From the San Jose Mercury News, March 2008

You don’t hike at Los Trancos Open Space Preserve hoping for an earth-shaking experience — not with the San Andreas Fault beneath your feet.

Simulated earthquake gap

Los Trancos Open Space Preserve profile

Acres: 274

Miles of trails: 5.2

Hours: Sunrise to half-hour after sunset

No dogs or bicycles

Parking: Free at the trail head

Driving directions: Take Interstate 280 to Page Mill Road exit, head west on Page Mill for seven miles to parking lot on the right

On the Web:

The fault that flattened San Francisco in 1906 cuts through the center of this small park in the hills southwest of Los Altos. This stretch of the fault, situated deep underground, hasn’t had a major rupture in a century, so its motions are not obvious. Interpretive panels and a fault trail map from the Midpeninsula Open Space Authority, which manages the park, will tell you what you’re seeing.

The earthquake zone starts to reveal itself as you hike deeper into the park: Gullies fall down hillsides at odd angles; water gathers in low places because the earth beneath gave way; trees have odd, elbow-shaped branches because they were knocked over by the big quake.

The park offers just over five miles of trails, all easy to moderate and most in the shade. It’s pleasant hiking where an all-day outing would seem like tempting fate anyway.

Standard precautions: Watch for poison oak on hillsides. Don’t leave any valuables in your car; the parking lot is a favorite target of thieves. If an earthquake happens, stay calm and watch for falling trees and rock or land slides.

Hike suggestions

Easy: San Andreas Fault Trail is a must. The open space district used vintage fence posts to simulate a fence break that might have happened in the 1906 quake: the sections are several feet apart, which is how far the earth moved in some places. Out-and-back distance is 1.5 miles.

Moderate: The Lost Creek Trail, a shaded one-mile loop, is the prettiest section of the park. Combining this with a jaunt over to nearby Foothills Park can yield a hike of at least five miles, and more if you’re feeling ambitious.

Hard: Once you’ve explored Los Trancos, check out the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve on the other side of Page Mill Road: It has 15 miles of trails with great views and strenuous climbs.

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