Pulgas Ridge Open Space is a mid-sized park in the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space Authority. Abundant landscape diversity and magnificent views make this an easy hiking destination for those of us in San Carlos and Silicon Valley.
I've been in the Bay Area for roughly a year and a half now and never tire from hiking close to home. You're just never far from a preserve or open space with abundant trails. Today I'm highlighting Pulgas Ridge Open Space
near San Carlos and Redwood City.
Overview of San Carlos' Pulgas Ridge Preserve
Pulgas Ridge is part of the large public open spaces of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
which manages 24 state park-like units up and down the San Francisco Peninsula. I find the trail of the Mid-Pen Open Spaces exceptionally well maintained and clear. Nearly every trail junction has markers and distances making for easy path-finding. Here's a google maps overview and my favorite trail loop:
One unique feature of this park is a leash-less dog area marked above. Certainly some intrepid puppy dogs love this spot to roam free.
Five Mile Pulgas Ridge Loop
My favorite hike is shown above. From both San Carlos and Redwood City, its just a 10 minute drive to the hike's trailhead. At five miles and with about 1,000ft of elevation gain, its a perfect workout replacement for a sunny day. There are many reasons I like this hike. First of all, its far less traveled than the nearby Edgewood Park (Edgewood Park is undoubtedly one of the finest in the entire Bay Area but unfortunately everybody knows about it). Secondly, there's a great mix of trails with views and trails through dense oak forests.
Starting from the parking lot, head up the switch-backed Blue Oak Trail. You'll meet a lot of folks on this trail. At an intersection with a paved road, veer left to stay on the Dick Bishop Trail. Its a straightforward, ascending trail with emerging views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Some of the trees conceal the nearby Silicon Valley metropolis making the trail feel pleasantly isolated. Brushy savanna lines the trail as it ascends towards the intersection with the paved Hassler Trail.
From here, turn left to continue briefly on the Hassler Trail which is really more of a deteriorated access road. The "summit" of Pulgas Ridge is at roughly 760' of altitude and has phenomenal views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Silicon Valley.
Look for signs marking the Dusky Footed Woodrat Trail towards the summit and continue onward. This is my favorite trail in the park. Though I've never seen its namesake on the trail, it penetrates deep into the park's backcountry and I rarely see others this far along. For 2.2 miles, this trail winds up and down the chaparral covered slopes of Pulgas Ridge. On a topo map it looks flat-ish but don't be deceived- its a roller-coaster of ups and downs for the first mile before a sharp dogleg takes you below the trees. Plan for extra time on this trail given the endless opportunities for photos.
Once the trail intersects with the Polly Geraci Trail, there are a few options depending on your speed and willingness to endure more climbing for views. If you turn left, you'll continue to descend until reaching the Cordilleras Trail which is paved and takes you back to the parking area in 0.5 miles. Turning right takes you up the well-preserved Cordilleras Creek and the extremely lush forest. The trail feels like a tunnel of green.
If you take the Polly Geraci Trail from its intersection with the Dusky Footed Woodrat Trail, its about 0.9 miles until the intersection with the Hassler and Dick Bishop Trails. It gains 325 ft of elevation and is well worth the effort. If you have a dog, hand a left and take the Hassler Ridge Trail down 0.2 miles to the off leash dog area for some playtime. From here, its just 0.3 miles down the Hassler Trail before intersecting with the Blue Oak Trail, taking you back to the parking lot. Depending on whether you take the Dick Bishop Trail back or the Hassler Trail back, the total distance is between 5.2-5.5 miles.
That's a lot of ground to cover in just 366 acres! For a small park, there's some big adventures to be had. Thank goodness Pulgas Ridge is so close to Silicon Valley!