Sanborn County Park,
Santa Clara County Parks,
Santa Clara County
In brief:
6 mile out and back hike through redwoods on the high eastern flanks of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 6 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 600 feet in elevation change. The park's elevation ranges from around 1400 feet (near the main park entrance) to about 3000 feet (along Skyline Boulevard).

Almost totally shaded.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
3 hours.

Nice year round.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit #7 Saratoga Avenue. Drive west on Saratoga Avenue, then in Saratoga, pick up CA 9 (Big Basin Way) heading west. At the junction with CA 35 at Saratoga Gap, turn left (south). Drive about 4.5 miles south on Skyline Boulevard (CA 35) to the unsigned Sunnyvale Mountain trailhead on the left side of the road (an emergency callbox stands at the driveway to the parking lot).

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS coordinates* for trailhead
Latitude 3713'7.48"N
122 4'21.03"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Gas, restaurants and stores in Saratoga. Sanborn-Skyline has a campground, accessible from CA 9 on the outskirts of Saratoga, with walk-in, RV, and a group campsite.

Trailhead details:
Small parking lot with room for about 6 vehicles. No parking or entrance fees (although entrance fees are collected at the park's main entrance). No toilets or drinking water. There's an emergency callbox on Skyline Boulevard, but the closest public pay phone is about 2 miles north, at Castle Rock State Park. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are not suitable for wheelchairs. There are two other significant Sanborn-Skyline Park trailheads along Skyline Boulevard: the first is about 1.5 miles south from CA 9. Look to the left for an unmarked dirt driveway leading to a rutted dirt parking lot. The second trailhead is easier to find; it's a broad dirt pullout about 2.5 miles south of CA 9 across the road from the Castle Rock State Park entrance. Neither trailhead has facilities. The main park entrance is on Sanborn Road, about 1.75 miles from Saratoga via CA 9. There is no direct public transportation to the park.

Trails are open to hikers and equestrians only. No bicycles permitted. Park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset. Dogs are permitted in all areas except Skyline Trail North of Summit Rock Parking lot and the Connector Trail from Skyline Trail that leads into Castle Rock SP. Watch for signs

The Official Story:
SCCP's Sanborn page
Park Headquarters 408-867-9959

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from SCCP (download Sanborn pdf)
• Trail Map of the Santa Cruz Mountains (Map 1), by the Sempervirens Fund, has great detail of the northwestern part of the park, but does not cover the Lake Ranch area.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from has a great map and descriptions of a Sanborn-Skyline hike.
• South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order this book from has a simple map and trail descriptions.
• The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book by Tom Taber (order this book from has a simple map and park info.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order this book from has a simple map and descriptions of the Ridge Trail segment.

