Hiking the Skyline Ridge Preserve

Kaya Lindsay

January 11, 2020
Skyline Ridge Preserve Oak Tree

The Santa Cruz Mountains, and the surrounding areas, contain hundreds of miles of trails. To explore them all would take a lifetime of hiking, if not many lifetimes. The Skyline Ridge Preserve is one of the many Nature Preserves in the Santa Cruz Mountains that is well worth a visit on your next weekend away. 

With stunning views of rolling green hills and sunny trails winding through groves of oak trees, the Skyline Ridge Preserve is an ideal place for exploring. 


The Skyline Ridge Preserve started it’s life as the property of “Sunny Jim”, one of California’s most colorful politicians. He served as Mayor of San Francisco from 1912 to 1931. After his death, the property became a home to more than one thousand hogs, under the care of  Mr. John Ricky. This land was the ideal place for raising cattle, pigs and grazing horses. For many years the time passed on Skyline Ridge Preserve as a simple grazing ground for livestock. In the 1950’s the Alpine Pond and Horseshoe Lake were created to help with the ranching and agriculture operations.

A Christmas Tree farm was established on the grounds after 1950, and it’s still in operation today! 


Visitors to the Skyline Ridge Preserve can explore the many trails leading through the property such as the Ipwa Trail, the Alpine Pond Loop and the Horse Shoe Loop. The trails here are short, but sweet, making them perfect for picnics or family visits. 

Ipiwa Trail (Bay Area Ridge Trail)
Ipiwa Trail (Bay Area Ridge Trail)

Ipiwa Trail (Bay Area Ridge Trail) – With sweeping views of the Lambert Creek watershed, Butano Ridge, and Portola Redwoods State Park, this trail will impress even the most seasoned Santa Cruz Mountains Hiker. 

Observation Deck on the Alpine Pond Loop Trail
Observation Deck on the Alpine Pond Loop Trail

Alpine Pond Loop – (0.5 miles) A perfect loop for visitors of all ages and abilities. This short hike circles Alpine Pond and give visitors a chance to peer into the shallow water in search of pond creatures. Visitors in wheelchairs or with strollers will find it a perfect fit. 

Horseshoe Loop Trail Head
Horseshoe Loop Trail Head

Horseshoe Loop – (1.3 miles) Horseshoe Loop is an easy and enjoyable trail. Hikers follow the ridge and circle the Horseshoe Lake for a 360 view of the lake. 

Getting There

The Skyline Ridge Preserve is located just south of the Page Mill Road / Alpine Road and Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) intersection. This parking lot is also appropriate for any Equestrian needs. 

Know Before You Go 

The Preserve is open from Sunrise to Sunset, so plan accordingly in the summer and winter months. Bicycles are allowed on the trails if the 15mph speed limit is obeyed. 

Horses are allowed on trails, and there are equestrian specific guidelines for anyone hoping to go for a ride at the Preserve. 

Dogs are not welcome on the Preserve. For more information on their dogs policy, please visit their Dog Access Page.

If you are planning on hosting a party of 20 people or more, you will need a permit

Kaya Lindsay
Kaya Lindsay

Kaya Lindsay is a writer and photographer with a passion for rock climbing and the outdoors.  In 2016 she converted a Sprinter Van into a tiny home and has been traveling around the US & Canada to pursue her passion for rock climbing ever since. You will most likely find her in a parking lot or coffee shop, camera in hand, planning her next grand adventure. Connect with her on Instagram @OneChickTravels

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