Monte Bello – Skyline Loop

I finally got out to run at Monte Bello Open Space Preserve (OSP) on the east side of Skyline Ridge. I have been wanting to run these trails for quite some time and it was nice to finally explore the area – it did not dissapoint! Looking at the maps, an aesthetic 16.5 mile super loop jumped out. The loop runs through four parks with the Canyon Trail in Monte Bello OSP, Table Mountain Trail in Upper Stevens Creek County Park, Long Ridge OSP, and Skyline Ridge OSP. About 10 miles of the loop was on new trails for me and total elevation gain was about 3,000 feet.

Looking down the Stevens Creek Canyon. Image courtesy of the USGS.

I started at the Monte Bello parking area and right next to the start of the trail was a snake! I am used to small garter snakes in Washington and this snake was quite a bit larger. I think it was a gopher snake which is common in the these hills. I carefully walked around the area to not scare the snake.

The first four miles were generally downhill on the Canyon Trail following Stevens Creek and I ran it relatively fast, although it was hot in the open areas. The next four miles were mostly uphill along the Table Mountain Trail with some steep sections and my pace slowed dramatically. The Table Mountain trail was difficult, especially because I did not know the nature of the hill, but it is very beautiful and I felt like I was on the approach to a climb in the wilderness. One piece of caution: I now know what poison oak looks like and the ground surrounding the trail was covered in the plant. The trail is fine, but straying from the path is dicey.

I was happy to cross into familiar territory at the Hickory Oaks entrance to Long Ridge OSP at 66 minutes and about halfway around the loop (~8.25 miles). The views from Long Ridge were spectacular as usual, but it was still hot in the afternoon sun and I wanted to drink more than what I had in my single hand held water bottle. I was happy to enter the forest where it was much cooler and I ran the next section back to the Christmas Tree farm in Skyline Ridge OSP relatively well. I was closing in on 2 hours as I crossed Skyline Blvd back into Monte Bello OSP and I was not looking forward to the final 400 feet of elevation to climb up from Stevens Creek to my car via the Stevens Creek Nature Trail. Fortunately, the trail is really nice and shaded with many pretty water cascades along Stevens Creek.

Overall, I was very pleased with this loop which features some great single track and constantly changing scenery. You really get a good taste of the Skyline area environment from lush forest to grassy meadows to fantastic vistas in every direction. However, it’s not an easy loop with constantly rolling hills and one significant hill climb (no flat sections). The loop took me 130 minutes and I was tired at the end, but very satisfied.

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