The Other Long Ridge
Long Ridge Open Space Preserve
Neil Wiley

The Other Long Ridge Long Ridge Open Space Preserve Neil Wiley Not to be confused with our local Longridge Road behind Skyland, is Long Ridge Open Space Preserve on Skyline Boulevard. Only a few miles north of Saratoga Gap (the Skyline and Highway 9 intersection), this preserve offers a beautiful walk with ecological and scenic variety, small surprises, and some lovely views.

Driving the easy curves and rolling hills of Skyline Boulevard is a good start. It’s more fun than battling traffic on 280.

You can choose from several preserve entrances. As you travel north, the first is at Hickory Oaks Trail. The next is at Ward Road. The fourth entrance at the north end of the preserve is across from Grizzly Flat Trail. It has a bigger parking lot, but it’s a longer walk to the Wallace Stegner bench and views from Long Ridge Road.

The third entrance is my favorite. It is across from the Stevens Creek County Park parking turnout on the right side of the road, located just past the Palo Alto city limits sign. On your right, you’ll see the trailhead to Upper Stevens Creek County Park. On the left side of the highway is the trailhead to the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve. You’ll see the typical park signboard, complete with maps, warnings, and rules.

This trail curves down and around a hill. In a matter of a few steps, you are winding your way around grass-covered hills, down through sun-filled meadows, and deep wooded canyons. At one-tenth of a mile you reach Peters Creek Trail. Turning left, you follow the trail through oak forest and meadows.

If you haven’t missed a turn, the next highlight is a mirror-like pond, covered with algae. The surface is green if a bit slimy. It looks more like wet concrete than water. The pond is owned by the Jikoji Zen Center. They are friendly. Their No Trespassing sign says “please.”

After walking by the pond, you climb uphill over several switchbacks for about half a mile. The switchbacks, shade, and somewhat gentle climb make it a pleasant walk. When you emerge from the forest onto Long Ridge Road, you’ll see some great views. As you follow an easy uphill on Long Ridge Road, you’ll enjoy spacious mountain views, especially to the west.

Near the top of the hill, just before the junction with Long Ridge Trail and overlooking a fine view to the west, a large stone bench is dedicated to the writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner. Many critics consider him to be the best writer of the American West. If you have hiked Quicksilver Park, you may enjoy his book, Angle of Repose. Several chapters of the book are devoted to the people who mined mercury there.

A brass plaque on the Stegner Bench is inscribed “ . . . to try to save for everyone, for the hostile and indifferent as well as the committed, some of the health that flows down across the green ridges from the Skyline, and some of the beauty and refreshment of spirit that are still available to any resident of the valley who has a moment, and the wit, to lift up his eyes unto the hills. Wallace Stegner, 1909-1993. Dedicated May 19, 1996. Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District

Wallace Stegner’s words reflect the mission of Midpen Open Space. May we all gain the “health, beauty, and refreshment” of unspoiled nature.

Behind the bench is Long Ridge Trail, which loops you back to your starting point.

Be sure to bring a map. (See Hike 1 on the map.) My hiking partner and I made one wrong turn, and ended up hiking the loop counter-clockwise. No harm was done, but it was embarrassing. I made up for it by buying dinner at Alice’s Restaurant.

Consider Hike 2 for Dessert
Short and Sweet

Enter Long Ridge Open Space at the Hickory Oaks entrance for a shorter, sweeter hike. (See Hike 2 on the map.) Walk up a short hill, turn right on the Hickory Oaks Trail, and in a short distance, turn left to follow an unnamed loop. In less than a hundred yards, you are out on a 2600-foot ridge displaying a wide, wide world of big sky, a giant valley, and a 270-degree view of tree-covered mountains with a background of more mountains.

But that’s not all. After you have been thoroughly impressed with this sumptuous landscape, you become aware that you are standing in a field of giant rocks. Legend has it that these rocks were once a site for sacred rituals. During winter solstice, the sun projects light through a notch in a tall rock to a rounded rock behind it. According to Ohlone legend, this is Turtle Rock. When light cracked the shell open, it set people and animals free.

It’s as believable as many stories we have heard this year. Think about that as you follow the loop back to Hickory Oaks Trail and your car.

If you want more, go past the entrance trail straight to the shady Achistaca Trail. It is a pleasant 1.7-mile walk behind the Saratoga Summit Fire Station to Big Basin’s Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail.