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Monte Bello and Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserves

Date: (Sun.) Oct. 7, 2007
Location: Palo Alto, CA
Event Director: - 206.913.3790
Course Setter: Kent Ohlund
Type: B; Regular 7-course BAOC event

October 7 brings us to the San Francisco peninsula for our annual fall meet at the neighboring Monte Bello and Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserves.

We will offer White, Yellow, Orange, Brown, Green, Red, and Blue courses (see below). Advanced courses will take place in Monte Bello. White, Yellow, and Orange courses will take place in Skyline Ridge. All courses will use electronic punching. (If you're not familiar with electronic punching, see our User's Guide.)

Beginner clinics will be offered continuously from 9:30 to 10:30 A.M.

Bonus: An intermediate clinic will be offered at 10:30. Dan Greene will be the instructor. It will last 30-45 minutes. In the past, Dan has written, "These clinics are designed for orienteers trying to move to more advanced courses (Orange, Brown, Green, Red, Blue), so the clinics are best for those who have already tried Orange or more advanced courses and who are interested in getting better—although all are welcome."

Starts will be offered during the usual window of 10:00 A.M. to 12:30 P.M. The Start for White, Yellow, and Orange will be right next to registration, with a 2-minute walk to return from the Finish. Allow 15 minutes to walk to the Start for the advanced courses (900m flat/downhill).

Courses will close at 2:00 P.M. Everyone must check in at the Finish by then, even if they have not finished their course.

Parking and registration will take place in the Skyline equestrian parking lot. There is no running water at the site; please bring your own. There is no cell phone reception in the parking lot, but there is reception about a mile north along Skyline.

The parking lot is small, and it is a condition of our permit that we arrange carpooling. PLEASE CARPOOL from the Park 'n' Ride lot on Page Mill Road at 280. See the Carpool Information below for details. When you arrive, follow the instructions of the parking attendant.

Because of the sensitivity of the area, we must restrict the number of participants. Please do not bring any groups of 8 or more people.

This venue is known to be hot in the early fall. Get weather updates at ( This link shows the weekend forecast for nearby Portola Valley; my impression is that it will be warmer where we are.


This venue requires parking attendants, crossing guards, first aid staff, and communications liasons. Thus, we require more volunteers here than at most meets. As of Thursday, October 4, all volunteer positions are filled. Many thanks to those who stepped forward.

Course Notes

Skyline Ridge and Monte Bello are preserves. We are privileged to be able to use them for orienteering. The rangers have asked that we try to avoid reinforcing unofficial trails, especially if the ground is muddy. You cannot tell from the map which trails are unofficial, but you can often tell from the ground.

The usual seven courses will be offered. We are utilizing Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve for the White, Yellow, and Orange courses. The advanced courses, Brown, Green, Red, and Blue, are set in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve across the road from the parking area. None of the courses will cross Skyline Blvd. Only people going to and returning from the advanced courses will cross the road—please be careful, as traffic can be moving fast.

Here are the course statistics:

  Course     Distance     Climb    Controls
  White       2.2 km       50 m       13
  Yellow      2.7 km      160 m       13
  Orange      2.8 km      210 m       11
  Brown       2.9 km      210 m       10
  Green       3.9 km      250 m       13
  Red         5.4 km      330 m       18
  Blue        6.0 km      510 m       21

Apart from the usual steepness, the grasses and the thistles add obstacles and will stick to your clothing, so gaiters are highly recommended. You will see some poison oak, but it is mostly avoidable. The only course that should not have any trouble with dry grasses is the White course; all the other courses will encounter grasses in various forms. Poison oak should not be a problem on White, Yellow, or Orange, although Orange runners may encounter it depending on routes taken. Generally PO is marked as light green or hashed green on the maps.

The Blue, Red, and Green courses will have the most exposure to poison oak. There are only a few sections that are somewhat problematic. In some cases there will be a ground cover of ankle-high plants with no leafs, but for the most part you will see plants that can be avoided if you recognize the plant.

On the Skyline Ridge map, a couple of areas that have tree or willow restoration projects have been marked as out of bounds on the maps. This should not cause any problems, but please respect the areas marked as out of bounds.

On the Monte Bello map, a couple of ponds, including the surrounding area, have been marked as out of bounds due to protected red-legged frog habitats. Please respect these out-of-bounds areas as well.


