Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hamms Gulch-Windy Hill Loop

UPDATE- June 2, 2007
Good news for dog owners -- They have cut back some of the foxtails from trails in the lower and upper areas of the Windy Hill preserve. This includes the Meadow and Anniversary Trails.

Since the options of long hikes (6+ miles) that allow dogs legally are somewhat limited in the Mid-peninsula area, I decided to take Jake to Windy Hill (again). The weather for this trip was much different from the begining of April. It is now the end of May and there has been no rain for weeks. The Corte Madera Creek runs year round, so it was the only wet spot for the entire 6 mile loop.

One warning for dog owners - the foxtails are starting to dry out and will become an issue shortly. Also we found a couple ticks on Jake during and after the hike.

We have done the Hamms Gulch Trail before in April, and the trail is in the same shape -- but dry this time. With the summer weather this trail is MUCH cooler than walking up Windy Hill on the Spring Ridge Trail. If your dog can do a 6+ mile hike, I would highly recommend this route:

Summer Route -
> Park on Alpine Road/Willowbrook
> Take connecting trails to Hamms Gulch Trail
> Turn right near the Summit on the Lost Trail
> Continue on the Anniversary Trail around Windy Hill
> Head down the Spring Trail (say hi to all the out-of-breath/hot/sweaty people going uphill)
> Right on the Meadow Trail which connects back to Alpine Road

The views from the Hamms Gulch trail are short but sweet -- although they are better on clear Winter/Spring days.

Near the top of the Hamms Gulch Trail there is a short trail leading to what look like a look-out point. Its a good rest stop, but not much view.

At the end of the Hamms Gulch Trail, you meet with the Lost Trail. This goes between Windy Hill and the Razorback Ridge Trail (this is next on the list!). Since dogs are not allowed on the Razorback Trail we headed toward Windy Hill on the Lost Trail.

This brief but enjoyable trail runs close to Highway 35/Skyline Blvd. The trail is in very good shape and there are some views.

The Lost Trail ends at the southern most Vista Point/parking lot at Windy Hill. Here there is a bathroom and good sized open parking lot (no gate). I guess people park up here and walk around the Windy Hill summit -- but walking UP this hill is half the fun, and its more enjoyable to walk down after walking up.
The Anniversary Trail wraps around Windy Hill with two options -- one on the Highway side and one with views of the Bay Area.

As I mentioned before -- the foxtail season is about to start, this trail was COVERED with fresh foxtail brush. I would NOT do this trail during the summer months (June/July/August) -- its just too risky with dogs prone to foxtail injuries.

The way down the Spring Ridge Trail is fairly steep but manageable with a dog. At 8:45am it was starting to get a bit warm (t-shirts and shorts were fine -- no need for fleece).

On the way, we saw some deer on the hill. Jake didnt even notice them, but the deer definately saw us!

The total roundtrip took 2.5 hours -- with very limited stops for photos or for Jake to check things out. Its a good workout and very enjoyable with world class views on the way down.

View Larger Map

Area - Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District - Windy Hill in Portola Valley
Trail - Hamms Gulch Trail/Lost Trail/Anniversary Trail/Spring Ridge Trail (Trail Map)
Length - 6 miles roundtrip - Easy Hike (uphill, but easy)
Trail - Loop, dirt trail, limited stops along the way. Well marked and maintained, very dry starting in May.
Dogs - Some
Bikes - Not allowed on Hamms Gulch, allowed on other trails
View - Just a few on first half -- the second half is ALL VIEW
Getting There - Google Map Take 280 to Alpine Road Exit, head West toward Portola Valley. The parking lot is before Willowbrook Road.
Fee- None, free parking
Weather - First Half - Lots of Shade, can be cool; Second Half - in the Sun
Other Trails - there are other trails nearby including the Razorback Ridge Trail and Portola Ranch Trails