Alpine Pond to Horseshoe Lake is a 3.5 mile loop trail located near La Honda, CA that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round.
This is one of the prettiest places in the string of open-space preserves along Highway 35, also known as Skyline Boulevard. That's saying something, given the abundant beauty in this stretch of the Santa Cruz Mountains between Santa Cruz and San Francisco. A nature center looks out over the lake. While it's possible to hike more than 20 miles at a stretch in the interconnected preserves of the Midpeninsula Open Space District, it's also nice to keep it simple with an easy stroll around a pond and a not-too-difficult hike to the hillsides nearby. This hike starts near Alpine Pond, moves on to the Ipewa Trail and loops back toward the pond via the Sunny Jim Trail. If you feel like more exploring, look for the Ohlone Indians' mortars behind a few rocks southwest of Alpine Pond. The Ohlones used these mortars to grind acorns into flour.
We went there with our almost 3years old son. The trail offered so many attractions for him and so much variety of the landscape that he walked for 2.2 miles all by himself. Starting from the parking lot, there is a small tunnel under the road entering the wild area. That was already a highlight for him - running and shouting through it and getting all the echo in return :) Then you reach the Alpine pond - another highlight by itself. After we spent 20-30 minutes playing around it, we went for the hike. You have a climbing (~200 feet elevation) on the northern side of the trail. It goes through the wood, so we had shadow during the climbing. While it was bit chilly (in March), this would be perfect for hotter days. The return goes on the south side and the landscape changes a lot. This part of the trail is sunny. It offers an awesome view to the Pacific ocean. A lovely wooden bench under a lonesome tree was one of the highlights here - great to take a 10-15 minutes break. Reaching back the pond, we found the small Indians' mortars site - no need to mention how exciting this was for our son :)
There is a small short-cut from the northern side to the southern side right next to the top. We saw that our son won't make the whole track, so we got the short-cut - one more great feature of this trail for families bringing their little explorers outdoors for the first time.
Next time, we hope we will make the full track.
We followed this guide today with 3 generations of my family. The trail is short and easy, which is great for small kids. The tour stops (POIs) are well laid out along the trail and make for an engaging experience. It really makes this otherwise straightforward hike a lot more interesting, and you notice things you wouldn't notice by just following the trail without the guide.
The Daniels nature center was the highlight for the kids, esp the life-sized food chain puzzle on the wall. There are 2 picnic tables next to the nature center.
Everyone had a great time. Highly recommended.
* There is no cell phone data coverage, so make sure you download everything to your device ahead of time.
* The temperature here can be quite a bit lower than in the valley, due to elevation (about 700m / 2100 ft).
I wandered up to the Skyline Ridge open space this afternoon, and what a beautiful drive up! I had never been in the area before and it is a gorgeous. The trails are nice, well marked and fairly easy to navigate. I walked around for several hours, to the alpine pond, across some nice ridges and through large wooded valley. All in all a nice outing...