50% SINGLETRACK26% FIRE ROAD24% ROAD
This is not a big park, but it's got a lot to offer for its size. Some of the singletrack in this park offers beautiful views both to the east and to the west, owing to the position of the park on the spine of the Santa Cruz Mountains. In addition, there are three other neighboring open space preserves around Russian Ridge with mountain biking opportunities in each (Monte Bello, Coal Creek, and Skyline Ridge). So, it's entirely possible to string together your own "mini epic" ride threading through two or more of these.
This particular ride traverses almost all of the singletrack trails at Russian Ridge. It starts out (unfortunately) immediately with a significant climb right out of the parking lot. This trail widens into a full-blown fire road as the grade slackens. Taking the first left turn you encounter will take you to Ancient Oaks Trail, which will lead you through a charming grove of grand old oaks. To get there, watch for the singletrack Ancient Oaks Trail that departs to the right from the fire road you'll be descending on; it's easy to miss.
After first some singletrack and then some fire-road rambling along the side of the ridge with beautiful views of neighboring ridges to the west all the way to the ocean, you reach the spot where you turn onto the half-mile climb of Hawk Trail (once again, it's a sudden turn off the fire road you're on, so don't miss it). This climb averages a grade of 9.5% and is usually enough to push me close to my limit.
Once Hawk Trail intersects with the fire road at the ridgetop, you continue straight onto the singletrack on the other side of the fire road, which is Ridge Trail. This follows a short scenic section where pretty views to the bay and Santa Clara Valley open up (through high grass, depending on the season). After that, it turns into a fun singletrack descent with some gentle switchbacks along the way. This is probably my favorite trail segment at Russian Ridge. It's also got some rocky patches in a few spots on the singletrack, which adds some fun. That's the most technical trail you'll find on Russian Ridge (which is not very technical).
After this, the suggested route follows Skyline Boulevard for 1.5 miles to get back to the "mid point" of the park (right where the vista point on Skyline Boulevard is; and don't miss the view from there, by the way). Alternatively, you can just return the way you came over Ridge Trail and reach the same spot, if you don't want to ride on pavement. Following this, the ride continues on another pretty hillside singletrack. When you near the fire road on the ridge again, you might want to do a little side trip to the nearest hilltop as reflected on the route plot. This is Borel Hill, which happens to be the highest spot in San Mateo County. Views open up in all directions from this peak. After this, the suggested route takes another little piece of cute singletrack to the same oak grove that you passed near the beginning, after which you follow trails you've already been on back to the parking lot.
One of the common ways of varying or extending a ride on Russian Ridge is to cross Skyline Boulevard and enter Coal Creek Open Space on the other side. You can do this either via Crazy Pete's Road, which is less than a mile north of the vista point on Skyline mentioned above (make sure you don't enter someone's private driveway by mistake, there are plenty around that junction; Crazy Pete's Road has a Coal Creek park map near its entrance), or via Cloud's Rest Trail whose turn-off on Skyline is just a few hundred feet from that same vista point. (Refer to the park map linked from this page.) Both provide you a brief mixture of fire road and single track descent. The Crazy Pete's option has a couple of short and steep bursts of climbing, too. Both will take you down to Alpine Road (a fire road), on which you can turn right and reach Page Mill Road and follow it back to the intersection with Skyline, near the Russian Ridge parking lot. Another option is to cross over to Skyline Ridge Open Space, directly across Alpine Road from the Russian Ridge parking lot. There's actually an underpass to that park directly from the Russian Ridge parking lot, but I believe the trail reached by that one is not legal for bikes. You might want to take the tiny singletrack trailhead just a few feet further west on Alpine Road itself in order to enter that park legally. The third option is Monte Bello Open Space, whose entrance is less than half a mile down Page Mill Road.
© Ergin Guney
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