Windy Hill Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,
San Mateo County
4.2 mile out and back along a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 4.2 mile hike is easy, with about 400 feet in elevation change. There are two main trailheads: the Portola Valley trailhead elevation is under 600 feet. The Skyline Boulevard trailhead elevation is about 1800 feet. From either trailhead, you can create easy or moderate hikes on mostly level trails, but as soon as you start climbing or descending, the hiking is more challenging.
More shade than sun.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Less than 1 hour.
Nice any time, but best in early spring.
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit CA 84 (exit 25). Drive west about 6.5 miles to the junction with Skyline Boulevard (CA 35). Turn left and drive south about 2.5 miles, to the signed trailhead on the left side of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Store, gas, pay phone, and restaurants about 2.5 miles north, at the junction of 35 and 84. No camping in the preserve.
No entrance or parking fees. Room for 10 vehicles, with one designated handicapped parking spot. Wheelchair-accessible pit toilet at trailhead. Maps available at information signboard. No drinking water available. Although the picnic area at the trailhead is wheelchair-accessible, the trails are not suitable for wheelchairs. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead.
A few trails are multi-use. Most are open to equestrians and hikers only, but seasonally closed to horses. Two trails are designated hiking only. Dogs are not permitted on every trail on the hike described below; they are allowed on a few Windy Hill trails.
The Official Story:
MROSD's Windy Hill page
MROSD field office: 650-691-1200
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from MROSD (download Windy Hill pdf).
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.
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
Jean Rusmore's The Bay Area Ridge Trail (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of Lost Trail.
Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
Lost Trail in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.
View 25 photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Hill offers plenty of hiking variety. Three
long loops and three short loops depart from trailheads near the preserve's
highest and lowest elevations. Spring Ridge, Hamms Gulch, and Razorback
Ridge Trails sprawl east to west across Windy Hill's slopes. Combine any
of those trails with Eagle and Lost Trail for loops ranging from about
7 to 8 miles. Sausal Pond Loop and Anniversary Trail provide gentle and
easy exercise treks of about 1 and 1.5 miles respectively. If you're planning
on a long loop, note that Spring Ridge Trail, unlike Hamms Gulch and Razorback
Ridge Trails, climbs rather steeply up to the summit. If you're visiting
in springtime, Spring Ridge Trail is the trail most likely to provide
wildflowers; it ascends through grassland, while the other long trails
at Windy Hill spend most of their time under tree cover. Lost Trail is
a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.