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.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Nice any time, but best in early spring.
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:
(* 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.
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:
Park office 650-851-1210
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Wunderlich
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
this book from Amazon.com), cover the western portion of the park.
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
is a fabulous park with well-maintained trails, varied
terrain, and no bicycles! 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
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
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.
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
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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
Total distance: 4.97 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, July 20, 2004