This hike starts near the park entrance and climbs to the top of Skyline Ridge, passing through a small but interesting second-growth redwood grove near the upper end of the Sanborn Trail. The entire route is wooded, alternating between second-growth redwoods and tanoak-and-laurel forest. There aren’t any views, and except for the redwoods the hike is a little monotonous, but the continuous shade makes this a good route for warm summer days.
The loop is surprisingly popular; expect to pass a group of hikers about every five minutes on the trail.
The Sanborn Trail and John Nicholas Trail can be combined for a 10-mile loop, but you’d have to walk the last mile on Sanborn Road.
Here’s the trailhead location in Google Maps.
After driving past the entrance kiosk, take the first right and park in the lot. The hike begins at the gate at the far end of the lot. Turn right onto the paved road and look for a road to your left. Take this road, crossing a bridge and passing the outdoor playhouse. The trail network in this area is a confusing maze of dirt roads in a somewhat dusty-looking second-growth redwood grove. The grove has a relatively low density of redwoods, and maybe because this area is so heavily developed it isn’t especially attractive. Follow the San Andreas Trail, which eventually turns into a singletrack trail that switchbacks somewhat steeply up the hillside. The scenery improves quite a bit as the trail leaves the development behind and climbs through bay leaf-scented tanoak and laurel woods. Annoyingly, almost every switchback has a sign saying “Not a trail — do not enter” to keep people from shortcutting the switchbacks on the remnants of an old dirt road that has now almost completely disappeared.
It’s sometimes possible to hear the sound of gunfire from the Los Gatos Rod and Gun Club. The sound isn’t especially loud but can be kind of annoying.
Continue past the intersection with the Sanborn Trail. Just after that intersection, the trail climbs into a narrow ravine that opens into a partially-logged, redwood-filled glen. This small grove, known as the Todd Creek Redwoods, is the best part of the hike. The grove is only about a quarter-mile long and the trees only grow in a very narrow strip along the bottom of the ravine. There are some huge stumps next to the trail, but surprisingly, a few large old-growth trees still remain. It’s unusual to see such large redwoods east of Skyline Ridge, and at 2700 feet, this is also an unusually high elevation for redwoods.
In winter the trickling sound of a lively creek fills the glen.
The trail climbs out of the glen. At the next sharp right turn, an unofficial trail leads a few yards a large sandstone formation. At the intersection with the Skyline Trail, go straight ahead and you’ll soon come to an unmarked intersection. The main trail continues off to the right, while ahead a set of stairs climbs the last few feet to Skyline Boulevard. Take the stairs. Across Skyline Boulevard there’s a very limited view of the hills to the west.
To return, take the Sanborn Trail back through the Todd Creek Redwoods. At the first intersection after the redwoods, turn right to stay on the Sanborn Trail. The trail traverses a hillside and is, at first, kind of narrow and rough, but eventually it becomes as wide and smooth as the other trails. The trail descends to a T intersection with a dirt road. The road is actually just a small loop, so you can go either way. The woods open up and there are some views of the surrounding hillside. Turn left onto the Peterson Trail. From this point, just continue straight on the dirt road until you reach the parking lot.
© 2009, 2010, 2012, 2017 David Baselt