After a fun-filled holiday vacation with family on the east coast – and plenty of quality time exploring the parks and trails there – we headed back to our home state of California to hit the ground running for 2017!
Here in Northern California, we are fortunate to have access to a diverse array of parks – from the world-famous Yosemite, to smaller county parks – for year-round training, racing, and general trail-running fun. Some of our favorite parks are the open space preserves (OSPs) scattered throughout the region. As described on their website, the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District ‘is a regional greenbelt system in the San Francisco Bay Area comprised of over 60,000 acres of land in 26 open space preserves.’
These preserves offer hundreds of miles of trails for your favorite outdoors activities – from hiking to trail running, horseback riding to mountain biking. Not all preserves allow dogs, though – so be sure to check on the website regarding which preserves are pet-friendly.
Of the OSPs we’ve visited so far, Russian Ridge and Windy Hill are two of our favorites.
- Russian Ridge is a 3,137 acre preserve in San Mateo County, known for its joyful display of wildflowers in spring. Interested in visiting? We recommend parking at the trailhead at the northwest corner of the Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) and Page Mill / Alpine Road intersection (across Skyline Boulevard on the right). From here, you can head out along the Ridge trail, which will take you up to Borel Hill, the highest point in San Mateo County, with commanding 360 degree views of the Bay and Pacific. Check out a map of a recent Russian Ridge trail run here! Fee? No. Dogs? No. MTB? Yes – on designated trails.
- Windy Hill is a 1,335 acre preserve located in Portola Valley, just south of the town of Woodside. It offers a diverse mix of redwood, pine, and fir forests, and at its summit, spectacular views of both the Bay and Pacific. Interested in visiting? Park at the trailhead just off Portola Road (overflow parking is available at the Portola Valley Town Center, about 3/4 of a mile down the road). From the trailhead, you can head out on the Spring Ridge or Betsy Crowder Trail. Continue climbing all the way up to the Windy Hill Summit, where you’ll be able to take in views of the Bay to the east, and the Pacific to the west. Feeling up for a bit longer run or hike? Then consider the Windy Hill/Russian Ridge crossover – a 19 mile loop that will take you through both parks! Check out the route here.
Apart from the the wealth of trails offered through the open space regional system, the preserves also provide an important habitat for wildlife – including mountain lion, coyotes, deer, and several bird species. The work of the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District ensures that these preserves will continue to be a haven for both wildlife and outdoors adventure lovers for years to come.
We definitely recommend you taking a weekend to explore some of these great preserves. Be sure to visit their website today to learn more. With 26 options to choose from, you’re sure to find a preserve that’s right for you!