Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve is a 1,600-acre outdoor adventure located at the junction of Highway 35 and Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Sempervirens Fund provided critical support for acquisition of portions of this preserve.
Dedicated as part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, the nearly two-mile long, multi-use trail parallels Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35), and connects with trails leading to Sanborn-Skyline County Park, Castle Rock and Big Basin State Parks, Upper Stevens Creek County Park, as well as Long Ridge, Skyline Ridge, and Monte Bello preserves. The Trail passes underneath spreading branches of weathered oaks before dropping into a cool, wooded Douglas fir forest. This trail ends across from the Hickory Oaks trailhead at Long Ridge Open Space Preserve.
Preserve Highlights & Features
Lichen and Moss
Attractive moss-covered trees, lichen-covered boulders and sandstone rock outcrops add to the scenic value of this area.
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
Join our e-mail list to stay up-to-date on this preserve and other Midpen news!
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.
- No reported trail closures.
Saratoga Gap Vista Point Parking Area (30 spaces + 1 ADA): Located on the southeast corner of the Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) and Highway 9 intersection, on Caltrans property. Cross Highway 9 to reach the trailhead for Saratoga Gap Open Space Preserve, located at the northeastern corner of this junction.
Saratoga Gap Roadside Parking (5 spaces)
- 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). E-bikes are not allowed on most Midpen trails. Avoid startling hikers and equestrians by announcing your presence when approaching from behind. For more information visit the Bicycle 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.
- Drones and Model Aircraft: Drones, model airplanes and model rockets are NOT allowed.
- Equestrians: Horses are allowed on designated trails (marked on map). Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For more information visit the Equestrian Access page.
- 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
The steep hillsides hold oak and mixed-evergreen forests that once yielded bark for tannin as well as wood for charcoal, both important commodities for early settlers. The District acquired the first parcel of the Preserve in 1974 from Paul and Nessie Cheseborough, supporters of open space, who made a gift of about 165 acres to the District. Sempervirens Fund, provided critical supporter for acquisition of parts of this Preserve.
Brochures and Resources
Some additional resources to help you enjoy the preserves!