Long Ridge Open Space Preserve
featuring the Peters Creek and Long Ridge Loop
This short hike starts on a shady ranch road alongside a creek, passes by a little pond, climbs to scenic meadows with sweeping views over the Santa Cruz Mountains, and then descends through more woodland. The first half in particular is very scenic and packs a lot of variety into a short distance.
In summer this loop is very popular both with hikers and mountain bikers, and on a nice day you might see a group of people every few minutes. Most people seem to start at the Grizzly Flat parking lot. From the lot there's a nice descent into the little Peters Creek valley where the main loop begins, but I like to start at a pullout that offers quicker access to the loop.
The biggest drawback of this hike is the noise. There's quite a bit of traffic noise from motorcyclists racing along Skyline Boulevard, which runs on a hillside just across the little valley. Worse, through most of the hike, the constant sound of gunfire drifts over from the Los Altos Rod and Gun Club. The hike is a lot more enjoyable late in the day or on a rainy day, when both sources of noise are absent. The gun club is open Thursdays through Sundays from 9 to 5, although the last few times that I visited on a Sunday the gunfire stopped much earlier than that.
Start at the pullout by gate LR10, a short distance south of the larger Grizzly Flat pullout. A dirt road descends gently through a meadow toward a wooded hill. Entering the forest, the road ends at a T intersection with the Peters Creek Trail, which is another dirt road. Turn left.
The road runs alongside a little creek through lush, attractive woodland, with ferns and moss-encrested trees. The trail passes a gate marked "Jikoji Center", then it comes to a small pond. Take the singletrack trail to your right, which runs past the pond and crosses the creek on a footbridge. The trail switchbacks up a wooded hillside.
As you reach the ridgetop road, the trail breaks out of the woods into a hilltop meadow with sweeping views over the green, conifer-covered Santa Cruz Mountains. The ocean is clearly visible most days and Butano Ridge is prominent in the distance.
Long Ridge Road (another dirt road) climbs through the meadow, winding its way up to a large stone bench with the best view of the hike. Beyond this point the dirt road is private. To your right, a singletrack trail descends back into the woods.
During the descent there are some unusually large moss-encrusted trees and you might see wild turkeys poking around in the woods. In the summer this is the least interesting part of the hike, but in the winter, the woods are lush and attractive. The descent ends at the ranch road, which runs through especially attractive woods before reaching the access road.
© 2012 David Baselt