This 3,137-acre preserve known for its showy display of wildflowers in spring. In summer, the hills turn to gold with the late evening sunlight. Autumn, when the fog recedes, is the ideal time to enjoy the ridge views of San Francisco Bay and the Santa Cruz Mountains through the crisp, clean air. Winter storms occasionally dust the top of the hills with snow.
Diverse plant communities, miles of forest edge, and abundant springs make Russian Ridge an outstanding habitat for wildlife. Large numbers of raptors soar over the lush grasslands, and coyotes patrol the ridges. The steep forested canyons create a secure refuge for a tremendous variety of animals.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail continues north from Skyline Ridge Open Space Preserve along the ridge to Rapley Ranch Road, providing breathtaking views of both the Pacific Ocean and the San Francisco Bay. The trail passes by Borel Hill, the highest named point in San Mateo County, which offers a 360-degree view.
This trail leads from the Mindego Gateway parking area to the rest of the preserve. The extension of the trail to the top of Mindego Hill, which runs through areas where there are grazing cattle, is now open.
This trail graces its visitors with the stunning display of oak limbs arching over the trail to form a welcoming canopy. Leading to the new Mindego parking lot on Alpine Road, it can also be accessed from the Bo Gimbal Trail.
Preserve Highlights & Features
In the spring this preserve explodes with color as the native wildflowers – primarily poppies and lupine – put on a showy display. By May and June, gumweed, mules ears, farewell-to-spring, and brodiaea bloom.
Russian Ridge is one of the best places in the Bay Area to see raptors: Red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, Cooper's hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and golden eagles have all been seen on this preserve.
Stories from the Preserves
Here are some of the plants and animals that other visitors have observed at this preserve and recorded in iNaturalist. Protected species may be excluded and some species may not yet have been observed. Help improve iNaturalist by adding your observations to the Midpen Biodiversity Index project
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Know Before You Go
Preserve regulations help provide a safe, enjoyable visit while protecting sensitive areas and wildlife.
Share the Trail
Use designated trails to avoid damage to natural resources and prevent injury.
Avoid blocking the trail. Step aside to allow others to pass .
Whether you’re walking or biking, always yield to equestrians.
Leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. Most preserves do not have trash cans. Littering is prohibited.
Abuses of trail etiquette should be brought to the attention of a ranger or call the Midpen main office at 650-691-1200.
- The CalTrans Clouds Rest Vista Point opposite Russian Ridge Preserve gate #RR01 on Skyline Boulevard is currently CLOSED. CalTrans is working on issues with the automatic entry and exit gates. Parking is not currently available at this location.
Russian Ridge Car and Bike Parking (37 spaces): Located on the northwest corner of the Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) and Page Mill / Alpine Road intersection (across Skyline Boulevard on the right).
Caltrans Cloud Ridge Vista Point: Additional parking is located at the Caltrans vista point opposite Russian Ridge Preserve gate #RR01 on Skyline Boulevard.
Mindego Gateway Lot (20 spaces): Parking is available for 20 cars, a restroom, and access to trails that link Borel Hill, the Bay Area Ridge Trail and Alpine Pond. Mindego Gateway features the Audrey C. Rust commemorative site.
- Bicyclists: Bicycles are allowed on designated trails only (marked on map). Helmets are required. Observe the 15 mph trail speed limit (5 mph when passing). Avoid startling hikers and equestrians by announcing your presence when approaching from behind.For more information visit the Bicycle Access page.
- Equestrians: Horses are allowed on designated trails (marked on map). Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For more information visit the Equestrian Access page.
- Dogs: Dogs are not allowed in this Preserve. For information on dog-friendly preserves visit the Dog Access page. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Midpen accommodates service dogs in preserves wherever we allow public access.
- Fires are prohibited in preserves.
- Plants & Wildlife: Please leave undisturbed. If you encounter wildlife during a visit, do not approach, startle or feed it. Although wild animals are generally fearful of humans and will run away, some wildlife can be dangerous.
- Smoking is prohibited in preserves.
- Water Areas: Swimming, wading or engaging in any water-contact activity is prohibited.
- Weapons are prohibited in preserves.
A general access permit is required for any activity or event that:
- may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR
- would restrict the use of any part of Midpen lands by members of the public; OR
- requests or requires a fee be paid or a donation made for participation. This includes events where the fee is in the form of a mandatory purchase, such as a t-shirt.
Midpen trails and facilities are generally very safe. However, you are entering an environment where there are some naturally occurring hazards. Reasonable caution and common sense should be utilized when venturing into any outdoor environment.
- Do not leave valuables in your vehicle! Lock your vehicle and store valuables out of sight or take them with you on the trail.
- Travel in groups of two or more. Two of more people can assist each other in the event of an accident or emergency.
- Dress for the environment. Temperature changes can be occur and you should dress in layers appropriate for the location, time of year and planned activities.
- Carry water with you. Drinking water is not available at most Midpen preserves so you should bring your own. Two quarts per person per two hour hike is recommended.
- Apply sunscreen and drink plenty of water prior to and during your outdoor activities.
- Be aware that cell service is very sporadic on the preserves.
Be Prepared and Aware
Plan ahead before you leave. Check regulations and weather, download a map, pack water and first aid.
Know your limits and take safety precautions.
Rattlesnakes are native to this area and are especially active in warm weather.
Poison oak grows on most preserves: Learn to identify and avoid it in all seasons.
Ticks are present in this area and may carry diseases.
Mountain lions are a natural part of this region’s environment and are occasionally seen.
In Case of Emergency
If you experience an emergency (fire, accident or other immediate threat to life or property), call 911. For nonemergencies, call 650-691-1200.
Activities & Events
Russian Ridge was named for Mr. Paskey, a Russian immigrant who grazed cattle and ran a dairy farm here from about 1920 to 1950. Paskey originally leased his land from James "Sunny Jim" Rolph, Jr., then mayor of San Francisco, and later California's governor.
Native Americans are thought to have used the area for gathering seeds, and may have burned some of the grasslands to encourage a bountiful crop the following years.
Borel Hill, is named for Antonio Borel, a Swiss banker who lived here from 1885 to 1910. Borel was involved with the Spring Valley Water Company, which later created Crystal Springs Reservoir.
The district began acquiring the preserve in 1978, through a series of complex transactions, from its owners, who were planning to subdivide and build houses.