This hike zigzags you up through an Oak Woodland into a Redwood Grove, past a retaining pond where Newts can often be found or at least a lot of pond scum, and back through a Eucalyptus Grove to a bench with a view over the SF Bay. You’ll finish up with a chance to visit some horses or climb up into the stump of a burned-out Redwood tree.
Head out of the parking lot on the trail that passes behind the historic Folger Stable. At the first intersection, go through the narrow gate straight ahead to continue on the Bear Gulch Trail. This trail meanders up some wide switchbacks to the Madrone Trail. It is the narrowest trail of this hike. Here you can continue on the wider Madrone Trail (a fire road better suited to joggers) to your left or continue straight on the Bear Gulch Trail up to the Redwood Flat (a beautiful collection of Fairy Circles of Redwood Trees) and then turn left on the Redwood Trail adding 0.6 miles to the route.
Both Madrone Trail and Redwood Trail meet up at the Salamander Flat. Take some time to check out the retaining pond, used to store water for the historic Folger Estate. You may notice pipes along the trails used to transport this water.
From Salamander Flat, continue on the Madrone Trail to the intersection with the Meadow Trail and stay to the left. You’ll be in an Eucalyptus Grove, so take some time to explore the signature gum-tree “acorns” and strips of bark and leaves covering the trail. Next, take a left onto the Alambique Trail and really start your descent back to the parking lot.
There is a bench part way down with a wonderful view over Portola Valley and Stanford, out to the SF Bay. Feel free to stop at this bench, but beware it is surrounded by poison oak. Further down the trail on your left is the remains of an old-growth Redwood Tree. It is fun to climb and explore.
Back at the parking lot, take some time to visit the horses. You can watch them graze in the stables or practice jumping.