Here is a cool hike for a warm day. The trails in
Wunderlich are shaded by a wonderful assortment of treesógiant
redwoods, eucalyptus, oaks, cypress, acacias, madrone, fir, laurels,
buckeyes, maples, and bays. Sure, some arenít native, but they fit
A San Mateo County park, Wunderlich is 942 acres
of mixed forest on the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains
between Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) on the southwest, Highway 84
on the southeast, and Woodside Road (Highway 84) on the northeast.
The park was named after Martin Wunderlich, who donated the property
for the park to San Mateo County.
The trails are well-maintained, the signage is
good, and the terrain is varied. Although deeply forested, changes
in elevation support a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and
The lower end of the park features the Folger
Ranch complex of boarding stables, riding facility, and horse ring.
This complex is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
And yes, it was the James Folger II of Folger coffee fame, who
bought this property in 1902. He built an estate in 1905 designed by
Arthur Brown, Jr. This is the same Brown who built such San
Francisco landmarks as the Ferry Building, the Opera House, City
Hall, and Coit Tower.
The stable is no ordinary horse barn. The
architectural style is French baroque. Adornments include corbels
under the eaves, paneled soffits, a balcony, and an arched portico.
A nearby carriage house is now used for informal community meetings.
Other buildings include a blacksmith barn and a dairy house, built
in 1874 by previous owner Simon Jones, an ex-senator from Texas. For
safety, and respect for the existing horse boarders, visitors are
asked not to enter the buildings, but they can take a walking tour
through the area.
Over twelve miles of developed trails are
available to hikers. Most also serve equestrians, although some
narrower trails are closed during the winter. You can walk from one
end of the park to the other on the 5.1-mile Alambique Trail. It
runs from the Woodside Road trailhead at 475-feet elevation to
Skyline Ridge (Highway 35) at 2200 feet. ("Alambique" is also the
name of a creek running through the park. The name comes from the
Spanish por alambique, which means sparingly.
You can also take several intersecting trails to
form loops. One favorite hike for families is a two-mile loop to and
from Salamander Flat, site of the Salamander Pool.
This pool began life as a reservoir for the
Folger estate. Now it is home to rough-skinned newts, which come
here to breed. I guess the old pond should be called a new newt
pond. Its new use suits newts to a "T." By the way, donít eat the
newts. The flash of their orange underbelly is a warning to
predators that these newts are highly toxic.
Although signage is excellent, the lower part of
the park has many intersecting trails. Whatever trail you take, I
recommend getting a trail map from the Internet. The online map is
much easier to read than the map available at the trailhead. For a
map, perform an online search for San Mateo County Ė Parks
Department, Wunderlich Park. When you reach the official park site,
download the printer-friendly park map.
I followed a five-mile loop through the park
recommended by the Bay Area Hiker (www.bahiker.com/southbayhikdes/wunderlich.html).
The loop takes you up a relatively easy grade to about a 1446-foot
elevation, by some of the parkís most interesting features, and down
another trail to complete the circuit. It also provides several
short cuts if you or your fellow hikers get tired.
I began my hike at the southern edge of the
parking lot on the Alambique Trail. At first, the trail was shaded
by bays and oaks, but as the climb became a little steeper, bigger
redwoods loomed above. I passed signed junctions with the Loop Trail
and Meadow Trail. I was passed by three young women hikers wearing
riding jodhpurs. (I thought they might have lost their horses, but
their conversation appeared to be centered on a man who was spending
his money unwisely, perhaps not on them.)
At Alambique Flat I detoured left over a rough
path leading to a small redwood grove. I returned to the main trail,
then stayed left past the junction with Oak Trail. At the next
junction, I turned right to Bear Gulch Trail. This trail took me
through forest up to "The Meadows"óa large open meadow with nice
views to the southeast. A new and welcome bench invited a lunch
I then took the Meadow Trail down through the
meadow. Recent brush clearing improved the view and made it a nice
"walk in the park." I passed the first junction, Oak Trail, but
turned left on Redwood Trail, and shortly after, right on Madrone
Trail for a short walk to Salamander Flat and Salamander Pool. A
high-wire fence surrounded the pool, either to protect the famous
rough-skinned newts or visitors, but there were places where I could
shoot pictures over the fence. Unfortunately, the newts were further
protected by green-algae scum covering the pool. They may like the
pool, but I didnít drink the water.
I continued on, making a right on Bear Gulch
Trail, then down many switchbacks, past Loop Trail, and down to the
stables and my car.
I had one more stop. I drove up Highway 84 to
Aliceís Restaurant on Skyline for a well-deserved hamburger. While
there, I met a photo-journalist from Canada who was doing a story on
the California coast. Like many a tourist, he had some trouble with
our Spanish place-names. He was looking for Ano Nuevo, but
his pronunciation was so garbled, it took me several minutes to
If you are in a hurry, take Interstate 280 north
to Highway 84/Woodside Road, then drive west about three miles to
the park entrance. Watch for the parkís small sign on the west
(right) side of the road.
If you want to enjoy my favorite road, take Black
Road up to Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35), then turn east (right) on
Highway 84. About four miles down 84, and half a mile past the fork
with Portola Road, watch for the small sign on the west (left) side
of the road. As an alternative, you could drive up the coast on
Highway 1 to Highway 84. Another alternative is to park on Skyline,
and walk into the park. You can then follow a loop of the Alambique
and Skyline trails.
There are no entrance or parking fees. Portable
toilet and drinking fountain are near the main entrance parking lot.
Donít forget your map, water, and money for hamburgers. You may get