Let’s begin with something new. A steep, but short, trail takes you up out of Saratoga’s Quarry Park about 6/10 of a mile to a brand-new single track with 2.65 miles of easy switchbacks. You pass over four bridges, through forest, with occasional views of big homes, vineyards, and rounded hills.
This project took a lot of time and money provided by the City of Saratoga with support from Midpeninsula Open Space, Santa Clara County Parks, and San Jose Water. (The water company provided some of the property used by the trail.)
The trail, built by the non-profit Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz, is cool. I mean really cool, as in deep shade. Footing is as smooth as a baby’s bottom, except for short sections of gravel where necessary to prevent slides. Trail design makes the climb easier by staying on side slopes with modest grading and a series of switchbacks. This does get a bit boring, especially when you look up to see four more levels above you, but it’s better than climbing straight up.
Occasional nature signs, big rocks, and variety in foliage make the walk more interesting, but the single track does not allow side-by-side hiking or easy passing. It would also be more comfortable to have an occasional rest stop with a bench or rock chair.
Reaching the top is a bit of a letdown. It’s just a roughly circular space, a winery sign, and a few sittable rocks. If you are using this as an out-and-back trail, it is still a good place for a snack or a brief rest. When you walk back down to Quarry Park, you can cruise on automatic.
You have other options. Instead of turning back, you can continue down Winery Road, which becomes a trail to Sanborn Park. The road goes downhill around many curves with a gradual grade and large mirrors on the blind curves. But, when it reaches a junction with the trail, it becomes a private road with warnings of big trucks and other unfriendly signs indicating that this is not a legal trail. You stay left to continue on the Saratoga-to-the-Skyline Trail. It goes downward, but it is often rough and steep, especially the last switchback to a connection with Stuart Ridge Trail (Junction 26).
This takes you to the Sanborn Narrows Trail that follows a creek bed out to parking along the Sanborn Road entrance. The creek bed has lots of little waterfalls and interesting rocks, but it’s a scramble with a little rock climbing and at least one ford. After a heavy rain, it may not be passable.
Now what? You can turn around and retrace your steps, but that first switchback uphill is tough. Perhaps a better approach is to use a two-car shuttle. You can have one car parked on the east side of the Sanborn Park Entrance, the other at Quarry Park. It is a very short drive between the two locations. Of course, it would be even closer if you could park at the Winery Road between the two trails, but it is private property and illegal, except for an occasional special group tour.
I’ve hiked both of these trails, up and back. Saratoga to Winery Road is longer, but smoother. Sanborn to Winery Road is shorter, but steeper. The total length together is 9.1 miles. Horses and leashed dogs are allowed from Saratoga-to-the-Skyline, but not on Skyline-to-the-Sea.
If you have lots of time, you can continue your trip through Sanborn Park up to Skyline (6 miles), and then hike 31 miles through Castle Rock Park and Big Basin (when it reopens) over the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail ending at Waddell Beach and the Pacific Ocean. (Better bring some camping gear.)
For more information, including a map, virtual trail opening, and a virtual hike, visit Saratoga-to-the-Skyline Trail/Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.
Saratoga Quarry Park
About two miles west of Saratoga on Congress Springs Road (Highway 9), you’ll see a small sign on the left for Quarry Park. It’s a nice place to see local history, enjoy a shady place for a picnic, or take short walks on gravel paths with a few short, but steep, climbs. (It’s also the entrance to the Saratoga to Sanborn Trail.)
Although a gravel quarry doesn’t sound like a great destination, the forested hillside topography and multiple paths reveal one surprise after another, explained by interpretative signs with historical information. Near the parking lot, you can see a large loading structure that serves as a historical art gallery. Across the lot is a view down to Saratoga Creek. A short walk up to the next level opens to a series of four picnic areas, all in comfortable shade. Throughout the walk you discover historical treasures—old tools, machines, tanks, rocky stairways and walls, tunnel openings, gears, wheels, and a not-so-historical sandy volleyball court. Many interpretive signs enrich your experience. A walk to the upper terrace takes you by a weedy grass pond, over a tunnel, and steeply up to a scenic overlook
The trails are short, but a map is helpful. (You can see a big map in the parking area.) The gravel paths prevent muddy shoes and trail erosion, but they are slippery, especially on the steeper slopes. A water-bottle fill station and bathroom are located in the parking lot. Parking and entry are free.
To reach the Saratoga to Sanborn Trail, go up the hill toward the vista point. A sign shows the entrance to the trail.