Hike Date: June 30, 2011
Distance: ~ 5 miles
Trail(s): Bay Area Ridge Trail, Hawk Trail, Ancient Oaks Trail
Where’s it at? East of La Honda off Hwy 35 just south of Hwy 84
Russian Ridge is right off Highway 35 east of La Honda and southwest of Palo Alto. There are (at least) 3 places where you can park, as I saw signage for them, but the most plentiful is the lot just off Alpine Road. Parking is free and there are maps for the South Skyline Region from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. There is a restroom at the parking lot but no water nor benches anywhere along the trails that I saw.
This was about a 4.7 mile hike, mostly in open and sunny grassy hills with a couple short stints of oak forest. I started out on the Bay Area Ridge Trail, turned south on Hawk Trail, and got back to the Ridge Trail via the Ancient Oaks Trail, which is where the only shade is at.
The trail starts out ascending gradually up to Borel Hill at an elevation of 2,572 feet. Pretty much the entire trail, minus the forested portions, offers excellent views on a clear day. You get nice mountain panoramas to the north, south and west, and a great view overlooking the south San Francisco Bay to the east. I could easily see Mt. Diablo in the distance.
While I went on a pretty hot summer day at the end of June, the trail was actually fairly muddy in a lot of areas. I’d imagine it’s really bad in the winter. I read that in the Spring this is one of the top 5 bay area picks for wildflowers, and even in late June I saw tons of them.
Signage at the trailhead warns of coyotes, rattlesnakes, ticks, poison oak, and mountain lions. I didn’t see any of this wildlife except poison oak, and I did end up finding one tick on me, though it hadn’t burrowed in yet. Quite sure I picked him up on the Ancient Oaks Trail. What it didn’t mention are the flies! There were a TON of flies almost throughout the whole hike and honestly, it was annoying. I’m sure it’s worst on mid summer days and can’t say for sure they’re always there, but I pretty much had at least 10 flies buzzing around me at any given moment. One even got in the way of one of my photos below! There were also a ton of spider webs all over the place across the trail and I found a few of them on me after walking through the webs. It sure seemed like nobody had hiked it in a while, and in fact, I didn’t see ANYONE else on the trail the entire time, though there were a couple other cars in the parking lot.
I saw what is probably the largest oak tree that I’ve ever seen on this hike, down in the Ancient Oaks Trail. It was gigantic and gorgeous. There is also a small creek in that forested section of the hike which apparently comes from a natural spring, though I didn’t take the time to find the spring’s source.
Russian Hill was a great short distance hike with plenty of elevation changes but nothing too rough. Flies aside, I highly recommend a visit.
Photos from Hiking Russian Ridge (click to enlarge)
Useful Links about Russian Ridge and the Bay Area Ridge Trail
- Bay Area Rige Trail
- ridgetrail.org Map of Russian Ridge section
- openspace.org Mid Peninsula Regional Open Space District
Directions to Russian Ridge Trailhead
View Hiking Bay Area Ridge Trail at Russian Ridge in a larger map