A Lack of Scenery and Signage on the Trail

July 2018 Hiking


The tale

San Jose is hot in mid-July, and I wanted a bit of exercise, so I decided to continue exploring the Santa Cruz Mountains. Sanborn County Park abuts Castle Rock State Park, 15 minutes southwest of Saratoga.

My first impression was of a rambling city park. Picnic tables and clumps of trees punctuated that wide-open spaces along a gentle hillside. Paved paths linked the ample parking lots to the various points of interest, including several sets of standalone restrooms.

There was also a $6 entrance fee, compared to the other free county parks I’ve visited so far.

I strolled along a paved path to the George Peterson Memorial Grove, which had eight or nine redwoods adjacent to an amphitheater with a covered stage. Nearby I found paper maps and began searching for the trailhead.

It wasn’t easy. The map wasn’t as detailed as the territory, and I had a few false starts before finding signs for the “nature trail.” Along the way I passed people building a stage and setting up an array of lights. Two of them held what looked like fencing foils. They discussed their moves while a third person, carrying a fake bow, looked on. A sign read, “play under construction.”

When I returned later, I also saw a sign directing people to a wedding, and families setting up two different kids’ birthday parties. Sanborn CP is not wild backcountry.

But my first impression belied the experience. At length I found the Peterson Trail, which climbed a steep hill through a dense forest. The air was still and warm. I passed other pairs of hikers, sometimes with dogs. My other companions were mosquitos and horseflies. I only found one scenic vista, and it was limited. If you like the green tunnel, this trail’s for you.

I haven’t mentioned the signage yet because there’s little to say. Several generations of trail markers weren’t as clear as other parks I’ve seen. Sometimes the trail would split with neither a marker nor a mention on the map in my pocket.

After a while I found the Sanborn Trail, which was narrower than the Peterson. Several trees had fallen across the path and been cut apart, weeping sap, though a recent fall still blocked the way. When I encountered other people going downhill, we had to wait for each other to pass.

The dusty trail crawled steadily uphill. The view was monotonous. I had no sense of how far I’d walked, or where the next junction was. In fact, I wondered if I’d passed it; maybe one of those last offshoots was the right way? I reached into my pocket to consult the map.

My pocket was empty.

Somewhere along the way it had fallen out. So I’m not sure at what point I decided to turn around, and I didn’t find it again as I retraced my steps.

One of my goals is to figure out how long it takes me to go a certain distance in varying terrain. My FitBit isn’t always reliable on the trail, so without being able to accurately measure miles, this trip was a bust.


Peterson Redwood Grove at Sanborn County Park.
Peterson Redwood Grove at Sanborn County Park..
Picnic area at Sanborn County Park.
Picnic area at Sanborn County Park..
Trail signage could use some love.
Trail signage could use some love..
If you like hiking the green tunnel, you could do worse.
If you like hiking the green tunnel, you could do worse..

For next time

  • They’ll take cash, Mastercard, and Visa, but be prepared to pay $6 per car.
  • There’s plenty of parking. Some of it is shaded. The place was less than a quarter full by noon on a hot Saturday.
  • Read the paper maps carefully. Better yet, find details online.
  • The trails are steep. If you want a challenge, you can do worse than the Peterson Trail climbing towards Andreas.
  • The dirt paths can be slippery. You might find trekking poles helpful, especially on the way down.