(Taken from www.openspace.org)
RUSSIAN RIDGE OPEN SPACE PRESERVE is a spectacular place to enjoy the changes in the seasons. In the spring, this 1,580-acre preserve explodes with color as the native wildflowers put on a showy display. This preserve is often named as one of the five best places in the Bay Area to see wildflowers. Early in the spring, the poppies and lupine dominate. By May and June, gumweed, mules ears, farewell-to-spring, and brodiaea bloom. The hills turn to gold in the summer, when the long evening light strikes them. Autumn, when the fog recedes, is the ideal time to enjoy the ridge views of San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains through the crisp, clean air. Winter storms occasionally dust the top of the hills with snow.
The preserve is a patchwork of different plant communities due to its ridge location, steep topography, and numerous springs that create the headwaters of Mindego and Alpine Creeks. Diverse plant communities, miles of forest edge, and abundant springs make Russian Ridge an outstanding habitat for wildlife. Large numbers of raptors soar over the lush grasslands, and coyotes patrol the ridges. The steep forested canyons create a secure refuge for a tremendous variety of animals, including the elusive mountain lion. These beautiful animals have large territories that extend far beyond the preserve boundaries, up to 100 miles! The preserve is also one of the best places in the Bay Area to see raptors. Red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, Cooper's hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and golden eagles have all been seen on the preserve.
(Note from Bob: The Bay Area Ridge Trail passes through this preserve.)
(Taken from www.openspace.org)
The Russian Ridge parking area is located at the intersection of Skyline Boulevard (Route 35) and Alpine Road. Additional parking is located at the Caltrans Vista Point on Skyline Boulevard. You can reach Coal Creek Open Space Preserve from the vista point or further north along Skyline Boulevard at Crazy Petes Road. Coal Creek is also accessible to hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians from Alpine Road.
Summary: so this place use to be one of my favorite trails until the county of san mateo ruined it by dumping concert over almost all the trails now and the park rangers harass you night and day but leave the horse ladies and the hikers alone but pick on almost every mountain biker i saw because were up to no good. Ranger Brad Pennington is among the worst ranger all he does is sit in his truck and waits at the end of the trail to ticket bikers without a radar gun or any reason, not to mention he almost hit me with his truck not looking where he was driving after getting a call or something. all in all Russian ridge use to have a fun bit of uphill downhill technical stuff but the city and there bike hating power rangers ruined another fun trail.
Other recommended trails in the same area: demo forest, santa tessera county park, skeegs point.
Summary: The last time I was up here, they'd just done a controlled burn and the air was rank with the smell of burnt grass. Today the air was a lot clearer. To call this park "beginner" is quite a stretch. Maybe if you come up here in early spring or late fall, but come up here in the summer and you'll be dodging sand traps all day. Most of the trails are exposed to the sun, so they turn to sand as soon as the weather warms up. Some parts are so deep, you'll think you're riding on the beach. There are a few, very short shady sections with hardpack. I'm not crazy about the loose surfaces, but I can deal with it when climbing. It gets really creepy though when you're descending. Your tires want to go every way but forward. Steep ridge top trails with no where to go but down if you wash out in a corner. Did I mention steep? Nothing terribly long, but almost all of the climbs are steep. Nice place with beautiful views though. The 360 degree view of the bay and ocean from Borel Hill is not to be missed. Don't come here if you're a beginner though, start out on something more reasonable like Arastradero.
Recommended Route: Not a whole lot of choices. You've got only one trail that leads out of the parking lot; a moderate, but slippery climb with some steep sections. At the fork, you can go right and roller coaster along the ridge trail (don't forget to stop at Borel Hill) or go left on Ancient Oaks and dead end at Alpine Road or hit Mindego trail and dead end at... well just dead end. You'll end up dead-ending a lot out here. Sorry, I'm just not feeling much love for Russian Ridge right now.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Arastradero... or just take it easy and ride the Old Haul Road.
Summary: I have been riding this trail for about 4 years now and still love heading up about once a week or so. Nice thing about this area is you can make the ride as short or long as you want. You can do loops and ride trails in both directions. I bring new MTBers all the time and take them on a short loop and progress them as they like. One thing I have't seen mentioned here is the observation deck located right on the singletrack at the end of the ridge trail. I normally use this as my turn around point and stop there and enjoy the view and a snack.
I have had early fall mornings where you are riding right along side running coyotes or hear them howling and barking in the distance. This place is my staple and will probably ride here till I die. Nothing overly challenging or technical, but always enjoyable, plus it links to plenty of other trail opportunities up around the Skyline area.
Recommended Route: Up out of the parking lot climb, left at the first split. After a 1/4 mile or so, right on Ancient Oaks singletrack (great views), stay left at the next intersection and enjoy a nice singletrack downhill through the trees. At the bottom of the downhill, stay right and ride Ancient Oaks until you see the Hawk Ridge singletrack climb to the right. Climb all the way back up to the Ridge Trail, go left and then immediate right on to single track (great views of the SF Bay Area) and ride that for about a 1/2 mile to the Observation Deck. Leave the way you came, go right at the Ridge trail and follow that all the way back to the trail intersection and continue through, making the first right after intersection to a nice singletrack climb back to the Ridge Trail, go right and follow it downhill all the way back to the parking lot.
Other recommended trails in the same area: Wilder Ranch, Demo Forest, Nizene Marks, Saratoga Gap, Anywhere off Skyline, Lake Chabot Loop...
Summary: i used to live in Portola Valley, and this was my staple. i'd ride up Alpine Road, do Russian Ridge, and then (sometimes) go down Skyline to Windy Hill for the drop back into the valley. 19 miles round trip, and all from the house - a big plus. A good climb up Alpine, my favorite section was the dirt (i'm a mountain biker after all). Skyline was a bit harrowing with Ducati's ripping by at 80+ just off my left elbow, but at least i wasn't watching tv. Bring a good amount of water and food, and enjoy the views. Borel Hill is a great place to kick back and see the whole bay area on clear days. Then, skedaddle just a few hundred yards off behind you, and check out the whole coast (if the fog's out). Just a refreshing place. ENJOY!