Windy Hill Open Space Preserve

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I have hiked in Windy Hill Open Space Preserve several times, hiking up the hill from Portola Rd to the Anniversary Trail near Skyline Blvd.  The designated segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail incorporates a different trail, the Lost Trail, near the ridge-top along Skyline.  I was looking forward to another higher-elevation hike with great views of the San Francisco Bay and possibly a glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.  I was not disappointed!

The trailhead is at a small pull-out along Skyline, and I noted that the location is approximately 0.7 mile northwest of the Fogarty Winery.

GPS track

GPS track

The first part of the trail descends about 200 feet in 0.4 mile to a junction with the Razorback Ridge Trail.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

Lost Trail continues through a heavily forested, deeply shaded area along a steep hillside.

photo of trees on the steep canyon side

Trees on the steep canyon side

A small stream runs down the hill in Jones Gulch.  Here and there the trees open up and San Francisco Bay is visible.

photo of San Francisco Bay from Lost Trail

San Francisco Bay from Lost Trail

I noticed that the shaded areas of the trail seemed to have clouds of tiny gnat-like bugs, presumably due to high humidity and daily doses of coastal fog.  By contrast, the sunny areas were bug-free.  I had noticed this phenomenon on an earlier hike along Skyline Blvd.  The main issue with the bugs was just trying to avoid inhaling them!

Before the 1850’s this area was redwood forest.  Many trees were cut down to build local communities, including San Francisco in the Gold Rush days.   A subsequent fire apparently destroyed most of the remaining original-growth forest.  Today’s forest is second-growth, but still with many magnificent redwoods and firs.  One can only imagine what it was like before the logging began.

photo of magnificent second-growth forest

Magnificent second-growth forest

After passing the junction with Hamm’s Gulch Trail, the trail is mixed shade and sunny.  By the beginning of the Anniversary Trail, which was constructed to mark the tenth anniversary of Windy Hill OSP’s establishment, the terrain is open and sunny.  I turned around at the intersection with Spring Ridge Trail, the northern end of this segment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.  On the return I headed up a short spur trail to the top of Windy Hill, where there is a small ground-level marker that was constructed by the California Division of Highways in 1975.  From the hilltop there is a panoramic view of San Francisco Bay with Mt. Diablo, a prominent East Bay landmark, behind.

photo of Mt Diablo from Windy Hill

Mt Diablo from Windy Hill

To the north, the San Francisco downtown skyline was visible.

photo of San Francisco skyline

San Francisco skyline

And, finally, to the west, the Pacific Ocean lay beyond the western rows of coastal hills and the San Mateo County coastline.

photo of Pacific horizon

Pacific horizon

There is a nearly continuous string of open space preserves and county and state parks connecting San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Santa Cruz county open spaces.  There are many wonderful trails to explore, many part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail system.

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