West Ridge Loop

West Ridge Trail to Ridge Connection Trail to Loma Prieta Grade to Aptos Creek Fire Road
7.9 miles; 3.5 hours; 600 feet elev. gain; moderate to strenuous

The West Ridge Trail is the go-to trail for serious hikers looking to train, since it is the steepest graded trail in Nisene. While the other trails in the park are graded to about 20 percent, the West Ridge Trail exceeds that angle at several points, making it the most physically challenging trail in the park, according to former park ranger Gene Ervin. The trail also includes a fair number of switchbacks. It runs north of China Camp and was once used by loggers coming in from the bars in Soquel on horseback to visit the brothels, according to Ervin.

Park at the steel bridge and head up the Aptos Creek Fire Road for about a half-mile. The West Ridge Trailhead is on the left just past a slight dip in the road. It immediately begins climbing through redwood and evergreen forest. About 1.5 miles in, an overlook at 870 feet offers views of Cabrillo College and the sea. After approximately another 1.5 miles, the Ridge Connection Trail leads off to the right and wends down approximately 1 mile to Loma Prieta Grade. (If you were to hike another 1.5 miles on West Ridge, you would reach the West Ridge Trail Camp; call 831.763.7063 to make reservations.) Turn right at Loma Prieta Grade and you’ll shortly be at the China Camp/Hoffman’s Historic Site. Not quite 2 miles farther on Loma Prieta Grade puts you back on Aptos Creek Fire Road near the Porter Family Picnic Area. From there it’s a little less than 1.5 miles back to the steel bridge, your chariot, your clean socks and dinner somewhere nice.

—Maria Grusauskas

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