“A trail with good views of the bay area through the woods from Portola Valley to Skyline Boulevard.”
— David Hitchcock
Views · Wildflowers
The availability of shade and gentler grades make this route more suitable for families, even with the increased distance.
The Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is open 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset throughout the year.
The Hamms Gulch Trail starts in Portola Valley and climbs to Skyline Boulevard, where you can access the summit of Windy Hill and take in breathtaking views of the Bay Area. While the distance is greater than that of the Spring Ridge Trail
, the climb is more enjoyable because it is not as steep and a majority of the trail is shaded by the trees of the surrounding forests. Access to the trail is via the Spring Ridge Trail
and Meadow Trail
from the parking area in Portola Valley, although you can access it via the Lost Trail
from one of the parking lots along Skyline Boulevard.
After hiking along the Spring Ridge Trail
and part of the Meadow Trail
, which goes off the right at a junction, the Hamms Gulch Trail descends along a creek until you leave the preserve temporarily. The trail winds down to a small creek, which can be crossed easily by rock hop, even in the winter or early spring when there may be more water in the creek. The Eagle Trail
goes off to the left from here via another creek crossing and provides access to the Razorback Ridge Trail
The Hamms Gulch Trail continues to the right and re-enters the preserve through a small gate as your climb toward Skyline Boulevard. While not as steep of a climb as the Spring Ridge Trail
, you'll be ascending for the next 2 miles. The trail follows Hamms Gulch, which sits on the right had side of the trail. Ferns sit along the left hand side of the trail while mosses cover the trees at this point. The right hand side of the trail drops into the gulch.
After climbing switchbacks at roughly 1 mile, the trail level outs along a ridge line for roughly .2 miles, proving a slight break to all the climbing. The trail climbs via a set of switchbacks at this point, where views of Windy Hill are off to the right. A bench provides the opportunity to take a break, enjoy the view, and grab a snack. As you climb, the forest takes on the characteristics of an evergreen forest. The air is cooler at the top of the trail, so make sure to have a long sleeve shirt, especially if you are on trail in the morning or later in the afternoon.
At roughly 2.5 miles, there is a small side trail that leads to a rock outcrop where views of the Bay Area spread out before you. Continuing on for another .2 miles, the trail meets up with the Lost Trail
. From here, you can turn around and return to your car, or follow the Lost Trail
to either the Spring Ridge Trail
(shortest) or Razorback Ridge Trail
if you want to hike more.
Flora & Fauna
Deer, rabbits, turkeys, and various types of birds can be seen, especially in the mornings or in the events. A majority of the trail is in the woods, so various types of ferns, mosses, and flowers can be seen, especially in the spring. Because of the change in elevation, you can experience different types of forests as you climb toward the end of the trail.