Driving, hiking, and exploring
Skyline Boulevard
Neil Wiley

It’s a short drive up Black Road to my favorite highway, Skyline Boulevard. I’ve been driving it for more than fifty years. It was my favorite alternative when commuting to work in Redwood City. I’ve used it to test two Mustangs, a Corvette, a Jaguar, and my little Solstice. Riding my Honda motorcycle to work on Saturdays around the Skyline curves made my six-day week bearable.

Some people would say there is not much to see, especially during the week. Very little traffic. No supermarkets. Only one gas station and two small restaurants at the intersection with Highway 84. Instead of urban development, noise, and pollution, it’s just a beautiful curving road through a natural world of scenic views, interesting trails, and fresh air.

Along this road between the intersections with Black Road and San Mateo’s Highway 92, is another kind of development—three state parks, nine county parks and properties, and most of the 26 preserves of Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. This adds up to lots of space for exploring.

Some of the parks charge for parking; the open-space areas are free. Dogs on leash are welcome at Coal Creek, Foothills, Long Ridge, and Pulgas Ridge preserves. Most of the open-space preserves are open to equestrians. Picchetti Ranch, Purisima, Russian Ridge, and Skyline Ridge offer wheelchair-accessible trails.

Starting from our end of Skyline Boulevard, it’s a short drive from Black Road past Las Cumbres to the Sunnyvale Mountain entrance of Sanborn Skyline Park’s new John Nicholas Trail. The trail extension takes you downhill 3.5 miles to the Lake Ranch Reservoir in the Lyndon Canyon/Sanborn Creek watershed. From there, you can walk over to Black Road. If you left a shuttle car there, you won’t have a 900-foot climb in elevation. Even with the climb, the long switchbacks and average grade of four percent make it relatively easy.

A little farther up Skyline is the 5200-acre Castle Rock State Park with 35 miles of hiking trails. You can walk down a gradual downhill to the eighty-foot-high Castle Rock Falls only 0.8 miles from the main parking lot, see big rocks, including Goat Rock and Castle Rock, or continue on Saratoga Gap or Ridge trails to watch the resident hawks fly below.

Want more? You will need trail camp reservations, but you can descend for 28.2 miles from Saratoga Gap (Highways 35/9 intersection) through Castle Rock and Big Basin to the ocean at Waddell Beach.

This park offers a lot of diversity as it ranges from 3200 feet high near the top of Mount Bielawski down to 670 feet along the San Lorenzo River. You can drive down Highway 9 to see the views from Sempervirens Point or walk a section of the Skyline to Sea Trail from Waterman Gap.

Across the road from Castle Rock’s main entrance, the easy Summit Rock Loop Trail in Sanborn Skyline Park will take you 0.9 miles to Summit Rock. The loop is a pleasant 1.6 mile walk with a rewarding view of Santa Clara Valley.

All this, and we are just to Highway 9. If all goes well, next month I’ll give you quick views of Upper Stevens Creek Park, and Midpen open space preserves—Long Ridge, Monte Bellow, Skyline Ridge, Russian Ridge, Los Trancos, Coal Creek, Windy Hill, and La Honda Creek
In the meantime, if you would like to know more about local parks and preserves, click on Hikes and other explorations on our website—www.mnn.net.