From the San Jose Mercury News, July 2007

Early birds get the trails to themselves at Sanborn Skyline, the popular county park just west of Saratoga.


Deer grazing

Acres: 3,688

Miles of trails: 15

Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset

Limitations: Pets only in campsites and designated areas.

Fees: $6 to park at the main lot. Free parking in at sites along east side of Skyline Boulevard south of Saratoga Gap.

Camping: $12 per night at walk-in campground; RV sites are $25; make a reservation at — $6 online reservation fee

Driving directions: Take Highway 9 west through Saratoga, continuing past the town limits until you see the sign for Sanborn-Skyline County Park (about two miles). At Sanborn Road, turn left and go a mile to the park headquarters.

While the early hikers get the best rewards at pretty much any park, Sanborn Skyline is notable for the contrast between getting there when the dew’s still wet on the grass and showing up later in the day.

A typical Saturday afternoon at Sanborn Skyline might see a wedding reception, a family reunion and a half-dozen large cook-outs all happening on the park’s main grounds. Busy, crowded, noisy. With an 8 a.m. sharp start, however, you might get to see a couple young deer casually grazing within a stone’s throw of the park’s visitor center, as I did the last weekend in June. Quiet, calm — you know, what you go hiking to find.

Once you get on the trails zigzagging up the hill toward Skyline Boulevard, you’ve got a cool, shady forest of Douglas fir, madrone and tan oak to enjoy at your leisure. Sanborn Skyline isn’t a showcase destination with signature attractions like, say, Big Basin or Castle Rock state parks, but if you just need a few solitary hours in the woods without a long drive from San Jose, it’ll do nicely.

Standard precautions:
The hike up to Skyline Boulevard is a haul — around 1,600 feet of elevation gain — so be ready for some heavy breathing if you set out to hike to the ridge. Watch for poison oak along the narrow single-tracks.

Hike suggestions:

Easy: There’s a nice one-mile nature trail near the main parking lot. It’s mostly flat but gets busy on weekend afternoons. A nicer option is to drive south on Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) for 4.5 miles from Saratoga Gap (the intersection with Highway 9) to an unmarked parking area on the left called Sunnyvale Mountain. Just hike into the woods
on the mostly flat Skyline Trail till you feel like turning back.

Moderate: Take the paved Sanborn Trail, just left of the visitors center, through the campgrounds and up into the hills for 2.5 miles till you hit the San Andreas Trail and head back down for another couple miles to the park HQ. It’s a leg-burner in places on the way up, but it’s a relaxing descent through the forest on the way down.

Hard: Camp out in one of the walk-in sites along the Sanborn Trail. Multiple trips hauling your gear up that hill promise a healthy workout that’ll burn off your kids’ nervous energy. Getting them to sleep won’t be an issue after that adventure.

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