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Coal Creek Open Space Preserve

Coal Creek Open Space Preserve

October 10th, 2004

5.0 miles
990 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:12

Rating: 5/10

Directions: From Interstate 280, take the Woodside Road (Highway 84) exit west. Follow the road up to Skyline Boulevard. Turn left onto Skyline. A mile before you reach Page Mill Road/Alpine Road, you'll see a vista point parking lot on the left. Park there. The trail starts a tenth of a mile back up Skyline the way you came, on Cloud's Rest road (but you can't park there). Parking is free.   View Driving Map

I'd ridden my bicycle along Skyline Road many times to and past the vista point. I never knew you could start a hike from there. After soaking in the vast views of the San Francisco Bay Area from the vista point parking lot, you too will wonder where the trail starts.

After carefully making our way north along the road (traffic whizzing by at 50+ miles an hour), we turned right onto Cloud's Rest road, which is a small private road to some residences. There is a sign here that tells you you're about to enter the Coal Creek Open Space Preserve. After a short stretch of less than half a mile on the pavement, you'll enter the preserve proper, and the path turns to singletrack.

If solitude is what you're after, you'll probably find it here. While dogs and mountain bikers are permitted, we ran into precious few -- 2 dogs, a few scattered mountain bikers, and less than 10 other people on foot (including one trail runner). All this on a sparklingly clear October day.

At the first intersection, we continued straight onto the Meadow Trail, following it in and out of the shade. The park consists mostly of non-descript Santa Cruz mountain forest. Some manzanita, some oak. No redwoods that I could see, which wasn't surprising since the park is on the drier eastern side of the mountain range.

Trees beside Alpine Road

You will see power lines and houses on this hike, but because there are so few people, you'll probably still feel like you're away from civilization. We followed the trail downhill until we exited the preserve and made a left onto Alpine Road. The road is gravel and is closed to motorized vehicles, but you'll probably see a few mountain bikers. Alpine Road is a pleasant walk on a fall day. It was still more summerish at this time of year, but there were signs of fall, with a few scattered patches of yellow and lots of leaves on the ground.

The road follows the edge of the preserve. After passing one entrance to the preserve, we turned left into the second entrance. The trail now climbs up. After crossing a small foot bridge, we took the left fork onto the Valley View Trail. The trail climbs some more, and becomes sandier near the top. After finding a spot with some nice views of the bay, we settled down for a picnic lunch. There really aren't any good spots to settle down and eat -- we just found a wide spot on the trail and parked ourselves.

View of the bay. That's Mt. Diablo on the right.

After lunch, continued on up the trail and turned left to complete the Valley View Trail loop. You'd expect the trail to be mostly downhill here, but in fact there are a few uphills as well. After coming back to the intersection, we returned to Alpine Road, turned right, and entered the preserve at the entrance we'd passed earlier. This short half-mile section of trail includes some very steep sections, and also not much in the way of shade. It also includes some great views of the bay near the top. Unfortunately, those views are marred by power transmission lines.

Soon enough, we found ourselves making a right and heading back up Cloud's Rest road, and then left onto Skyline back to the parking lot. If all you want are views, your best views will be from the parking lot. The preserve itself doesn't offer much except for a nice quiet hike in the forest.

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