Right off of California’s Highway 35, Alpine Road passes Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve and Skyline Ridge Preserve on its route from the San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. Alpine Road probably began as a Native American walking trail and later became a way for Mexican Rancheros and then loggers to cross over the Santa Cruz Mountains. Today, it’s a favorite trip for motorists.
The name “Alpine” is said to be derived from a Californio-owned ranch on the west side called “El Pino” (the pine tree). In the 1830s, it became a wagon road between the two ranchos granted to Antonio Buelna and was known as “The Old Spanish Trail.” When logging gained traction, it became a primary route used to access the redwoods west of the summit.
Two Adjacent Preserves
A tunnel from the parking lot of the Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve leads to the lovely spring-fed Alpine Pond and the David C. Daniels Nature Center in the adjacent Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve. Both of these preserves offer extensive trails and beautiful views.
The Russian Ridge Preserve
If you visit Russian Ridge, be sure to stop by the nature center for a historical overview and biology lesson about the pond.
The Skyline Ridge Preserve
Much of the Skyline Ridge Preserve was once owned by the popular San Francisco mayor and California governor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph, Jr. Between 1907 and 1934, Rolph acquired over 3,000 acres of surrounding territory. Sunny Jim earned his nickname by virtue of his expansive personality and his habit of assuring Californians that everything would come up rosy during the Great Depression. On the campaign trail, he was accompanied by a band playing his theme song, “There Are Smiles That Make You Happy.” He died in 1934, toward the end of his term as governor. After his death, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was unofficially dedicated to him, although few sources acknowledge him.
The Skyline Ranch was then occupied by Charles Howard, owner of Seabiscuit, the famous race horse. John Rickey also raised his prize-winning pigs here. Rickey’s goal was to breed the leanest pork for his restaurants, including the former Dinah’s Shack, in Palo Alto. Part of the preserve is now leased to a Christmas tree grower. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, you may cut your own tree after carefully selecting one of the thousands available.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
Much of the information in this tour comes from a book called The South Skyline Story by Janet Schwind and the Skyline Historical Society, 2014. It is a well written, fun and informative read from the Native Americans, through the early loggers and ranchers, commune dwellers, wine makers, conservationists and homebuilders. You can get a copy at Alice’s Restaurant in Skylonda (the junction of Highways 35 and 84) or by contacting Skyline History President Chuck Schoppe, email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 408-867-9229.
- The South Skyline Story, by Janet Schwind. Skyline Historical Society website, 2014. Accessed 2015.