Lucky as a Horseshoe

Hike to Horseshoe Lake in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve

Horseshoe Lake in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve gets adventurers young and old up close to some of the Bay Area’s best winged wildlife along its namesake shoreline via a 3.5-mile (round-trip) hike that’s easy and tranquil.

From the main Skyline Ridge parking lot, follow the Ridge Trail until it intersects a dirt road, then bear left onto the Horseshoe Loop Trail. This route takes you up over Horseshoe Lake, rewarding you with a bird’s-eye view of the water below. A secluded picnic area a quarter mile along the trail is an idyllic spot for lunch.

The loop continues onto Tree Farm Trail and Fir Knoll Trail for a quick jaunt into the forest for a 1-mile (total) detour lined with fir and hemlock that release a festive holiday aroma as you crunch through the fallen needles. (For even more holiday cheer, the neighboring Christmas tree farm is visible through the forest.)

As you return to Horseshoe Lake, be on the lookout for local wildlife. Home to coots, ducks, quails, and heron, this is one of the best bird-watching sites in the area. To complete the loop, hikers can follow the Ridge Trail to return to the parking lot. For those craving a little more adventure, turn onto Sunny Jim Trail, and bear right onto Ipiwa Trail. This hilly route is a great physical challenge, and is home to California fuchsia, a crimson late-season wildflower. Enjoy a gorgeous panorama of the surrounding Los Gatos Mountains before returning to the parking lot.

The preserve’s entrance is located on Skyline Blvd., about 1 mile south of the intersection of Page Mill Rd. / Alpine Rd. and Skyline Blvd. (Hwy. 35). Dogs are not permitted in Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. Trails are open a half-hour before sunrise until a half-hour after sunset. No dogs.

Story and photos by Poe Casavant

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