~12 mile option: http://www.halfmarathons.net/usa_half_marathons_california_forest_of_nisene_marks_half_marathon_map.html
The trail on the "left" side of the park does not actually appear on that map or Google maps. You can see all the trails on the park brochure:
Route: Aptos Creek Fire Road -> L on Loma Prieta Grade -> L on Ridge Connection Trail -> L onto West Ridge trail back to start. Basically KEEP LEFT.
For a 6 mile option, you can turn around at the intersection of Loma Prieta Grade and Bridge Creek Trail (3 miles out and back).
**PLEASE COME PREPARED** This park can be very confusing and there is a distinct possibility that someone is going to get lost. Review the map or print your own to bring with you. Bring plenty of supplements and WATER so if you do get lost, you have fuel for yourself.
That being said this is a BEAUTIFUL place to run, so it will all be worth it. Promise!
Use the State Park Drive exit from Hwy 1. Go east on State Park Drive to Soquel Drive. Turn right on Soquel Drive. Go 1 mile to Aptos Creek Road. Turn left on Aptos Creek Road. We will park in the dirt "lot" basically at the intersection of Aptos Creek Road and Village Creek Road.
Google Pin of Parking Lot
There is a Safeway plaza right before you get to the park, so you can stop there for a bathroom place if you need it.
Trail Running 101
You got questions, we got answers.
Trail Running Shoes- there is a BIG difference between road running sneakers and trail running sneakers. Trail running shoes have much more traction, a close knit upper to keep dirt and water out, and often have a rock plate to protect your foot from the trail. The ease of running trails is increased dramatically by having this type of shoe in your closet. You can get by on most trails with road shoes, but if you think you will be spending a lot of time on the trails it may be worth it to invest in something that will give you some more control over the ground.
Time- Run a 9:00/mile on the road? Be ready to add 1-2 minutes per mile more than your road running when you get on the trails. There are hills, obstacles, and terrain to deal with out there. Don't worry about walking up big hills and running down the other side, that's what the best trail runners do! A good rule of thumb is, if you can't see the top of it, maybe you should walk it. Of course we aren't talking about a leisurely walk here, a power hike can do wonders to get you up that hill without too much fatigue on the legs. When you get to the top, don't completely open up and tear down the hill either. Chances are there is going to be another giant hill you are going to have to climb up and you don't want to kill your legs.
Maps- It's easy to run to run on the bike path without getting into too much trouble, but trails are a bit trickier. Often there are maps provided at the park you may be going to, but it is also a good idea to print out a map ahead of time. In regards to our Trail Meetup, there is ALWAYS a map linked in the Meetup description. Do yourself the favor to take some time to look at the route and what trails you might get confused at. Print it out and bring it with you, along with the turn by turns. If you have any questions about the directions, email Meghan! The second piece of maps is the ELEVATION map. Check this out! See where the hills are, how big the hills are, and where you think you might struggle. Not all trail runs have the elevation maps attached, mainly because the trails aren't routed on Google maps yet. The ones that are, definitely take a look!
Water and Food- Hand in hand with the Time and Maps category, is nutrition. PLEASE bring along at LEAST 8 ounces of water to each trail run. Remember you might be out there for 2 hours for an 8 miler. Make sure you are aware of that and prepare accordingly. Bring your water, bring your food. Always overprepare. It might happen that you take a wrong turn and that 5 mile loop you were running has suddenly turned into 12 miles. This has happened to the best of us, and we don't want you to be unprepared for that situation.
Scenery- The places we are going to be running are beautiful, no question about it. However. Keep your eyes on the ground! You may totally see that gigantic root and graciously leap over it with no problem, but the next step there is going to be a tiny little rock you totally over looked, and then you will be meeting the dirt. Be vigilant, keep an eye out where you are going.
Weather- It may be 65 and sunny in San Jose, but in the mountains it is significantly colder, especially under tree cover, bring extra layers. If you get to the park and realize it isn't that cold, you can always leave the layers in the car, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. I've seen frost on some local trails when it's been 70 in San Jose. Jackets, gloves, ear warmers, long sleeve shirts.
RESPECT- Finally, and most importantly, RESPECT the park you are in. Whatever you bring in, bring out. Don't litter, don't destroy plants, don't go off the marked trail, and don't cut across switch backs. That mountain has been there way before any of us, and let's make sure it will be there after we are gone. With respecting your environment, remember you are in NATURE! This means things like poison oak, animals, etc. If you see deer, don't chase them or yell at them. If you see any baby animal, give it a wide berth. Mama is close by and you don't want to make her angry. Most importantly (and I have to cover this), mountain lions and bobcats. Chances are, you are NOT going to see one of these animals. However, if you do, make yourself appear as large as possible. Raise your arms, open your jacket, be tall. Second, make noise. yell, shout, bang a stick against a tree. DO NOT make a sound that could be confused as the sound of prey. Speak loudly, firmly, and slowly. Third, act like a predator yourself. Maintain eye contact. Never run past or away from a mountain lion. Don't bend down or crouch. Never turn away. Finally, slowly create distance. Back slowly to a spot that gives the mountain lion a path to get away.
Finally, you are going to see other people enjoying the park, just like you. Be courteous and respectful. If you want to pass someone, yell ON YOUR LEFT with enough time to allow the person to react and move.