Skyline Ridge

Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve offers hiking, biking, horseback riding, big views from the summit of the Santa Cruz Mountains and two small lakes. Now that's variety.

There is a string of connected Midpeninsula Open Space Preserves in the northern half of the Santa Cruz Mountain range known as the South Skyline Region. You may think that such a cluster of parks would be redundant. How many views and ecosystems can one 9-mile stretch of Skyline Boulevard have to offer? A walk in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve answers that question.

Covering 2100 privileged acres between Long Ridge and Russian Ridge, Skyline Ridge has views for days, grasslands, oak woodland, redwoods, even two small lakes. From atop a 2400-foot perch accessible from the Sunny Jim Trail, a person gets a colossal view of the Great Park, a 200-square-mile redwood ecosystem blanketing the Santa Cruz Mountains. Portola Redwoods State Park, the sprawling Pescadero Creek County Park complex and Butano State Park march to the sea under dramatic cloud displays.

Horseshoe Lake and Alpine Pond both lie relatively close to Skyline Boulevard (in fact, most of the park's 10 miles of trail lie coiled near the ridge) and feature short trails friendly to wheelchairs and strollers. The David C. Daniels Nature Center, at Alpine Pond, offers guided and self-guided tours and educational displays. It's seasonally closed; check to make sure it's open.

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DANDY PLACE FOR: A gnarly hike, bike or horseback ride or taking Grandma and the tots. There are choices here.

PLAN TO: Eat and get your nonfat half-caff vanilla latte before leaving civilization; this is a ways from anywhere and there are no stores or eateries nearby.

DON'T FORGET: Your camera!

REX NIX: Dogs aren't allowed here.

—Graham Haworth and Traci Hukill

Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve, Skyline Blvd/Hwy 35 and Page Mill/Alpine Rd, Los Altos, CA. 650.691.1200. Learn more on the official website. View a map of the Skyline Ridge area.

Directions: The main entrance and parking lot lies 1 mile south of the Hwy 35/Alpine Rd intersection on the west side of the highway. Visitors heading for the Daniels Nature Center can use the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve parking lot 1 mile north, on the northwest corner of the Hwy 35/Alpine Rd intersection (a tunnel under Alpine Rd leads to the center).

Trail to Alpine Pond
2.6 miles; 500 feet climbing; moderate
A short climb to some of the best views in the Midpeninsula system, then a trip to a tranquil pond.

Horseshoe Lake—Fir Knoll Loop
3 miles; a little over an hour; easy to moderate
Another short hike, this time to a little lake and a pine-covered knoll.