County: San Mateo/Santa Clara County
Day 1: Saratoga Gap to Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve: 7.8 miles
Day 2: Sierra Azul (Hicks Road) to Lexington Reservoir: 11.8 miles
Day 3: Hicks Road to Mockingbird Trail Head: 4.5 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Explore the Ridge Trail in Los Gatos
Looking for a multi-day hike adventure? These trails offer a chance to see the wide variety of natural beauty the Peninsula and the South Bay has to offer. Book lodging in nearby Los Gatos and make it a fun mini-vacation. Below are guides for each day, using 2 cars. If you’re not up for a multi-day trek, try any of these as a standalone hike.
Day 1: Saratoga Gap to Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve 7.8 miles
Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve
Travel through moist evergreen forests, oak-madrone woodlands, and high grasslands along the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Stunning coast and bay views greet you on this Ridge Trail route through three Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District preserves and one county park. The trail roughly follows old Summit Road, a wagon route used by early settlers before Skyline Boulevard was built. Trail width and surface vary from a narrow path to a wide patrol road, soft in forests and along creekbeds, and firm and bare through grasslands. You’ll gain and lose 400 feet in elevation, plus experience several ups and downs en route of 100 to 300 feet. Be prepared for wind and fog on exposed ridgetops, and for heat on protected west and south-facing slopes. The Hickory Oak gate on Skyline Boulevard makes it easy to break this route into two trips–a shady, moderately level, 2-mile trip from Saratoga Gap to Long Ridge Open Space Preserve, and a 5.8-mile trip from there to the Horseshoe Lake parking area in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve.
Car Instructions: Drive to Skyline Ridge Parking/Horseshoe Lake in Skyline Ridge Open Space on Hwy 35. Leave a car in the parking lot near Horseshoe Lake. Next, drive south on Hwy 35 (Skyline Blvd) to Saratoga Gap (jct w/Hwy 9) and park other car and begin hike heading northward. From Horseshoe Lake return to Saratoga Gap and pick up car.
Day 2: Sierra Azul to Lexington Reservoir: 11.8 miles
Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve
Views from high points on this hike, which include an elevation gain of 1800 feet and a loss of 2200 feet, give an aerial view of Santa Clara County from Mt. Umunhum to the peaks of the Diablo Range. Overlooking the town of Los Gatos and the entire South Bay, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve is the District’s largest preserve, encompassing over 18,000 acres of mostly rugged and steep terrain. One of the tallest peaks in the Santa Cruz mountain range. Mount Umunhum used to be home to the Almaden Air Force Station, which was deactivated in 1980 and only recently opened to the public in 2017.
This itinerary does not include a visit to the top of Mount Umunhum, but the map provides ideas for two or three ways to explore Sierra Azul including Mount Umunhum. If you decide to hit Mount Um and are going to park on the mountain, park before 9 AM to ensure a parking spot.
Car Instructions: Drive to Lexington Reservoir and leave a car in the parking lot. Return to Los Gatos, then to Hicks Rd @ Mt Umunhum Rd (21631 Hicks Rd). Park car and begin hike heading northward. From Lexington Reservoir return to Hicks Rd and pick up car.
Day 3: Almaden Quicksilver County Park (Hicks Road to Mockingbird Trail Head): 4.5 miles
Almaden Quicksilver County Park
Hike this steady climb to the slopes of Mt. Umunhum, taking you through lands once trod by miners searching for gold. This area is spectacular in natural diversity and a landmark of California history. The park is the site of over 135 years of mining activities and former home to more than 1,800 miners and their families. During early spring, this hike offers one of the most spectacular wildflower displays in the region. Remnants of the mining era also offer an exciting look into the mining operations of the latter part of the 19th century.
Car Instructions: Drive to Mockingbird Hill Lane and leave a car in the parking lot. Then drive to Hicks Rd trailhead (same place as yesterday), park car and begin hike heading southward. From Mockingbird Hill Lane return to Hicks Rd and pick up car.
Some of our favorite restaurants:
Hot chocolate and coffee:
Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Company
Purple Onion Cafe
Less fancy dinner:
Enoteca La Storia