout on Skyline Boulevard. Continue straight on Peters Creek Trail.
      A few trees survive in an old orchard off the right side of the trail; look for walnuts and apples in late summer. Closer to the ground, strawberry and blackberry plants put out blossoms in the spring and then fruit in the summer. Ripe blackberries are easy to find, but it takes luck andPeters Creek Trail  sharp vision to find ripe wild strawberries. At 3.68 miles, you'll reach a signed junction. The trail to the left heads uphill to join Long Ridge Trail (you passed the other end of it earlier). Bear right and continue on Peters Creek Trail.
     This is a pretty and quiet segment. Wildflowers, including blue-eyed grass, bluedicks, and California buttercup thrive in the grass along the trail. In May I was delighted to see a large clump of false baby stars off the left side of the trail. Peters Creek Trail transitions to woodland, and resumes a course along the creek. Ferns and moss-covered rocks line the path. At 4.18 miles, you'll reach a previously encountered junction with Long Ridge Trail. Stay to the right on Peters Creek Trail, and then retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 4.71 miles
Last hiked : October 22, 2013
Previous visits: August 31, 2001 and May 19, 2000