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To the California coastline: exploring Woodside Road

While most tourists take Highway 92 to cross over from the mid-peninsula to the coastal beaches of Half Moon Bay, some true beauty lies along a different route.

Russian Ridge Open Space Preserve is one of the many destinations along Woodside Road, also known as Highway 84. The park, located west of Palo Alto, offers a striking display consisting of 3,173 acres of wildflowers and trees — perfect for a daytime hike or picnic deep in nature. All images courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

A sea of county parks and nature preserves, this route makes for a stunning, albeit longer, journey to the coast.

The winding Woodside Road that most call a highway (Highway 84), features an unruly and mystical forest that yields a more rewarding visit.

It is a 25-mile, never-ending maze of roads that travel through the seemingly untouched land beginning just north of Palo Alto. Invisible lines in the earth carve out the La Honda Creek, Windy Hill and Russian Ridge Open Space Preserves and the Sam McDonald and Pescadero Creek County Parks  — though the winding trails reveal nothing of these landmarks.

Every season bears a new experience through the trees: Summer lends a warm breeze whistling through the evergreens; autumn a quilt of green and gold as a select few shed their leaves; winter traps an unworldly fog beneath the thick sylvan cover and creates a palpable mist; spring blossoms in every nook and cranny of the lush wilderness.

Though a driver will pass by another car every once in a while along this more than scenic route, it’s rare to be stuck in a string of traffic. Of course, if there are too many other vehicles around for your taste, there is always another path available in the woods.

There is the danger of coming across a fallen tree blocking your way, though this is a small price to pay to witness nature at its purest.

The Walden-esque landscape will eventually lead to the coast, where the string of beaches is almost overwhelming.

While beach-goers tend to stick to the more inviting beaches, such as San Gregorio or Moss Beach, the inland-most shore of Pescadero Beach lends a more adventurous feel with its caves.

Just off of Woodside Road, Half Moon Bay is the perfect destination for a remote beach. With a population of just over 11,000 people, this coastal town is home to a variety of natural wonders including seastars, sea anemones and mussels dotting the sand.

Much like the treacherous Woodside Road route to the coast, Pescadero Beach boasts an uncanny wildness ­— with rock caves, sand dunes and tide pools.