Wunderlich County Park,
County of San Mateo Parks,

San Mateo County
In brief:
5 mile loop through redwoods and sloping meadows. Lots of equestrian traffic.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 5 mile loop hike is easy, with about 1000 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 475 feet. The featured hike's high point is around 1448 feet. The park's highest elevation is around 2200 feet. There are plenty of opportunities for easy or more challenging hikes -- the trails at Wunderlich are well-graded and even a hike to Skyline and back is manageable.

More shade than sun.

Trail traffic

Trail surfaces
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time
2 hours.

Nice any time, but best in early spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County exit CA 84/Woodside Road (exit 25). Drive west on Woodside Road about 3 miles to the signed park entrance (it's a small sign) on the right (west) side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead
Latitude 3724'39.90"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging
Gas, restaurants, pay phones, and stores in Woodside, about 2 miles east. No camping in the park.

Trailhead details
Medium-sized dirt parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. Maps available at information signboard. Portable toilet and drinking fountain at the edge of the parking lot. No designated handicapped parking, but trail entrances are unobstructed and wheelchairs users may be able to navigate short distances on some trails with assistance. There's a second entrance (with no amenities) on Skyline Boulevard, but it's tough to park there. There is no direct public transportation to the park.

Trails are open to equestrians and hikers. No bikes, no dogs. Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.

The Official Story:
CSMP's Wunderlich page.
Park office 650-851-1210

Map Options:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there
• Park brochure from CSMP.
• Map from CSMP.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Wunderlich hike.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and good descriptions of the trails (order this book from Amazon.com).
• There's a map and park description in The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber (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.
• The map and text in The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order this book from Amazon.com), cover the western portion of the park.

