Light of Los Trancos

Hike Los Trancos Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains

In autumn, Los Trancos Open Space Preserve lights up with orange-red maples, yellow hazelnut, and deciduous oaks. Mingling among the colors are Los Trancos Creek, mountain vistas, earthquake history, and plentiful shade, making this 2.5-mile hike in the Santa Cruz mountains a wonder-fall destination.

Begin your hike at the information kiosk in the parking lot, heading north towards the Franciscan Loop. (Alternatively, take the Nonette Hanko San Andreas Fault Trail from the west side of the lot. This lesser-traveled trail climbs a rocky hillside to a stone bench with sweeping northward views of Mount Tamalpais, San Francisco, the San Francisco Bay, and Mount Diablo. The two trails meet up in a meadow sprinkled with coyote brush.)

Turn left onto the Franciscan Loop, descending north. Yellow hazelnut leaves cast a warm glow onto the madrone and oak forest. Groves of big-leaf maples are an autumn highlight, creating a flutter of orange-red leaves. Mixed among them are enormous oaks, whose branches twist up above moss-covered trunks to jigsaw-puzzle canopies. 

undefined

Bear left in 0.6 mile, following signs for the Lost Creek Loop. Descend clockwise to a view of peaceful Los Trancos Creek, surrounded by elk clover and riparian plants. The narrow trail looks down to the trickling creek beneath a shady forest. After this serene vista, the loop begins climbing on a crisp carpet of fallen leaves. 

Hike Los Trancos Open Space Preserve in the Santa Cruz Mountains

Rejoin the Franciscan Loop at the 1.5-mile mark, climbing south. California bay trees grow wild along this stretch, giving off a warm, fragrant scent. Pass the Nonette Hanko San Andreas Fault Trail on your right, an optional 0.6-mile loop addition to this hike. Posts with yellow bands mark the main break along the San Andreas Fault during the 1906 earthquake. Close the Franciscan Loop and retrace your steps to the parking lot. 

From downtown Saratoga, drive west on Hwy. 9. Watch for cyclists. In 7.3 miles, turn right onto Skyline Blvd. Drive 6.4 miles, then turn right onto Page Mill Rd. Drive 1.4 miles to the Los Trancos parking lot on your left. The preserve is open from dawn until dusk. Trails are well signed. This is an inverse hike, so you will descend first and then ascend on your way back. A map and interpretive brochure for the Nonette Hanko San Andreas Fault Trail are available on the park’s website. No dogs.

Trending Stories NorCal

View all Stories
  1. Up Umunhum

    Rising from the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mount Umunhum is one of the Bay Area’s highest points, reaching an impressive 3,486 feet. With the new 7.4-mile (round-trip) addition to the Bay Area Ridge Trail, locals can finally step up to its peak.

    View
  2. Cross It Off Your Bucket List

    Crosstown Trail San Francisco may be one of the most beautiful city walks in America, passing through less-visited nooks and crannies while also taking in greatest hits, including mosaic stairways.

    View
  3. Kirby Your Enthusiasm

    Just west of the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin is one of the Bay's most-accessible secluded beaches. Kirby Cove is accessed by hiking or biking a 1-mile fire road down to the beach, where the reward is an all-time classic Golden Gate view.

    View
  4. Napa's Wild Side

    It’s wine country’s Amazon. Cutting 50 miles through the famous Napa Valley and emptying into San Pablo Bay, the gentle Napa River is an ecological—and recreational—delight. And Napa Valley Paddle helps you enjoy it.

    View

Trending Stories SoCal

View all Stories
  1. Sponsored

    Weekend Sherpa Podcast: Take it Outside

    Adventure for your earbuds. What's new in the world of the outdoors? Listen to Weekend Sherpa co-founders discuss local hikes, beaches, bike rides, camping spots and all kinds of travel and adventure in California and beyond!

    View
  2. Secret Trail at Torrey Pines

    Find cliff climbs, sandy strolls, and secret hikes throughout “America’s finest sandy stretch" at Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve in San Diego County.

    View
  3. Secluded Royale

    Panoramic coastal views and a killer leg workout combine on this 2.7-mile (round-trip) out-and-back hike to secluded Coast Royale Beach in Orange County

    View
  4. Border Field State Park

    Border Field State Park is the southernmost point in California as well as one of the last beautiful undeveloped coastlines in the state. Visit this natural refuge for a 4.5-mile hike featuring important history and wildlife habitats, plus stunning SoCal beach scenery.

    View