Last Saturday morning, we enjoyed a wonderful family hike in the Sanborn County Park located near Saratoga. We hiked from Lake Ranch Trail to John Nicholas Trail South, about 4.8 mile out and back. The trail is rated as moderate and offers a number of activity options, including mountain biking, fishing, and picnicking. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

The beginning climb was a little rocky and steep, but fortunately the trail was fully shaded by large trees. Along the path, beautiful wild flowers were blooming and happy birds were singing. As a pleasant surprise, a miniature fairy house under “quarantine” was residing peacefully to the left hillside. After about 20 minutes, we reached the top of the steep hill. The lake view is so beautiful and refreshing!

To connect to John Nicholas Trail, we walked along the lake shore path, a little too narrow if other hikers are coming from the opposite direction.  Good that another path runs in parallel along the hillside, so people could easily switch to the other path for social distancing.  

On the John Nicholas trail, we loved seeing creeks and redwood giants. Mountain biking is very popular on this trail, because it is wide and flat. We noticed most people biked from the Black Rd entrance of John Nicholas Trail to the lake, which is a nice destination for fishing and picnicking. We only saw one bicyclist accessing the lake from the Ambrose Rd entrance of Lake Ranch Trail, pushing his bike up the steep hill. Please stay alert at each turning point to avoid collision with the biking traffic, even though most bicyclists use bells or voices to make sure hikers hear them to pass safely. 

In general, this trail route from Lake Ranch to John Nicholas South is a nice choice for family hiking and biking. Portable restrooms are available for visitors in several locations. The only downside is the limited roadside parking. At the Lake Ranch Trail entrance, about 10 spots are available along Ambrose Rd, but more spots available at the John Nicholas Trail south entrance along the Black Rd. You may also bike there directly, or hike 2 miles from the SanBorn Park main entrance after parking. For more details, visit the park website at

Want more ideas for great hikes? Click here to go to our Walking and Hiking Resources Page.