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Wunderlich Loop

Wunderlich County Park

July 4th, 2015

7.1 miles
1110 vertical feet
Total Time: 3:51

Starting elevation
542 feet
Max elevation
1557 feet

Rating: 7/10

Directions: From Interstate 280, take the Woodside Road exit west. Follow Woodside Road through town, and then continue on the road as it bears left. Just before starting the climb up to Skyline, you'll see the park entrance on the right. Parking is free.   View Driving Map

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GPX File

It was another hot summer afternoon as we pulled into the Wunderlich County Park parking lot. The lot was nearly full, but a handful of spaces remained. There's a stable here, some outhouses, picnic areas, and an equestrian area at the far southern end of the lot. We started our hike on the Alambique Trail, which parallels the equestrian area for a bit at the start.

The trail starts off flat, but quickly starts a mostly gradual climb through the forest. The sound of cars on Highway 84 is never far away on this beginning section. We passed lots of hikers coming in the opposite direction, some pushing baby strollers, many without water even on this hot day.

Redwoods next to Alambique Trail

After 0.7 miles, we reached an intersection. To the right is Meadow Trail; we stayed to the left on the Alambique Trail. After about a mile more we came to a nice little grove of trees and stopped for a break. A large group of hikers passed us here and were just exiting the Alambique Flat area when we got there shortly.

Grove at our lunch stop

Alambique Flat, about 2.1 miles from the trailhead, has a wonderful grove of tall redwoods with a bench in the middle. We had the place to ourselves for a few minutes and were able to sit and look up and enjoy the sense of peacefulness. Alambique Creek flows just below the grove, though it was just a trickle at this time. You're far enough from the highway here that traffic noise isn't a bother. It's a beautiful spot I'd be happy to return to sometime.

Looking up from Alambique Flat

Looking up from Alambique Flat

Looking up from Alambique Flat

Looking up from Alambique Flat

Redwoods at Alambique Creek

Redwoods at Alambique Flat

After enjoying the grove, we returned to the Alambique Trail. The trail levels out and we shortly turned left at the next intersection (the right fork heads down the Oak Trail back toward the parking area). Another 0.2 miles later we came to another intersection and turned left toward The Crossroads and Skyline Boulevard (the right fork is the Bear Gulch Trail leading to The Meadows). This was the "stick" section of our upside-down lollipop loop. We could have skipped this and saved about 1.2 miles, but I am glad we did it. The trail crosses back over Alambique Creek and includes some really nice sections of redwood forest.

On the way to the Crossroads

Looking back along the trail

The trail continues a gentle climb, and after 0.6 miles from the Bear Gulch intersection, we came to the Crossroads. As you might expect, this is a confluence of 4 separate trails - one leading to the edge of the park, two of them leading up to Skyline Boulevard (at El Corte de Madera Creek OSP), and the one we just took. There are two inviting benches here and what looks to be a very old road sign pointing the way to Skyline and La Honda.

After a short break here, we returned along the trail we had just come. Back at the intersection, we now turned left onto the Bear Gulch Trail. The trail climbs very briefly here before reaching the edge of The Meadows. This is a large grassy expanse on the east side of the trail, with views leading down toward Santa Clara Valley and across to Mount Hamilton. Of course at this time of year the grasses were all brown, but it would be a nice green in winter and spring.

The Meadows

The Meadows

Looking southeast across The Meadows

Bench at The Meadows

Eschewing the Meadow Trail, which heads down through the meadow, we continued along the Bear Gulch Trail, which now descends. About 5 miles from the trailhead we reached Redwood Flat, another grove though not nearly as nice as the one at Alambique Flat. From here you can return to the parking area via the Redwood Trail or the slightly shorter Bear Gulch Trail. We chose the Redwood Trail to the right.


Redwood Flat

By this time it was past 6pm and while the Redwood Trail was nice, it was also getting quite dark inside the canopy. After a half mile on the Redwood Trail we reached Salamander Flat, which is a fenced-off reservoir covered with light green algae (more aptly called pond scum here). Not exactly an inviting spot, though there is a bench here if you want to take a break.

We now turned left onto the even darker Madrone Trail. After another easy downhill of a little more than a half mile, we turned right to rejoin the Bear Gulch Trail (now out of the darkest portions of forest). The trail switchbacks down behind the stable and to the parking lot, which was now nearly empty.

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