Route 1: Russian Ridge and Coal Creek Loop
Route distance: 9 miles with 1500 feet of climbing. Allow 1.5 to 2.5 hours.
Trail head: Russian Ridge preserve parking lot, just west of the intersection
between Page Mill Road and Skyline Blvd.
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- There is a rest room in the parking lot, but no running water. Russian
Ridge is a popular wildflower viewing area and the parking lot often fills
up on spring weekends (April-June).
- From the parking lot, head up (gradual climb) the Ridge Trail to Borel
Hill. Just before the summit, notice the connector trail to the Ancient
Oaks trail, which we'll take later. At 2572 feet in elevation, Borel Hill
is one of the tallest hills in the Palo Alto area and it gives you great
views both west toward the ocean and east towards the San Francisco Bay.
On a clear day, you can see all the way up the bay to San Francisco and the
- Head back down to the Ridge trail, then turn left on the single track
connector to the Ancient Oaks trail. The terrain quickly turns from open
grassland to a dark canyon to a grove of old (reportedly 500 years old) oak
trees. Watch out for exposed roots as the single track trail follows the
ridge line through the forest. When you get to the bottom of the hill, take
the right fork to stay on the Ancient Oaks trail.
- Continue on the single track Hawk trail which climbs a grassy ridge.
You have nice views out toward the ocean, but the trail is narrow and you
have a large drop off to the left, so keep your eyes on the trail. Also,
watch out for downhill traffic, which you will be on your return trip.
- At the top of the hill, turn right on the Ridge Trail. If you're getting
tired or are running out of time, you can take the Ridge trail back to the
- If you have the time, exit the Russian Ridge preserve at the Skyline
Blvd. trail head. We're going to loop through Coal Creek preserve with a
nice single track descent followed by a long, moderately steep climb. Be
careful as you cross the street, as traffic usually moves at 50 mph and up
- Begin by heading north (downhill) on Skyline Blvd. for half a mile.
Watch for a blue emergency telephone on the right. Crazy Pete's Road into
Coal Creek preserve is on your right immediately after the telephone.
- Take Crazy Pete's Road downhill for about 0.3 miles of pavement and 0.2
miles of gravel. Watch out for residential traffic coming up this road.
- Cross the gate and take the Valley View trail on the left. Despite the
name, views of the valley are rare from this trail. The trail descends moderately
for 0.8 miles. There are a few rocky sections, especially near a small bridge,
so check your brakes and watch your speed. After the bridge is a flat section,
followed by a short climb out to Alpine Road.
- Alpine Road is an old stage coach route from Palo Alto to the coast.
The lower section of Alpine Road (around Rossotti's Alpine Inn) is paved,
but the upper 2 miles are still dirt. We're only going to climb 0.8 mile
of it today. Ride past the first trail junction on your right. Take the second
trail on the right (Meadow trail).
- The Meadow trail climbs moderately for 0.8 mile of single track to a
paved driveway. Follow the driveway 0.4 mile back up to Skyline Blvd. Turn
left on Skyline (crossing carefully) and enter Russian Ridge again.
- If you're in a hurry, you can turn left on the Ridge Trail and take
it back to the parking lot. For a more interesting ride, however, I retracing
your route on the Hawk and Ancient Oaks trails. The Hawk trail is a fun
descent and the Ancient Oaks trail is a very scenic climb. There are two
different connector trails from the Ancient Oaks trail back to the Ridge
trial; you can take either one. Return to the parking lot via the Ridge Trail.