New Nicholas trail at Sanborn


Sunday, the Ides of March 2015

I haven’t been to Sanborn county park for several years. It’s a bit out of the way, and pretty much out and back. But there is a segment of trail that I have never visited, the John Nicholas trail, isolated off in the southeast corner of the park. They have now built a 3.4 mile connector from Skyline, part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail system. The grand opening is in a couple weeks, but not being one for ceremonies and crowds, I thought I’d check it out today.

It takes a couple hours to grunt to the top of Sunnyvale mountain, where the new trail begins. Cool and pleasant, several newts out on the trail, Todd creek redwoods pretty, and some water running in Todd creek. All is right with the world.


The new trail is heavily switched back and wide, the forest is open. The first thing of note was this schöne Aussicht, where I decided not to embarrass myself trying to speak German with the three German mountain bikies there.


The upper reaches of the trail go past some of the rock that also contributes to Castle Rock state park on the other side of the ridge. Split redwood logs form benches here and there.


The letterbox formations are called tafoni. We think of rock as gray, but there is a lot of color here (compare below, B&W by Photoshop).



Mountain bikies everywhere. The trail is wide enough that there are few hassles. It is also the best graded trail I have ever seen, almost a constant 6.6% grade (according to Excel based on the topo map), not steep enough to really go crazy downhill, not steep enough to die going uphill.


At the bottom is a dam and Lake Ranch Reservoir, of which I had never heard. And yes, that’s broom. Really nice to see broom and think, “Not my problem!”


The water level is well below the fill mark and we see dried mineral deposits from previous years.


John Nicholas trail – the old part – continues for another 2 miles. An amazing chunk of rock here.

The previous trail ends at Black road, a side road that I believe I have never taken. I was surprised to see what is actually a pretty good road; it’s even wide enough for a yellow line down the center.

I returned to the dam, and took the Lake Ranch road trail down to Sanborn road. It’s out and back, of no particular interest, but I may never be here again, so now is the time. It’s only 0.6 miles, but it turns out to have an average grade of almost 18%, almost 400 feet of descent, very steep. And of course returning from the bottom, grunting back up. The old map says there is no parking there, but there is in fact roadside parking and there were half a dozen cars.

Speaking of which, these trails really are pretty popular, and not just with the mountain bikies. Not jam-packed, but certainly not deserted, especially along the flat around the reservoir. Met several groups twice and one group three times, as we did our outs and backs.


Well, I could have walked about 3/4 mile on Sanborn road and been back at the park entrance, but of course that would never do. Back up the hill, along Skyline ridge, and down by way of the trail (19.4 miles for the day, 3850 vertical feet).


I am impressed with this trail; it’s wonderful. But I can’t help thinking that if the trail designer had been spending his own money, or even a foundation grant (John Nicholas foundation maybe?), rather than unaccountable taxpayer funds, likely funneled through Washington, he could have made some more economical choices.

Tags: ,

One Response to “New Nicholas trail at Sanborn”

  1. Lynn Jackson Says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been wanting to do this new trail, almost went down there today, but as you said, it’s a bit out of my way and I got a late start. It looks like a lovely trail. I did part of Montara Mtn today instead.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: