Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve

Trails run through ancient oak groves, along high ridges and across grass meadows to scenic viewpoints just off Skyline Boulevard.

Russian Ridge is located just off Skyline Blvd's intersection with Alpine Road/Page Mill Road. The centerpiece of the preserve is the impressive view from Borel Hill, rising to 2,572 feet a mere seven-tenths of a mile from the parking lot, elevation roughly 2,200 feet. You can save this view for the end of your hike and use it for motivation, or make the short 20-minute climb first and turn the view into inspiration.

Like many of the Midpeninsula Open Space District’s Preserves along this section of Skyline Blvd, the views of Silicon Valley on one side, juxtaposed with the pristine sight of the Santa Cruz Mountains on the other, are well worth the drive up Hwy 9 and north along Skyline.

The coolest aspect of Russian Ridge Open Space is the variety it offers. While the main artery of the preserve is the Ridge Trail, its many offshoots lead beneath shady oak groves, through grass fields and along canyon ridges before running back up to the ridge and the trail that traverses it. The terrane transitions can be steep, but the varying and consistently stunning views will keep you walking.

A great way to appreciate the many riffs this park offers on outdoor adventure is to plug in those headphones and attempt to create the most epic “jam” Russian Ridge has to offer. Since the party will start and end in a parking lot, it's not that different from a Dead concert really.

High on the ridges, grassy meadows range from rainy season greens to overly dry golden stands, long and waving in the wind. Late on a summer day, when one of the trails breaks out into open sunshine, the evening light illuminates an already golden background. And, here and there, like well placed notes of a guitar solo, dark and soft greens of shrubs and chaparral and manzanita complement the flaxen colors of the hillside. Then the music changes. The openness of the trail gives way to shade and numerous oaks, inviting you to sit in their limbs and admire the view beyond. Massive, gnarled, multi-limbed, the ancient oaks here would seem foreboding if not for the soft covering of thick green moss they all wear. Lower in the valley steeper slopes and darker dirt await hearty, sure-footed hikers for a little rock and roll.

This park is full of contrasts and juxtapositions, much like a good jam.

Check out the Park Map.

Good For: Looking out for pirate hoards invading the coast, or just soaring raptors, whatevs.

Don’t Even Think About: Bringing fido along. As the coyotes would say, "not cool, bro."

If You’re Lucky You’ll: Count wildlife sightings on both hands.

Your Mother Would Tell You To: Since swimming, wadding, smoking and lighting fires are illegal, don't. And use the bathroom before you leave the parking lot.

Don’t Miss The: View from Borel Hill.

—Graham Haworth

Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve, Redwood City, CA 94062. 650.691.1200. Learn more at the official website.

Directions to Main Parking Lot: Find parking in the northwest corner of the intersection between Skyline Boulevard and Page Mill/Alpine Road. Additional parking is available at the Clouds Rest Vista Point, about a mile north on the east side of Skyline Boulevard.

Directions to Mindego Gateway Parking Lot: Additional parking lots are available along Alpine Road by the Ancient Oaks trail and Audrey C. Rust commemorative site.

Bay Area Ridge Trail to Borel Hill
1.5 miles RT; 370 ft climbing; moderate
A quick jaunt along the Bay Area Ridge Trail climbing to a 360-degree view of the Santa Cruz Mountain tops.