In these preserves we have the usual Bay Area hazards: poison oak, ticks, rattlesnakes, and mountain lions. The only one you are likely to encounter is poison oak. Check out our What are the hazards? page for photos of poison oak and information on how to prevent a rash and how to treat one if you get one. The same page also has a link to information on ticks.

It is unusual to see a rattlesnake, and extremely rare to see a mountain lion. If you encounter either, back away slowly. More details about how to respond are posted on the Preserve trailhead signs.


Be aware that this area is remote. It will take 30 minutes to an hour for services to arrive in case of emergency. There is no cell phone service at the registration/start/finish area, so we may need to drive a mile just to call 911.

Report emergencies to (a) the Event Director in the parking lot, or (b) the Crossing Guard Both of these people have the ability to radio an event staff person who has cell phone reception.

Club member and nurse practitioner Joan Roos has the following advice in the case of a life-threatening emergency out on a course:

Between 10:00 A.M. and 2:00 P.M., a First Aid staff person with CPR skills will be on duty.

About Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

From the park website:

Italian for "beautiful mountain," Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is a place of rolling grasslands, dense creekside forests, and spectacular vistas. The 2,758-acre preserve is one of the District's richest in wildlife and ecosystem diversity. Hawks soar overhead, bobcats hunt, and deer browse. The preserve encompasses the upper Stevens Creek watershed from Monte Bello Ridge to Skyline Ridge. The Stevens Creek riparian corridor is considered to be one of the finest in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Monte Bello Ridge and Black Mountain provide the scenic backdrop to the communities of Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Cupertino. Settlers to this area named one of their towns Mountain View because they had a view of Black Mountain. From the top of Black Mountain, you can see an incredible view of Santa Clara Valley and over to the Mt. Hamilton Range. On clear days, you can see beautiful sunsets from the Black Mountain backpack camp. Or, you can watch the fog roll in from the coast. As the fog breaks like a giant wave over the peninsula, you can see why it is often referred to as "waterfog."

Stevens Creek follows the San Andreas Fault through the preserve. From the vista point at the start of the Stevens Creek Nature Trail, look down Stevens Creek Canyon to see Mt. Umunhum and Loma Prieta, the site of the 1989 earthquake. For more information about earthquakes, visit the self-guided San Andreas Fault Trail at Los Trancos Open Space Preserve on Page Mill Road, across from Monte Bello Open Space Preserve.

Dairy ranching was prevalent in this area and Monte Bello Ridge was once dotted with cattle. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this area was the site of several ranches: the Black Mountain Ranch, the Stevens Creek Road Ranch, and the Monte Bello Ranch. The Waterwheel Creek Trail follows an old ranch road, where you can see remnants of orchards and vineyards.

Carpool Information

The official carpool meeting place is the Park 'n' Ride at 280 and Page Mill Road. For most of you, this will be right on the way to the event. If you are coming from the north, it's just across Page Mill Road after stopping at the end of the exit ramp. If you are coming from the south, turn left (west) after exiting, then turn left again at the stop sign after passing under the freeway. Please, if you pass by this area on your way to the event and don't have a full vehicle, stop here and offer a ride, or wait for a ride yourself.

Driving Directions

For the GPS'ers, finding these coordinates might be more interesting than following the textual directions:

N 37 18.650
W 122 10.355

From I-280 in Palo Alto, take the Page Mill Road exit and, after checking in at the Park 'n' Ride (see above), head west (uphill) just under 10 miles to the stop sign at Skyline Blvd. Turn left (cross traffic does not stop!). Proceed about one mile on Skyline and turn right into the parking lot for Skyline Ridge OSP. Park in the lot to the left (the equestrian lot), after negotiating the traffic circle.

An alternate, somewhat faster route from the South Bay is to come up Highway 9 from Saratoga and after 7.5 miles, turn right onto Skyline Blvd. Go about 5-1/2 miles to the Skyline Ridge OSP and turn left into the parking lot.

From the north, it is prettier and less curvey to take Skyline Blvd. south from the Hwy 35 exit off I-280 near San Mateo. (Hwy 35 is Skyline Blvd.) From this exit you will have about a 35-minute drive. Immediately after the exit you will have a few decision points; just keep following the signs to Skyline Blvd. / Hwy 35 and soon you will be on a beautiful stretch of two-lane highway. Halfway there, at the junction with Woodside Road, you can visit the legendary Alice's Restaurant.