About two miles west of Saratoga on Highway 9, you’ll see a small sign on the left for Saratoga Quarry Park. If you are interested in local history, looking for a nice shady place for a picnic, or like short walks on gravel paths with a few short but steep climbs, this 64-acre park is worth a visit.
You can also combine this park tour with a stop at Hakone Gardens to enjoy artful landscaping, or drive a short distance west on Highway 9 to Sanborn County Park. There you can enjoy longer hikes over 15 miles of trails through 3,688 acres, including one to Lake Ranch Reservoir and Black Road, or one up the new John Nicholas Trail to Skyline.
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 an 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 find one at Saratoga.ca.us.) 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.
The short drive to Saratoga Quarry Park encourages a short morning walk or a leisurely picnic lunch. Enjoy.