Follow the Bear Gulch Trail behind the historic Folger Stable from the parking lot. At the first intersection, continue straight through the gate to continue on the Bear Gulch Trail. The trail meanders up the mountain side, zigzagging through an Oak Woodland and Redwood Groves. Pass the intersection with the Madrone Trail and the Redwood Trail to continue up to The Meadows. The bench at the meadow is a perfect place to stop for a snack or picnic and enjoy the “Sound of Music” views of the Santa Cruz mountains in the distance.
After you’ve refueled, head out to your left on the wider Meadow Trail through the Meadow, past some Coast Live Oaks just asking to be climbed. Stay on the Meadow Trail at the next intersection (to the left) and again at the following intersection (to the right). You’ll be passing through some Eucalyptus Groves with their strips of bark, long thin leaves, and acorns covering the ground. The trail is wide, but very steep in places, so make sure you have your safety strap securely around your wrist if you’re using a jogging stroller on this trail.
The Meadow Trail flows into the Alambique Trail. Follow it to your left and continue on it down to the parking lot. There is a bench part way down with a beautiful view over Portola Valley, Stanford and out to the SF Bay and East Bay on a clear day.
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.
Hike past the horse training area and historic buildings to enter the trail. It is a wide fire road in good condition, but beware of the occasional rut or root. Small-wheeled strollers and joggers without locking front wheels should avoid this route, as ruts run deep and occasionally all the way across the road, making navigation difficult. If you want to use a jogger, lock the front wheel and use the tether.
The road climbs gradually uphill for much of Alambique Trail. Turn right to follow Loop Trail back to the parking lot, turning right and following the access road for the last tenth of a mile.