Just south of San Francisco, balancing on the ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains, lies a highway of great roadside stops and vistas.
Every day a hundred thousand drivers on Interstate 280, south of San Francisco, look west to a lofty Santa Cruz Mountain ridge, then zip past the easy access to it at Highway 92. Here's what they miss: redwoods, wildflowers, and stunning roadside vistas on Skyline Boulevard, or Highway 35, as it follows the ridge top south to Saratoga. To best enjoy the sights, allow four hours.
EL CORTE DE MADERA CREEK OPEN SPACE PRESERVE After a winding nine-mile drive from Highway 92, stretch out under the 1,800-year-old redwood locals call Methuselah. Then take the Tafoni Trail to rare honeycomb sandstone formations. (Download a trail map from the Web site.) (650) 691-1200, www.openspace.org.
ALICE'S RESTAURANT This roadhouse diner is a popular lunch spot for hungry hikers, battered mountain cyclists, and tattooed bikers. Fuel up on omelets or specialty burgers such as the Harley. (650) 851-0303, www.alicesrestaurant.com.
THOMAS FOGARTY WINERY For $6 you can sip five of winemaker Michael Martella's creations, including a juicy blend dubbed barbiolo. Then soak up the sweeping views of San Francisco Bay. (650) 851-6777, www.fogartywinery.com.
YERBA BUENA NURSERY Part nursery, part botanic garden, Yerba Buena specializes in native California plants. Stroll paths lined with redwoods, oaks, and cypresses or picnic by the 1905 farmhouse. (650) 851-1668, www.yerbabuenanursery.com.
RUSSIAN RIDGE OPEN SPACE PRESERVE Ready to get wild? Look for patches of buttercups, Johnny-jump-ups, and loads of other wildflowers at this 1,800-acre tract. Keep an eye to the sky; red-tailed hawks and golden eagles are known to soar here.
CASTLE ROCK STATE PARK A small canyon full of mossy boulders, ancient oaks, and dusky firs hugs Saratoga Gap Trail as it passes 60-foot-high Castle Rock Falls. (408) 867-2952, www.parks.ca.gov.
Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in May 2006. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.