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

View 47 photos from the featured hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Wunderlich is a fabulous park with well-maintained trails, varied terrain, and no bicycles!Photo of Wunderlich parking lot A hiker's dream come true (well, except for the horses). The property, which was logged in the 1800's, was given to San Mateo County in 1974 by Martin Wunderlich. Much of the park is well-shaded, so it's a good choice on a hot day. With a private stable on site, the trails can be busy with equestrians, but usually only on weekends. 
     There are quite a few loop possibilities. For the ambitious, a hike to the Skyline Boulevard edge of the preserve (about 10 miles round trip) may be in order. For folks with children, or those just out for an easy hike, make the loop through Salamander Flat, about 2 miles. Wherever you go you will find a clean, impeccably-signed park.
     After visiting Wunderlich several times, I've decided that the park may be best enjoyed in autumn. Trails get muddy in winter, and summer is hot (even under the redwoods). Spring wildflowers are not as impressive as in other nearby parks. In autumn the trails are dry and the foliage is gorgeous. Toyon, black oak, maple, and honeysuckle contribute to a typical bay area fall landscape.
     For the featured hike, start at the parking lot and walk to the south corner, past the portable toilet. After about 60 feet, a service road crosses the path, Alambique Trail starts to the left, and Bear Gulch Trail begins to the right. Bear left onto signed Alambique Trail. Alambique Trail
Expect to share this wide trail with equestrians, but dogs and cyclists are not permitted. Instantly you'll step under tree canopy, initially from California bay and coast live oak. Poison hemlock firmly occupies a sunny spot on the left in spring. Cypress, acacia, and eucalyptus, introduced trees, mix themselves with the natives. The grade picks up as the trail winds through a forest dominated by redwoods. Traffic noises from CA 84 recede as you climb, but don't disappear until 84 curves south away from the park, at 1.50 miles. Alambique Trail leaves the pure stands of redwoods and climbs through a mixture of many trees and shrubs. You may see California coffeeberry, California hazelnut, toyon, poison oak, broom, ceanothus, and coyote brush on the sides of the trail, underneath black oak, buckeye, madrone, California bay, coast live oak, Douglas fir, and redwood. Occasional breaks in the tree cover permit sweeping vistas to the east. At 0.76 mile, Alambique Trail meets Loop Trail at a signed junction. Bear left and continue on Alambique.Bear Gulch Trail
     A few steps later, at 0.82 mile, Meadow Trail begins on the right at a signed junction. Continue uphill to the left on Alambique Trail.
     Spring wildflowers in the understory include fairy lantern, sticky monkeyflower, forget-me-not, iris, and western heart's ease. In the fall,look for the red berries of honeysuckle vines dangling down from tree branches. In winter, madrone and toyon contribute their own red berries to the landscape. At 2.20 miles, a sign marks Alambique Flat. (An unmarked, but well-worn spur trail to the left visits a lovely redwood grove along Alambique Creek, perfect for a lunch break on a hot day.) Bear right to continue on Alambique Trail. Photo of Bear Gulch Trail
     The trail levels out. At 2.30 miles, you'll reach a signed junction with Oak Trail. (Oak Trail is an option if you'd like to shorten this hike; take Oak Trail to Meadow Trail and follow the remaining directions for the featured hike.) Bear left to stay on Alambique Trail.
     California bay, Douglas fir, and madrones line the trail. At 2.46 miles, Alambique Trail continues uphill, while Bear Gulch Trail begins on the right at a signed junction. Turn right onto Bear Gulch Trail
    This narrow trail, open to hikers and equestrians, winds gently uphill through California bay, Douglas fir, tanoak, and some massive madrones. You might catch ceanothus and hound's tongue in bloom in early spring. Bear Gulch Trail steps out of the woods and enters "the Meadows." I would probably call this area "place that used to be meadows but was invaded by chaparral," but either way, it's a pretty place. Tall shrubs of coyote brush, poison oak, elderberry, and California coffeeberry tower above the trail.The start of Meadow Trail At 2.62 miles, the slight grade flattens out at a junction. Look for blackberries in the summer on the right side of the trail. Weather permitting, there is a nice view to the southeast. A look back to the southwest hints at what you missed by turning off the Alambique Trail (more climbing!). Grassy patches near the junction host a variety of wildflowers in the spring, including blue-eyed grass, bellardia, lupine, clarkia, mule ears, and yellow mariposa lily. Clockwise as you enter the junction, the first path dead ends at a picnic bench; the second is a continuation of Bear Gulch Trail; the faint path straight ahead leads to a belvedere (another nice picnic spot); and the last trail is Meadow. (Bear Gulch Trail is an option; it's a little shorter than the featured hike, but has the disadvantage of paralleling private Bear Gulch Road. You may be able to pick out remnants of the skid roads that were used to pull logged trees up the mountain, just past Redwood Flat. If you'd like to exercise this option, take Bear Gulch Trail all the way back to the trailhead.) Turn right onto Meadow Trail.Meadow Trail photo
     The wide path, closed to cyclists, descends through the eastern edge of the meadow. Broom has really taken hold here, forming thickets on either side of the trail, and choking out other vegetation (some distinctive black sage and a few manzanita remain close to the trail). A line of tall eucalyptus trees ushers you back into a mixed woodland, with buckeye, black oak, madrone, Douglas fir, and California bay trees providing partial shade. At 3.26 miles, Meadow Trail meets Oak Trail at a signed junction. Stay to the left on Meadow Trail.
     You may see wild roses and the yellow blossoms of triteleia in late spring. There is one gigantic manzanita on the left. Indian warrior is common in late winter. At 3.62 miles, Meadow Trail meets Redwood Trail at a signed junction. Turn left onto Redwood Trail.MadroneTrail
    After just a few steps, the broad hiking and equestrian trail leaves the dappled sunlight behind, and enters a deeply shaded redwood forest. Redwood Trail at first descends, then makes a short easy ascent, but the trail soon settles on a slightly descending grade. This quiet trail is highly recommended any time of year, but after winter rains, several seasonal waterfalls splash downhill from the left side of the trail. At 3.79 miles, Redwood Trail meets Madrone Trail at a signed junction. Bear right onto Madrone Trail.
      Just past the junction on the left is Salamander Flat; a man-made irrigation pond that loses quite a bit of its charm thanks to an ugly fence. Madrone Trail, closed to cyclists, descends through redwoods, hazelnut, and tanoaks, then a mixed forest. Although the tree cover is thick, traffic noise from CA 84 may be audible. In the early spring, hound's tongue and forget-me-not brighten the forest floor. Later, the yellow flowers of the madia plant perk things up a bit. Madrone Trail meets Bear Gulch Trail at a signed junction at 4.35 miles. Turn right on Bear Gulch Trail.Photo of Bear Gulch Trail
     The diminutive hiking and equestrian trail drifts downhill. Poison oak thrives beneath the redwoods. Wood fences keep switchbacks intact along this section, which is considerably more narrow than the other trails on this featured hike. Soft sand, few rocks, and fallen pine needles have made a very cushy trail surface on this portion of Bear Gulch Trail. If I ever decide to try hiking barefoot, this will be my test surface. Bear Gulch Trail crosses Loop Trail at a signed junction at 4.73 miles. Continue straight on Bear Gulch Trail. The path descends past stables and ends at 4.93 miles. Cross the service road and bear left to the parking lot, which is visible from the signed junction.

Total distance:  4.97 miles
Last hiked:  Tuesday, July 20, 2004