Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Laurelwood Park in San Mateo is worth the drive.

Laurel Wood Park in San Mateo sits at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain in the hills above the city off DeAnza Blvd. To get there take the Deanza exit off HWY 92 and turn east (downhill) when you intersect DeAnza Blvd. Laurelwood Park sits in a low lying bowl off the right side of the road and is impossible to miss as you drive by. This park is popular with the locals renting out the pavillion area for parties and the playground always has childeren playing. Adults love it too because of the trails that criss-cross up and down this mountain.

My wife and I both needed work done on our cars this weekend so I had her follow me up to the repair shop in San Mateo just off 101 in the downtown area. We dropped the cars, her sister came over to the shop and picked her and the baby up and they headed off while I went for an adventure run through San Mateo. I had a general idea of where I wanted to go in upper San Mateo but was not sure exactly how to get there. I made my way across town via S Delaware St until I had to turn right on 25th St. From there I ran up into the hills west of El Camino Real. I eventually found my destination just off DeAnza Blvd, Laurelwood Park, and headed into the unknown. I saw a runner in the distance heading into the woods on a paved path and I figured that would lead me to some trails, so I followed.

Laruelwood Park with a paved path heading into the distance.
The paved path lead me into and right back out of the park dropping me into another neighborhood within a very short distance. I stopped as the other runner continued on through the neighborhood. I figured I must have missed the trails that everyone talks about.  I turned around and ran back into the park. On my left I noticed a trail leading off into the woods. It looked like an old animal run that was fairly overgrown, it couldn't be a trail that was used daily but it will likely lead me to a good trail. I followed it for a just a few hundred yards through thick trees and brush barely being able to maintain 10 minute pace until it turned uphill. It was steep at first but within a minute it was a whole different situation. I quickly found myself looking for foot holds to step on and tree roots and branches to grab a hold of and basicly pull myself up the side of this hill. I scrambled under some brush, did a bit of rock climbing and finally found myself on top of Sugarloaf Mountain. Immediately I saw a few different trails all converging at the top  and I knew I took the one and only WRONG way to get up there.

The aptly named Steep Trail in Laurelwood Park 
You can see for miles and miles in a 360° view from up there. I spotted a trail in the distance that looked like a way out of the park and into the neighborhoods of upper Belmont off of Ralston Ave. I headed down what I later learned to be the aptly named Steep Trail and aimed myself southwest in the direction of that trail. Not long down this trail I spotted another trail that looked kind of like an animal run leading off into the woods but I saw some mountain bike tire tracks in the soft dirt and I knew this was more than just an animal run. It ended up being an overgrown trail due to an apparent lack of use. I wound through the canyon and finally popped out on Ralston Ranch Road. This is a one way neighborhood road that is very close to  Ralston Rd and the park & ride lot near HWY 92.

My first time looking around Laurelwood Park was awesome. I got to go on two adventures on unmarked trails and saw plenty of other routes to explore on my next visit. Sugarloaf Mountain is NO JOKE when it comes to hill climbing practice! I need this extremely steep climbing to prepare me for the Lynch Canyon Trail Run in June so I will certainly be back for round 2.