Horseshoe Lake-Fir Knoll Loop

A short hike at Skyline Open Space Preserve provides a variety of scenery, including a little lake and big ocean views.

3 miles; a little over an hour; easy to moderate.
Fir Knoll Trail —> Tree Farm Trail

In Skyline Ridge Open Space, there’s both a pond and a lake. To me, they appear roughly the same size. Maybe Horseshoe Lake is a bit larger than Alpine Pond. (Read about a trail to the lovely Alpine Pond here.)

This loop takes us to the lovely Horseshoe Lake, as well as a unique (for these parts) forest of fir trees.

To quickly access the Horseshoe Lake trail, park in the lower lot upon entering Skyline Ridge. Take a short jaunt around the trail that encircles Horseshoe Lake. It’s really very pretty. Next, look for the sign for Fir Knoll Trail. This six-tenths of a mile stretch demonstrates the ecological diversity of this piece of coastal mountain range. While oaks dominate many of the MidPen Open Space Preserves, the Fir Knoll Trail leads you up a hill (knoll? Again, what’s the difference?) presided over by tall, majestic firs.

These are not your Christmas Tree variety firs. These trees are towering, their limbs sticking straight out of the trunks 15 or 20 feet, spiraling up the tree so you can see how the trees have grown over time. In the soft evening light, the mood up here is surreal, serene.

After summiting Fir Knoll, the trail descends steeply. Watch your step, as the trail is rocky and full of gravel here. Hook up with the Tree Farm Trail, which looks exactly as you might imagine. This part of Skyline Ridge Open Space is scattered with the remains of a christmas tree farm. MidPen painstakingly restored this habitat from 2003-2010.

While some the christmas trees remain, around them will grow several species of native oaks, grasses, and wildflowers. The Tree Farm Trail undulates over and around for about a mile and a half, affording unique views of coastal hillsides dotted with oversized christmas trees. It hugs Skyline Blvd. as it leads you back to the parking lot.

—Graham Haworth

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