Posted tagged ‘Long Ridge OSP’

Weekend/Connector Hike, Long Ridge OSP to Portola State Park

July 14, 2008

I’ve been spending time trying to figure out a good route for doing a hike with my son from Skyline Blvd over to the ocean without going through Big Basin State Park. I don’t anything against Big Basin but it can get pretty busy and going that route would take me a lot farther south than I really want to go. My son is pretty young so eliminating extra miles is a good thing. I think it’s going to be pretty doable and I’ve been hiking each of the segments to make sure the distances are not overly-long and the connections really exist before the boy and I head out for the deep nowhere. This weekend’s segment was a long (13.4 miles round trip) out and back from Skyline Blvd at Long Ridge OSP to the Slate Creek Trail Camp in Portola Redwoods State Park. It was a very isolated and lovely walk with significant descending and climbing, 1300 feet down then back up. As a connector it should be good year-round. As an out and back it’d be best to pay attention to the weather because the exposed ridgelines in Long Ridge can be pretty hot and dry on a day with temps in the 90s or above.

About the parks: Because this hike spans two different parks you should plan to bring maps of both parks with you. You can pick up a Long Ridge map from the trailhead where you begin but you’ll be coming into Portola State Park through the back door so you should print a map before you start. If you have the $5 map from Pescadero Creek County Park¬†this will serve nicely as your Portola State Park map since there’s significant crossover. The trails near Skyline Blvd in Long Ridge OSP are heavily traveled and popular with mountain bikers. The Peters Creek Loop is one of the nicest trails open to bikes in the south Skyline region so keep an ear out for bikes approaching as you hike. The portions of Portola State Park that you’ll be hitting on this hike are the quietest and least traveled parts of the park. On a day when Peters Creek in Long Ridge was bustling with bikers and hikers and the main camping areas of Portola State Park were full I saw no one at all once I got 2 miles from Skyline Blvd.

Doing the hike: I began this hike at the Grizzly Flats Parking area along Skyline Blvd at the border of Upper Stevens Creek County Park and Long Ridge Open Space Preserve. This parking area is on the east side of Skyline, is well-marked and can be reached by traveling south on Skyline from Page Mill Road or by traveling north on Skyline from Saratoga Gap at Highway 9. As an alternate you can start the hike at the Hickory Oaks gate of Long Ridge OSP but the parking is harder here and you’d miss out on the Peters Creek Loop, which would be a mistake, in my opinion.¬†

From Grizzly Flats, cross Skyline into Long Ridge OSP and pick up a regional map. Take a minute and familiarize yourself with the map because it contains the maps for several preserves and parks. Now descend on Peters Creek. Stay left at the next three intersections and follow Peters Creek Loop trail as it winds through meadowlands, oak woods and past a pond choked with algae and lilly pads. Obey the signage and don’t trespass on private property around the pond. Follow Peters Creek up a series of switchbacks and you’ll pop out on a ridegline at the intersection with Ward Road. Follow Ward Road downhill in the direction of School Road. You could also go uphill and head toward Hickory Oaks but that route is unshaded and you’ll get plenty of sun in a short while.

Stay to the left at the intersection of Ward Road and School Road and keep heading down Ward Road past the intersection with Hickory Oaks. That booming sound you likely hear off to the south is the gun range that’s a few miles away. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe, the rounds are caught by a berm and do not fly off into the surrounding land. You’ll come to a slightly confusing intersection with Ranch Spring Trail, stay to the left of the three trails and do NOT follow the very weathered old marker that points to what appears to be a double-track through the grass, that’s the other end of Ranch Spring Trail. Continue down Ward Road ignoring the signs that the trail might end soon, you’ll be continuing past the end (don’t worry, it’s legal).

At the preserve boundary you’ll encounter a closed gate, which can be a little intimidating. Don’t worry, you can just unchain the gate and then close it behind you. Keeping heading downhill (you’re getting worried about all this downhill, aren’t you?) and you’ll transition from open ridgeline to a mixed oak and douglas fir forest. The trail levels out here and actually rolls up and down a bit. You’ll see an old fireroad intersecting Ward Road on the left, probably with an orange traffic cone and a no trespassing sign. Stay to the right and continue downhill. In a little bit the trail will head steeply downhill and you’ll want to watch out for a small singletrack trail off to your right with a sign indicating that you are now in Portola State Park and that this is the trail to the Slate Creek Trail Camp. Turn right onto this singletrack and follow this trail 1.7 miles to the trail camp. If you miss this turn you’ll go a long way down and find yourself on Pescadero Creek in lumber company property. Don’t sweat it, turn right and follow the road to Portola State Park if you don’t want to go back up.

While following Slate Creek Trail downhill you’ll cross the creek a few times, once by walking through the creek and a couple times over wooden bridges. Just 0.4 miles before the trail camp you’ll arrive at the second site of the William Page Mill Site. Read the sign and then continue on to the trail camp. The trail camp is a good place to rest, have a snack and use the pit toilet before turning around and heading back up the hill.

If you brought your water filter fill your water containers when you cross Slate Creek on the way back up. If you didn’t bring a filter conserve your water, you’ve got a long way to go up the hill. When you reach the intersection of Hickory Oaks and Ward Road you can choose to follow a different route back to the Grizzly Flats parking area, guided by your map. Round trip this hike will be just over 13 miles and you’ll have gone through around 3000 feet of loss/gain.