Educational. Shady. Easy.
Los Trancos
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space
Neil Wiley

One of Midpenís smallest preserves, Los Trancos offers pleasant and educational hiking for children and adults. Five miles of hiker-only trails lead you through 274 acres of shady oak forests off of Page Mill Road near Skyline Boulevard.

San Andreas Fault Trail
This short 1.5-mile trail straddles the San Andreas Fault. Numbered markers and an interpretive brochure provide a self-guided lesson in earthquake geology. (The brochures are usually available at the trailhead, but to be sure, you can get copies by calling Midpen at 650-691-1200, or emailing Docent-led hikes are also available.

The trail starts on the left (western) side of the parking lot. You walk up a small hill on a rocky trail to Station 1. From here, you can see south to Mount Umunhum and Loma Prieta, 23 miles to the south. See those boulders at your feet. According to the brochure, they are from Loma Prieta. Water carried these boulders from our local mountain across the San Andreas Fault to the Pacific plate, and then thousands of earthquakes moved them to Los Trancos.

A short walk to Station 2 reveals the view to the north. We can see Crystal Springs Reservoir, a natural depression created by an active fault.

At Station 3, we look over a long, flat area sitting on the fault. When sides of the fault moved farther apart, they created a long bench resembling a roadbed. In fact, road builders have often used these flat beds to create roads. (It works well between earthquakes.)

Station 4 shows the offset created by the 1906 earthquake. A reconstructed fence reflects the three-foot movement across the fault.

Willows and brush at Station 5 indicate a wet area from a fault-caused spring. (Itís the faultís fault.) These wet areas also lead to landslides.

The road-like bench and sag pond at Station 6 are below another fault featureóa pressure ridge that runs parallel to the hillís contours.

Two oak trees, one below and one above the trail, grow sideways at Station 7. Foothill College geologists believe that the trees fell in the 1906 earthquake. Luckily for the trees, they kept enough root structure to stay alive. Branches sprouted from the side to create unusual but effective growth. It proves that even something as rooted as a tree can be adaptable.

Landsliding or faulting has created an unusual landscape feature at Station 8. A little valley runs parallel to the contours. Usually created by draining water, valleys like this typically run perpendicular to the contours. This might tell you that valleys running parallel to contours probably are not good places to build.

By the time you reach Station 9, you will be more aware of fault-related landscape features. At this station, see if you can spot the road-like benches that signal past earthquakes.

The Double-loop Trails
If you would like to walk a little longer, I recommend the 2.3 mile double loop. When you leave the Fault Trail, donít turn right on the Franciscan Loop Trail. This turn will take you back to the parking lot. Instead turn left.

After a few hundred feet, if you are watching carefully, you may see to the right the outline of a concrete bunker above the trail. Further exploration reveals that the bunker is complete with hatches reminiscent of the TV program Lost. Although I donít recommend opening a hatch, because Iím sure that the bunker does not contain mysterious Lost-like rooms, the concrete slab provides an excellent place for an impromptu picnic while looking down on passing hikers.

Continuing on the trail, you cross over a marshy area on a short boardwalk, and on through pleasant oak and bay forest. You will come to two intersections leading to the Page Mill Trail, but stay on the Franciscan Loop Trail until you reach the Lost Creek Loop Trail. If you or your fellow hikers are tired, you can continue back to the parking area via the Franciscan Loop Trail, but I recommend taking the Lost Creek Loop Trail. This is a lovely creekside walk of less than a mile.

On this loop, I saw a magnificent buck challenge a younger male for the affections of a doe. I also saw a large hawk and other critters. I find that I see more if I occasionally stop and quietly blend in with the forest. If you bring the kids, you may not have these experiences, but watching them discover and learn should be well worth sharing the walk.

To get to Los Trancos, drive north on Skyline Boulevard, then turn right on Page Mill Road. The entrance is about one mile east on the left. Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is across the road. Both preserves have large parking lots.

If you have more time, take the short walk in Monte Bello to the Vista Point. More time? From the Vista Point, walk the Stevens Creek Nature Trail. Interpretative signs along the way provide more information. Visit other trails at

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