Sausal Pond Loop,
Windy Hill Open Space Preserve,

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,

San Mateo County

In brief:
1.6 mile loop around Sausal Pond.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 1.6 mile loop hike is easy. 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 will be a bit more challenging.

Exposure:
More shade than sun.

Trail traffic
:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces
:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
:
Less than 1 hour.

Season
:
Nice any time, but best in early spring.

Getting there:
The east entrance is a parking lot off Portola Road in Portola Valley. From I 280 in San Mateo County, exit Alpine Road (exit 22). Head west about 3 miles and turn right onto Portola Road. Drive about 1 mile and turn left into the parking lot.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/362

GPS coordinates* for trailhead:
Latitude 3722'31.02"N
Longitude
12213'24.47"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, and deli near the junction of Portola and Alpine. More restaurants, stores, and gas stations closer to I 280 on Alpine Road. No camping in the preserve.

Trailhead details:
Good size parking lot (may get crowded on weekends). No entrance or parking fees. Wheelchair-accessible pit toilet, and two designated handicapped parking spots. Trails are wheelchair accessible, but you'll probably need assistance, and won't be able to go beyond the junction with Spring Ridge Trail. Maps available at information signboard. Windy Hill's other main trailhead is on Skyline Boulevard (CA 35) about 2.5 miles south of CA 84, 5 miles north of Page Mill Road. Roadside parking is available in a few places along Skyline (at the start of the Upper Razorback Ridge Trail, the start of the Spring Ridge Trail, and the connector spur to the Lost Trail). SamTrans bus #282 services the Portola Valley trailhead (weekdays) via Portola Road: visit the Transit Info website for details.

Rules:
A few trails are multi-use. Most are open to equestrians and hikers only, but seasonally closed for horses. Two trails are designated hiking only. Leashed dogs are permitted on the hike described below; they are not allowed on every Windy Hill trail.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Windy Hill page
MROSD field office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
• 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.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).
• 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 (order this book from Amazon.com) book has a simple map and preserve descriptions.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page



Windy Hill is a great preserve improved in 1999 by more convenient eastern access.Photo of the start of the featured hike  I've grown fond of the trails at Windy Hill, but I've never enjoyed finishing any of my hikes with a long ascent, and that had been inevitable with the preserve's main trailhead along Skyline Boulevard, near Windy Hill's highest point. Particularly strenuous was a return climb up Spring Ridge Trail, which seems to just shoot straight uphill, with no shade. The parking lot off of Portola Road enables hikers to start and finish at the preserve's lowest elevation. It has also transformed Windy Hill into a preserve to visit when you have limited time, with close proximity to Interstate 280.
        The most prominent feature of the preserve is the grassy belvedere near the trailhead on Skyline Boulevard. The hilltop is a short walk from the parking lot along the Anniversary Trail, and the 360° views on a clear day are spectacular. From the crest Spring Ridge Trail drops through grassland down into Portola Valley.Sausal Pond  Hamms Gulch Trail and Razorback Ridge Trail are reasonably graded, with lots of switchbacks, and shade from coast live oak and Douglas fir. A nice long (7.2 miles) loop combining Lost Trail, Razorback Ridge Trail, Eagle Trail, and Hamms Gulch Trail takes you through many lovely areas of the preserve, and is cool even in summer. When the weather is breezy a hike along the Spring Ridge Trail reminds you that Windy Hill is well-named, and in the spring the wildflowers put on a show visible from the Anniversary Trail.
        For the featured hike, an exploration of the preserve's east side, park at the lot off of Portola Road and take the short connector to a signed junction where Sausal Trail begins. Dog walkers, cyclists,and equestrians use these trails, so keep alert. Turn left and walk a few steps to Sausal Pond.Trail along Sausal Pond  This section of the preserve borders a retirement community, the Sequoias. With property like this at your back door, sign me up now! You never get a real quiet hiking experience in this eastern part of Windy Hill, with the activity around the Sequoias and the attendant civilization buzz from Portola Valley. The roar of a distant chainsaw has followed me around these trails more than once. The ducks at Sausal Pond treat you like they've never seen a human before, quacking and flapping and putting on a good show. You can get close to the shore of the pond in a few places, and it's a nice place to eat lunch or sit in the sun. The trail departs from the pond and then winds uphill through valley and coast live oak trees, coyote brush, common snowberry shrubs, blackberry bushes, and patches of grass. After hiking about 0.7 mile, you'll reach a signed junction. Turn right.
     Spring Ridge Trail climbs through coyote brush and coast live oaks. At about 0.9 mile, you'll reach a signed junction. Turn right onto Betsy Crowder Trail.Sausal Trail
    
This 0.6 mile segment built by MROSD staff in 1999, was renamed in memory of board director Crowder, who was killed in an accident in 2000. The trail, open to hikers and equestrians (although seasonally closed to horses) descends gently, entering a meadow where it is common to see deer. As the sounds of Sausal Pond drift up from the east, Betsy Crowder Trail enters a shady stretch. You may see madrone, buckeye, oaks, and toyon. In autumn, downed leaves provide a satisfying crunch underfoot. In spring, look for hound's tongue, milkmaids, and giant trillium. The pond is only visible as snatches of water seen through the trees to the right. As you near the end of the trail a private road comes in to view on the left. At the signed junction turn left and retrace your steps to the parking area.

Total distance: about 1.6 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, October 6, 1999