Star Creek Ranch is nestled at the heart of the Pajaro Hills. Though on the smaller side for a ranch in the area, its 1,200 acres host an abundance of wildlife and breathtaking views from Mt. Hamilton to the Monterey Peninsula. This hidden slice of California’s past overflows with oaks, rolling hills, redwoods, creeks and miles and miles of trails.
Obstacles to Access
We want to share this amazing land with as many people as possible (believe us, you want to see it too!), but we face one major barrier: Star Creek Ranch is surrounded by private land and there’s only one way in and out. The Land Trust holds a low-impact “access easement” on that small dirt road, and with this in mind, we figured out a solution to the problem!
In the spring of 2014 we launched our Star Creek Adventures series! Haven’t been on one? Keep clicking through the slides. We’ll give you the picture!
The Road In
Your adventure begins with a slow, 20-minute drive down a dirt road, through the iconic grassy slopes that make up the Pajaro Hills. Take in the neighboring ranchland as you drive. You’ll be going a cool 10 miles per hour, after all. The hills are covered in seasonal wildflowers, coveys of quail, and the grasses are grazed by cattle.
Three miles down the road, the landscape has changed. You’ll see redwoods interspersed with oaks and buckeye, and finally a big, open meadow. You’re at Grand Central. Park here and head over to the orientation station to receive a “choose-your-own adventure” trail map. Like to mountain bike? Maybe you’d prefer to take a shuttle ride or spend the day on foot. We’ll send you in the right direction and once you’re off, the adventure is up to you!
Hike along Oak Road for a mostly-shaded, 2.5-mile journey under a canopy of mixed oak and redwood. Once you reach the top, walk out to the giant oak tree. You’re standing in the Santa Cruz Mountains looking at the Diablo and Gabilan ranges to the east and south, respectively. It’s from here that the protection of this property really starts to make sense: Star Creek Ranch is an essential wildlife corridor, and you can SEE the connection between landscapes.
This 3.5-mile road takes you from the giant oak to High Point (or the reverse, of course). The hike along Ridge Road is among the most scenic on the property—with sweeping views of the Pajaro Hills, and to your right, a 1,000-foot drop into a redwood canyon. This hike is mostly sunny with varied terrain. Up, down, up, down—but you probably won’t notice because the views are so good.
Congratulations, you made it to the top! No, seriously. No matter which way you came, that hike was a doozy. Time for a swig of water and some stunning views. Enjoy the wind in your face, friend! You’re at an elevation of 1,560 feet, and from here you can see from Mt. Hamilton to Monterey Bay. If it’s springtime, be sure to look down because you’ll be surrounded by California poppies and lupines.
Black Canyon Trail
If you want to find peace at Star Creek Ranch, the 3-mile Black Canyon Trail is probably your best bet. It’s QUIET in that canyon, and the silence holds a comforting weight. It’s as if the redwoods and low, long-armed oaks are hugging you. As you approach High Point, you’ll snap out of it though. The hike gets EXTREMELY STEEP there. Be sure to stop for a picnic along Pescadero Creek.
Take the High Road
As the shortest route to High Point, High Point Road is quite steep. 1,200 feet of elevation gain. Take a shuttle to the top, using your no-work ride as an opportunity to scope your hiking or mountain biking options for the way down. Seven trails intersect High Point Road, so your options are ample!
Looping the Lupine Loop
The hike around Lupine Loop is short—0.7 miles to be precise—but in that short distance, you gain a lot of elevation. Remember, this route is HIKING ONLY (sorry, mountain bikers). From behind the “Cabin” you’ll go through an oak forest, then uphill past open meadows of lupine, ultimately meeting up at “Picnic Meadow”. Stop here.
The Picnic Meadow
If you want to avoid the winds that often plague High Point (its ONLY unfortunate feature, we swear!), eat your lunch here. You’ll be ready for it anyway. You climbed 675 feet from Grand Central! Besides, this meadow is, in every sense of the word, perfect. Relax and enjoy the view!
North Fork Trail
North Fork Trail cuts to the east of Star Creek—yes, the creek after which this property is named! You’ll hike 1.3 miles along Pescadero Canyon to reach High Point. Redwoods galore, don’t despair! Along the way, you’ll pass a 1940’s Girl Scout camp and a lovely meadow filled with buttercups. Stop to refuel here. The trail gets pretty steep towards the end.
South Fork Trail
Hikers, KEEP OUT. Mountain bikers, don’t let this short, 0.9-mile ride to the Ridge Road fool you. It is a serious challenge! That’s why we suggest getting up to High Point a different way, and coming down South Fork Trail. Shredding down the steep section (nearest Ridge Road) is a blast! South Fork Trail is home to probably A TON of California newts, banana slugs, and a scary-looking green bog.
Until Next Time...
Thank you for adventuring with us at Star Creek’s Virtual Ranch! The success of our live-action 2014 Star Creek Adventure Days has paved the way for so many opportunities. Tell us what you’d like to see next! A day for mountain biking? Maybe a day reserved for equestrian use only? We’ll do our best to make your adventure dreams come true.