When three-day weekends pop up, our family usually stays at home; it makes for a more relaxing weekend. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t go anywhere on a three-day weekend. Au contraire! We make our journeys a little closer to home and one of our favorite place to get away is Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve.
A preserve in the Midpeninsula Open Space District, Russian Ridge is located off Page Mill Rd. where it intersects Skyline Blvd. just outside Redwood City. Truly hardy bicycle riders take to the windy, curvy roads to get from several South Bay points to Skyline Blvd., but this time, we chose to drive and use our mountain bikes for the singletrack trails and fire roads in the park.
Five Reasons to explore Russian Ridge
At about 3,500 acres Russian Ridge offers a little of this, a little of that: A little singletrack, a little fireroad, some hiking, some mountain biking and some equestrian trails. Oh, and there’s an extinct volcano, too! Consider these:
- It’s a three day weekend! Getting away is almost mandatory!
- It’s near to where you live. Located in the Midpeninsula area south of San Francisco and north of San Jose, you don’t have to beat yourself up driving five hours in a car to get there!
- There are miles of trails and a little bit of singletrack. You can practice your bike handling skills on a little bit of singletrack without heading off to Tahoe or Santa Cruz.
- The season is on the cusp of fall, and the fog rolls in at night then fades away during the day; making the mornings a great time to get out and ride.
- If you can find a place to lock your bike, you can also take a hike up to that extinct volcano, Mindego Hill.
Russian Ridge is one of my favorite open space preserves on the San Francisco Peninsula. A walk or roll on any of the trails takes me back to what the land might have looked like a generation ago: Undulating hills with few buildings, fog rolling in from the San Mateo Coast, curling around the valleys and blanketing the hillsides with its cool camp, a welcome respite from the hot late summer days.
In the fall, with the grasses golden and dry, the morning fog off the coast rolls along the hills and valleys of this preserve. Its dampness enhances the aroma of the grasses, reminding me of the scent of hay after it has been cut.
The trails in Russian Ridge follow the hilltops and the Bay Area Ridge Trail goes through the park as well. Most of the trails can be a little challenging for youngsters or new hikers, but they have the advantage of being short and sweet.
From the top of Bay Area Ridge Trail on a clear, wind-swept day, to the east you gaze across the San Francisco Bay at majestic Mount Diablo. Turn your back and you see the Pacific Ocean sparkling in the distance to the west. Take the time to stop and take a look!
Mountain Biking Russian Ridge
The singletrack trails aren't super technical for experienced mountain bikers. However, for people newly initiated into mountain biking, they offer narrow singletrack combined with steep climbs and rolling descents, just enough to get the gears shifting.
Mountain Bike Loop
For our little loop we took off from the gate near Clouds Rest and followed the Bay Area Ridge Trail north to the trailhead with Hawk Ridge Trail. Hawk Ridge plunges downhill into an oak forest where it meets up with the Ancient Oaks Trail. We followed Ancient Oaks to the Bo Gimbal Trail which connected us back on the Ridge Trail. We rolled uphill back to the Clouds Rest gate where we entered the preserve.
Bike 'n Hike
To add on a little more mileage, this bike-and-hike alternative route continues on the Ancient Oaks Trail rather than turning on Bo Gimbal. Ancient Oaks meets Mindego Hill Trail near the Audrey C. Rust commemorative site. From there you can ride about a half mile on Mindego Hill to Charquin Trail. Once past that trailhead, you have to walk as Mindego Hill becomes a hiking and equestrian-only trail. Your alternatives are to follow Charquin back up the hill to the Ridge Trail or to go back along Mindego Hill to Audrey’s commemorative site and follow the Ancient Oaks Trail back to the Ridge Trail, a distance of about two miles.
While Russian Ridge in the fall has its own native beauty with dry golden hills and moss-covered oaks, the springtime after the rains is when the preserve truly shows its colors when the hillsides are covered with wildflowers. Late spring and early summer brings out the native butterflies.
This Labor Day (or anytime, really) take the time to explore Russian Ridge. You won't be sorry!
The Midpeninsula Open Space District encompasses 60,000 acres of open space on the San Francisco Peninsula from outside Half Moon Bay to the north and Sierra Azul outside of Los Gatos to the south. Many of the Midpen preserves are located along Skyline Blvd., that mostly tree-lined road that snakes along the Peninsula’s backbone from San Francisco to the north and Santa Cruz to the south.