60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco
by Jane Huber (Menasha Ridge Press)
© 2013 Jane Huber/Menasha Ridge Press. All Rights Reserved.
I pretty much followed the route featured in the guide except that instead of getting on the High Meadow Trail just past the Farm, I continued up the Rogue Valley Trail to North end of the Wildcat Loop Trail. The Wildcat Loop Trail is a very pleasant shaded path that switchbacks uphill to join (and cross-over) the High Meadow Trail.
From here on I stuck to the guide taking the High Meadow Trail, Upper Wildcat Canyon Trail, Wildcat Loop Trail and returned to the parking lot via the Coyote trail.
Even though I visited the Preserve on a week day, there were quite a few other hikers, runners and horses out on the trails. I'd guess that, as the guide says, weekends could be crowded. The trails are very well maintained but show heavy usage.
Wow, Jane Huber (the author of this eTrail) was right. She knows the Bay Area Trails (she has a dedicated site) and she said this one was "very very very busy". She wasn't kidding. The trails are very well graded, the signage is pretty clear (some spots are a tad confusing), and the overall hike is a good one. Like the eTrail reports, once you move past Deer Hollow Farm, you will reach some more solitude, but not totally (which was our experience on a Saturday in April). The views of the Canyon are cool except for the eye sores PG&E have lined along the mountain sides (a necessity I suppose). Rancho is great because of its close proximity, but it is also it's curse as every living soul who even "thinks" they know about Preserves goes to Rancho. If you don't mind driving, skip this one and head out to Monte Bello, Los Trancos or Russian Ridge first.
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