This climb to Skyline Ridge passes through a small but interesting second-growth redwood grove. 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.
All of the trails in this loop are surprisingly popular; expect to pass a group of hikers about every 2–3 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.
There’s space for 4 cars to park on Sanborn Road near the well-marked Welch–Hurst trail crossing; if a spot is open, you can save the park entrance fee by parking here and using the rather steep trail to hike into the park. Otherwise, abundant paid parking is available further up the road.
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 heavily-worn 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.
Take the Lower Madrone Trail, which 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. Turn left when the trail ends at a dirt road.
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.
Just after the intersection with the Sanborn Trail, 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 to 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. There’s no view from the ridge, because of the trees.
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, a dirt road that descends steeply. From this point, just continue straight on the dirt road until you reach the parking lot.
Overall, the return on the Sanborn and Peterson Trails isn’t as nice as the climb on the Lower and Upper Madrone Trails.
© 2009, 2010, 2012, 2017, 2022 David Baselt