Thornewood Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,
San Mateo County
In brief:
1.2 mile out and back through old estate grounds.

Distance, category, and difficulty
This 1.2 mile out and back hike is easy. The trailhead elevation is around 960 feet. The trail drops gradually to about 850 feet.

Mix of shade and sun.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt fire road and trail.

Hiking time:
Under 1 hour.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit CA 84 (exit 25). Drive west about 4.6 miles to the preserve entrance on the left side of the road (look for brick gates; the preserve sign is inside those gates). Proceed about 0.2 mile down the narrow road, to the parking lot on the right side of the road.

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3723'27.02"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Gas, pay phone, stores, and restaurants back on CA 84 in Woodside. No camping in the preserve.

Trailhead details:
Parking for about 12 cars in a lot. There is designated handicapped parking, and trail may be wheelchair accessible (with assistance). No entrance or parking fees. No toilet facilities or drinking water. Maps available at the information signboard. There is no direct public transportation to this preserve.

The trail is open to equestrians and hikers. Dogs are permitted, on leash only. Preserve is open from dawn to 1/2 hour after dusk.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Thornewood page
MROSD office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from MROSD (download pdf).
Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from has an overview of the preserve, descriptions of hikes, and simple maps.
Trail Map of the Central Peninsula, by the Trail Center (order this map from is useful.
• Jean Rusmore's Peninsula Trails has a simple map and preserve description (order this book from
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and preserve description (order this book from

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

View 30 photos a June 2000 hike
View photos from a July 2001 hike

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Thornewood is a small preserve perfect for a lunchtime stroll, hike with small kids, or dogwalk. TrailheadWith MROSD's purchase of adjacent land near Old La Honda Road, the trail system may grow in the future, but for now the paths are out and back only.
      With a variety of plant life, something is bound to be blooming or fruiting no matter what time of year you visit. Wildflowers linger until summer, and then buckeyes and poison oak put on their foliage shows. Later in autumn, black oaks and big-leaf maples contribute some drama of their own.
      Departing from a private road that accesses the old 1920s estate (closed to the public during private restoration; check with MROSD), Schilling Lake Trail winds through a variety of plants and trees on the way to Schilling Lake. TrailInitially you may see madrone and black oak, with California coffeeberry, honeysuckle, and broom in the understory. The narrow trail looses elevation on a short series of switchbacks, and travels through a mixture of Douglas fir, California bay, buckeye, blue elderberry, manzanita, hazelnut, coyote brush, toyon, pitcher sage, monkeyflower, chamise, ceanothus, and poison oak. Breaks in the foliage afford views to the west (including a backyard or two). I saw quail, jays, and hummingbirds on a hike in June 2000, as well as deer prints in the dirt trail surface. At 0.49 mile, the trail turns left at a "trail" signpost, and joins an old road for the remainder of the journey. Soon after, Bridle Trail departs to the left. Continue straight. Schilling Lake
      As the trail descends gently toward Schilling Lake, look for bigleaf maple, tanoak, thimbleberry, and redwood. Two unsigned dirt roads depart to the right at 0.59 mile; continue to the left. Finally, the trees and shrubs thin a bit, permitting a closer look at Schilling Lake. There's a bench on the right which makes a good lunch location. Just past the bench, at 0.63 mile, the official trail ends at an unsigned gate (there is a narrow but obvious trail that continues downhill). Retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 1.26 miles
Last hiked: September 9, 2014
Previous visit: July 30, 2001