This short hike starts on a shady ranch road alongside a creek, passes by a little pond, climbs to scenic ridgetop 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.
The views are similar to Castle Rock’s popular Saratoga Gap Trail, but Long Ridge is a lot more pleasant: there are fewer visitors, the trail is easier to hike, and the forest is more attractive.
Most hiking sites suggest starting this loop at the Grizzly Flat parking lot, but it’s a lot easier to start a a pullout a half-mile south. That reduces the amount of climbing and offers quicker access to the best part of the loop.
The first half of the hike gets quite a bit of traffic noise from cars and motorcyclists racing along Skyline Boulevard, which runs on a hillside just across from the trail. Sometimes the constant sound of gunfire drifts over from the Los Altos Rod and Gun Club. Usually it’s not that bad, but it depends on how busy the club is, in particular whether anyone is using the shotgun ranges.
Start at the pullout by gate LR10, a half-mile 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 next to 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 scenic 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 a spectacular view over the richly green Slate Creek watershed. 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, 2017, 2022 David Baselt