[Editor's Note: Watch for this column each Thursday on Patch by local hiking enthusiast Tom Davids. Below is this week's suggested hike to Coal Mine Ridge, Portola Valley.]
By Tom Davids
A short loop hike along bucolic trails on Coal Mine Ridge.
Directions: From Highway 280, take Alpine Road south. Continue past the junction with Portola Road about three-quarters of a mile to the intersection of Willowbrook Drive. Just before the intersection, you will find limited parking on the north side of Alpine Road. If this area is full, park on the west side of Willowbrook Drive. The trailhead is located across Alpine Road from the parking area.
- Trail Map: Google Coal Mine Ridge, Portola Valley.
- Grade: Moderate.
- Distance: Two miles.
- Time: One hour.
- Special Conditions: The Portola Valley Town Trails are located on private property. Please stay on the trails and follow the posted rules. For information, call the Town of Portola Valley at 650-851-1700.
The trails on Coal Mine Ridge pass through 450 acres belonging to the homeowners of Portola Valley Ranch. The trails are open to the public and are available for hiking and/or equestrian use. Bicycles are not allowed. Dogs are permitted on some trails. Trail use limits are posted on each junction sign.
This hike starts at the trailhead opposite Willowbrook Drive. Turn to the right, and climb 0.1 mile to Toyon Trail. This trail starts wide and hard-packed, but narrows as it moves upward through several switchbacks. The heavy tree cover of madrone and tanbark oak soon opens up, providing you with limited views to the east.
Soon you will reach the first junction—and there are many junctions along this ridge—with the option of continuing on the Old Spanish Trail or turning right for the Toyon Trail. Turn right, climb five timber steps, and continue on the Toyon Trail for 0.9 mile to the junction with Coal Mine Trail.
As you hike, you will catch good views of Windy Hill to the west. The trail moves in and out of ravines for about one-quarter mile and passes over a short log plank bridge, through a field of ferns, and under madrone trees.
The trail continues laterally along the hillside, and you will gradually gain elevation, with the rushing water sound of Corte Madera Creek drifting up from the canyon 100 feet or more below. Along the path are other wood slab benches that invite you to sit and enjoy the view across the canyon to the Razorback Ridge Trail of Windy Hill.
Moving in and out of gullies flowing with water during the rainy season, you will cross over a long, wooden plank bridge with a thick rope handrail and soon arrive at the next junction. Turn left and return to the Coal Mine Trail.
At the next junction, continue to the left and soon you will join the Old Spanish Trail. Keep walking downhill until you reach the Alpine Road trailhead.
If you have an extra hour, turn right on either Coal Mine or Old Spanish Trail and explore the upper reaches of Coal Mine Ridge. Along Coal Mine Trail, notice the beautiful ancient coast live oak trees with long, wide-spreading branches that touch and trail the ground. Farther to the east you can hike trails that wind through the Portola Valley Ranch residential area.
By the Way…The Toyon Trail is part of the Coal Ridge trail system. In 1981Mayor Bob Brown paid tribute to the more than 100 volunteers who built the trail over the course of three years. They worked every second Saturday and continued for 44 work days.