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Los Trancos

Los Trancos Open Space Preserve

Los Trancos Open Space Preserve Links:

January 25th, 2004

3.0 miles
580 vertical feet
Total Time: 2:00

Rating: 6/10

Directions: From San Francisco, take 280 South to Page Mill. Turn right off the exit and drive 7 miles on Page Mill to the park entrance on your right. Note that before you get there, you will pass a small dirt area with a small sign for Los Trancos. Don't park there for this hike, however. Instead, make sure you park in the large main lot, which has a wooden fence around it and can fit about 25 cars. For those of you who get car sick, an alternative, slightly less stomach-churning route is to take 280 South and exit at Woodside Road. Turn right and follow Woodside Road past Robert's Grocery and all the way up to Skyline Boulevard. Turn left on Skyline and drive several miles until you reach Page Mill. Turn left on Page Mill and drive about 1.5 miles to the parking lot on your left.   View Driving Map

It was a beautiful sunny winter's day as we entered the half-full parking lot. It was also quite chilly, much colder than down at bay level. As the park is over 2000 feet above sea level, be prepared for a slightly colder climate.

We started off on the main trail, which passes through low grassland, brown at this time of year. Maybe in March or April it'll be green. If you look through the haze in front of you, you'll be able to see San Francisco Bay far below. Since the terrain slopes so gently here, however, it's not a very impressive view. It's also about the only view you'll see on this hike, as the rest of the hike is almost completely forested.

Shortly, we turned right and followed the Franciscan Loop Trail slightly downhill to another intersection. We turned left, into the forest and onto the San Andreas Fault Trail. One of the main features of the park is this 0.7 mile loop which contains 7 of the 9 interpretive stations. Be sure to pick up a park map at the entrance, which explains what each of the numbered sign posts refer to. There is no text displayed at the stations -- only numbers which you refer to the map for. I thought it might be interesting to read about the geologic affects of earthquakes and see it first hand, but for me it wasn't all that engaging. The effects are sometimes subtle, so I think it's not a must-see. But you may find it interesting.

Demonstration of fence separated by fault

So while I found I'm not a geology nut, I did enjoy the scenery of the San Andreas Fault Trail. In particular, there are lots of ferns and moss-covered trees to enjoy. The trail goes slightly downhill, and then back up again. Back at the start of the loop, we stopped at the nice bench there to feed Nathan. Then we continued along the Franciscan Loop Trail.


The park is closed to dogs and bicycles, but you will undoubtedly encounter other hikers and trail runners, as we did. The trail briefly emerges into the sunshine before going back into the forest, which contains madrones and oaks, but no redwoods that I could see. We continued along the Franciscan Loop Trail until we reached the Lost Creek Loop Trail. You can take this loop in either direction, of course, and we chose to start with the right fork.

While much of the park is the same, I would have to say my favorite part is the Lost Creek Loop Trail -- in particular, the part that parallels the creek which feeds into Los Trancos Creek. The sound of flowing water is soothing and you feel like you are off in the wilderness, despite the occasional sound of planes far above. This is unlike the other two hikes I've done so far this year, where civilization is always in your face.

The trail goes down gradually in the counter-clockwise direction we took, and then rises steeply as it diverts from the creek. For those of you who want a gentler climb, I would recommend the clockwise direction. Keep in mind that will require a steeper descent, and you may rush past the best part of the creek, though.

Mossy trees

Back at the start of the loop, we turned right to re-join the Franciscan Loop Trail. Now the trail starts climbing for real, steeply in places. The whole hike has only 580 feet of climbing, but about 300 feet of it is probably right in this half-mile section of trail. We climbed through the forest and finally emerged out into the grasslands signaling that we were near the parking area. In a couple minutes, we were back at the car, the only one left in the lot this close to sunset.

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