“A trail that winds through oak forests and hillside meadows where animals feed in the evening.
— David Hitchcock
Birding · Views · Wildlife
The preserve is open year round from dawn until half an hour after sunset.
The Ancient Oaks Trail begins at the parking area for the Audrey C. Rust Commemorative site on Alpine Road. The trail leaves the end of the parking lot, crosses a small bridge, and then begins a slight descent through a forest of oak trees. Ferns can be seen along the trail at this point as it weaves its way through the woods. The trail bottoms out around .25 of a mile and begins its ascent toward Skyline Drive and the meadows found there.
The shade from the trees provides relief from the sun for roughly half a mile as the dirt trail makes its way through the woods. It's mostly a singletrack trail although it does widen at times. At .75 miles, the trail emerges in a set of fields where deer, turkeys, and other animals common to the preserve can be found feeding in the mornings and evenings. If you turn around, you get views of Mindego Hill, the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the Pacific Ocean in the distance.
As you approach Alpine Road, a small connector trail to a parking pull off for 2-3 cars goes off to the right while the Ancient Oaks Trail turns to the left. If you continue uphill, a connector trail breaks off to the right again that travels .3 miles up to the Ridge Trail
. The Ancient Oaks Trail, well marked by signs, continues to climb through the fields until it reaches 1.1 miles, when the trail begins to descend toward the woods.
The trail re-enters the woods at roughly 1.2 miles and immediately meets the junction of the Bo Gimbal Trail
, which breaks off to the right and climbs to the Ridge Trail
near Borel Hill. The Ancient Oaks Trail continues to descend through the woods, although glimpses of the surrounding hills can be seen through the trees and at a couple of open spaces. At 1.5 miles, the trail descends steeply through a shaded forest until it reaches its junction with the Charquin Trail
at 1.7 miles.
From here, you can take a left and descend Charquin Trail
until you reach the Mindego Hill Trail
, where you take another left and climb back up to the parking area. If you take a right, you climb Charquin Trail
until it meets the Ridge Trail
, which you can use to join up with several connector trails to retrace your steps back to your vehicle, or explore other parts of the preserve. Your final option is to retrace your steps back to your car.
Flora & Fauna
Animals found throughout Russian Ridge can be seen along this trail. Bobcat, deer, coyotes, hawks, turkeys, and even mountain lions (although rare) have been seen in the preserve along this trail. Take time to familiarize yourself with what to do if you encounter a mountain lion in case you encounter one while hiking, especially if you are going early in the morning or closer to dusk.