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In brief:7.2 mile loop starts in Portola Valley and climbs to the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, then drops sharply back through grassland. Very pretty and cool in summer fog.
What to bring: Water 2 liter bottle, Lunch, Sun protection gears/sunscreen, Dress in layer with hiking gears, a backpack.
Distance, category, and difficulty:This 7.2 mile loop hike is moderate, with about 1400 feet in elevation change. There are two main trailheads: the Portola Valley Trailhead elevation is under 600 feet. The Skyline Boulevard Trailhead elevation is about 1800 feet. From either trailhead, you can create easy or moderate hikes on mostly level trails, but as soon as you start climbing or descending, the hiking is more challenging.
***Start at the information signboard. Walk west on a flat path >Turn left (toward Alpine Road) >Turn right Meadow Trail>turn left onto on Hamms Gulch Trail>Turn right on Lost Trail>Anniversary Trail>Turn right on Spring Ridge Trail>Turn left on Betsy Crowder Trail>Turn left and retrace your steps to the trailhead***
Exposure:The climb to the ridge is mostly shaded and the descent is mostly exposed.
Trail surfaces:Dirt trails and fire roads.
Hiking time:3-4 hours.
Season:Nice any time, but best in early spring.
From Interstate 280 in San Mateo County, exit Alpine Road (exit 22). Drive west about 3 miles, and turn right at the first stop sign, onto Portola. Drive about 0.8 mile, and turn left into the parking lot.
Large parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. Maps available at the information signboard. No drinking water.