Sanborn in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Sanborn County Park Trailheadoffers extensive facilities in the park's "lowlands."You'll find restrooms, walk-in and family campgrounds, as well as group and individual picnic areas. Just a mile uphill as the crow flies, several rustic trailheads along Skyline Boulevard (and one on Black Road) offer nothing more than parking. Sanborn presents a city mouse/country mouse conundrum, so consider which mouse you are before you visit. Families will probably be happiest near park headquarters, where they can picnic and stroll on an all-access trail. Hikers seeking solitude should try the Sunnyvale Mountain trailhead, one of the loneliest staging areas on Skyline Boulevard.The Bay Area Ridge Trail's path through the Santa Cruz Mountains terminates (or begins, depending on your perspective) at Sunnyvale Mountain, and the trailhead has an end-of-the-line feeling. Skyline Trail
      Unlike the other open space preserve and park staging areas nearby, from the Sunnyvale Mountain Trailhead there are no multiple choices for loop hikes, and the only option is an out-and-back trek, although you can add on one of two loops. If you'd like to check out the area near park headquarters, hike downhill on Sanborn Trail. You'll pass through Todd Creek Redwoods and then reach the main park area via Peterson Trail.Then you'll regain about 1600 feet of elevation as you hike back uphill on San Andreas and Sanborn Trails. For an easier semi-loop, hike on Skyline Trail to Indian Rock, then continue northwest onto the Summit Rock Loop,An old fence near Skyline Boulevard  from which Summit Rock offers views east from an elevation of about 3076 feet. This hike is about 9 miles in length, but the elevation changes are relatively gentle. A visit to adjacent Castle Rock State Park is also possible, but more logically undertaken from the trailhead near Indian Rock, which is almost directly across Skyline Boulevard from the main entrance to Castle Rock.     
      With an extensive black oak and big leaf maple tree population, Skyline Trail is a knockout in autumn. Huge old Douglas fir, as well as tanoak,California bay, and madrone shade the trail in summer, mitigating the heat but unfortunately sheltering great swarms of flies. Late winter and spring are perhaps better spent in the nearby chaparral or grassland of Castle Rock, Long Ridge, or Upper Stevens Creek.
      For the featured hike, start at the Sunnyvale Mountain Trailhead. Begin walking north on the gated and signed Skyline Trail, open to hikers and equestrians only. Rocky stretch A meadow overgrown with broom, coyote brush, and blue elderberry drifts downhill to the right. You might see quail sitting in the taller shrubs. Along the trail, which is initially a wide old ranch road, black oaks dominate, with poison oak in the understory. Although Skyline Trail parallels Skyline Boulevard, the road is not visible. After a few feet, an appealing-looking path heads to the right, but it's not a viable trail, so stay to the left. The nearly flat trail reaches a split at a signed junction at 0.18 mile. Bear right and remain on Skyline Trail.
     The trail narrows and steps into a woodland of towering Douglas fir, tanoak, and madrone. There's a sharp dropoff downhill to the right, but the trail proceeds at a mostly level pace, angling across the hillside. You might notice a huge sandstone boulder on the left, one of many such formations that can be explored in this park as well as in neighboring Castle Rock. Winding through the forestAt 0.48 mile the trail reaches a picnic table near Skyline Boulevard. Check out the old stone fence and gateposts, remnants of past landholders. Skyline Trail curves away from the road and heads back into the woods. The narrow path skirts another rock formation and passes some downed branches from elderly tanoak and Douglas fir trees. After a brief sojourn through an open and overgrown area where you might notice a few spring and summer flowers making a statement among the coyote brush, Skyline Trail descends gently to a signed junction at 1.22 miles. Sanborn Trail heads downhill to the right. Turn left to remain on Skyline Trail.
     Madrone, tanoak, and Douglas fir, along with California bay and big leaf maple, create a thick canopy that permits little understory growth, but in some places you might notice small shrubs of hazelnut, creambush, and wood rose. Foggy Hound's tongue and western heart's ease are common in spring. In summer, a few tiny orchids bloom inconspicuously among the confetti of fallen madrone leaves. Skyline Trail draws near the road again, and a rickety set of log-re enforced steps heading uphill to the left reaches a roadside pullout. Continue to the right. The path climbs slightly along a rocky stretch and then levels out again. Some mighty Douglas fir and madrone might cause you to pause in wonder; these geriatric giants live a somewhat sheltered existence, shielded from winter winds by the hillside to the left.The trail bends right near an old metal "no bikes" sign. Adopting a slightly wider girth,Skyline Trail winds through a magnificent and quiet forest which is especially lovely when fog blows across the ridge from the west and billows downhill into the woods. Near Indian Rock Trailhead Although you are never far from Skyline Boulevard, traffic noise is only occasional (especially on weekdays). Skyline Trail narrows again, and more rock formations appear, looming out of the woods on both sides of the trail. At 3.02 miles, the trail reaches a trail sign, huge boulder, and roadside parking (I call this the Indian Rock Trailhead). Walk a few feet more uphill to the right, to Indian Rock(s), where black oaks, madrones, and coast live oaks provide shade and a perfect spot for a lunch break among the rock formations. When ready, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 6.04 miles
Last hiked: Monday, July 16, 2001