Quicksilver County Park:
my Website on Almaden Quicksilver County Park
This is a big park, considering how close it is to the
city. Its 3600 acres encompasses most of the Los Capitancillos Ridge, which
runs almost the entire western length of San Jose's upscale Almaden Valley.
Its location at the southern end of the Santa Clara Valley provide some
spectacular views of the southern Bay Area. Its hills rise to over 1700
feet. From high points in the park, you can see most of the Silicon Valley.
On clear days, you can see the bay waters and bridges, the skyscrapers
of San Francisco and Oakland, the Diablo and Santa Cruz Ranges, and all
the way to Mt. Tamalpais in Marin. It's a great place in the springtime.
The grassy hills turn a rich green, and wildflowers of types and colors
bloom everywhere. It can get hot on the exposed trails in the mid-day summer
sun, but summer evening walks are great. There are only three entrances
to the park: McAbee Road at the north, Mockingbird Hill at the east, and
Almaden Road (the Hacienda Entrance) at the south. The latter is in the
historic town of New Almaden. The New Almaden Museum there has exhibits
on the history of the area. Here is a link
on its history. Here is another link
on a tour of the park and more background history on the mining activities.
Wildlife abounds in the park. I've personally seen more
deer than I can count, families of feral pigs, elusive bobcats, cute little
brush rabbits, and flocks of quail. This is mountain lion territory. I've
never seen one, but there are signs at the entrances warning about them
and what to do if you encounter one. Hawks and turkey buzzards constantly
roam the skies above.
There are 29 miles of trails in the park. Most are wide
and graded. Except for the New Almaden Trail, they allow hikers and equestrians.
Bicycles are not permitted. (It mystifies me why bicycles are not allowed
on the broad (10-12 foot) flat trails of Almaden Quicksilver, but are allowed
on some of the steep, narrow, blind-cornered trails of the Mid-Peninsula
Regional Open Space District. Oh well, different jurisdictions, different
politics.) Dogs are allowed on some trails. There are some new
trails being proposed. Here are the main trails:
The Mine Hill Trail is the main trail, running the entire
length of the park. It's a wide graded road that's 6.4 miles long. It rises
gradually but relentlessly from the Almaden Road entrance to Mine Hill
at over 1500 feet, following just below the oak-forested eastern crest
of the ridge. Just before the crest of the trail is a rest stop at the
fenced off entrance to the San Cristobal Mine. If you bring a flashlight,
you can peer down the mine tunnel. The trail crests at Bull Run, then follows
along the chaparral-covered top of the ridge before descending steeply
in places to the McAbee Road entrance. On the way, it passes through more
forests and grasslands, with the high-priced homes, riding stables, and
country club of the Almaden Valley in view. Taking the entire Mine Hill
Trail is an all-day effort, but shorter loops are possible. The most scenic
part of the trail is from the southern junction with the Penitencia Trail
to the junction with the Guadalupe Trail. Looking north, the view epitomizes
the wild and civilized parts of the Bay Area, with the undeveloped forested
slopes of the Sierra Azuls and the waters of Guadalupe Reservoir on the
left, the ridge of the park down the middle, and the housing tracts, shopping
malls, and high-tech industries of the Silicon Valley on the right. The
summit of Mine Hill is a restricted area that is accessible by guided tours
View from the Mine Hill Trail: Guadalupe Reservoir,
The April Trail is a short loop off the Mine Hill Trail.
It passes by a restored brick gunpowder storage house and a remnant of
a railroad trestle, with a big rusty metal ore-loading chute that looks
like an elevator. The trail passes below and over the trestle.
The Providencia Trail is short 1.2-mile loop off the higher
reaches of the Mine Hill Trail. It drops off in a steep downhill to pretty
little Providencia Pond, with scenic views of Guadalupe Reservoir and the
The Hacienda Trail is a butt-kicker
of a trail. It's not the longest trail in the park (3 miles), but it's
the steepest. It starts at the Mockingbird Hill Lane parking lot in a shady
forest. It then starts climbing steeper and steeper, in a series of switchbacks
with some grades exceeding 30%. The views become more and more impressive,
which is an incentive to keep climbing. The southern Almaden Valley is
visible below, as are the hills of Santa Teresa Park and the hilltop buildings
of IBM's Almaden Research Center. The trail reaches the crest of a ridgeline
and runs straight up and down the sides of several steep hills along the
ridge. (I guess the ridge was too narrow for switchbacks, or the road builder
was too lazy so he just went straight up the hill.) At one saddle, a short
branch runs to the west to join the Mine Hill Trail at Cape Horn Pass.
Further along, it hits the No Name Trail, which branches off to the north.
It then wraps around a wildflower-covered hill, descends into a wooded
valley, and rises to join the Mine Hill Trail near the Almaden Road entrance.
A nice loop trip is to take the Mine Hill Trail from Almaden Road, the
Hacienda Trail east and north, then back to the Mine Hill Trail via Cape
Horn Pass. A longer and much tougher loop is to take the Hacienda Trail
from Mockingbird Hill Lane, the Mine Hill Trail via Cape Horn Pass, down
to the southern trailhead of the Hacienda Trail, then back along the Hacienda
Trail to the No Name Trail, which leads back to Mockingbird Hill Lane.
The No Name Trail, which now has a name (the Virl O. Norton
Memorial Trail), but is still called the No Name Trail on the park maps,
is a 1.2 mile trail that starts at the Mockingbird Hill Lane entrance and
runs mostly level or downhill along low hills above houses and stables.
Just when you think this trail is a cakewalk, it rises steeply in a tough
climb to join the Hacienda trail.
The Senator Mine Trail is a short (.8 mile), easy trail that
starts at the McAbee Road entrance and passes by the ruins of the Senador
Mine. There you can find three huge two-story concrete ruins that were
once Hereschoff furnaces for the mine. Kids like to climb into the ruins
and play peekaboo through the vent holes. The trail then begins a steady,
sweeping, shady climb up a hill to reach the Guadalupe Trail.
The 2.3-mile Guadalupe Trail is probably the wildest and
most scenic of the multi-use trails. It's the farthest trail from the suburbs
of the Almaden Valley, though ironically it runs the closest to a public
road--Hicks Road on the west side of Guadalupe Creek--and comes the closest
to the Guadalupe Landfill. The trail begins on a hill at a junction with
the northern end of the Mine Hill Trail and the New Almaden Trail. It passes
through forests, and meets the Senator Mine Trail at a grassy pass (see
the picture below), with a lovely view of the towering Sierra Azuls. The
steep, narrow valley on the western side of the park is only sparsely inhabited.
The only signs of human habitation are narrow, winding Hicks Road, some
powerlines, and a few large homes. The trail winds down the grass-covered
hills to reach Guadalupe Creek. As the trail descends, it comes closer
to the lower slopes of the Sierra Azuls, whose solid green-carpeted slopes
resolve into individual trees. They contrast sharply with Almaden Quicksilver's
grass, scrub, and scattered oak tree-covered hills. There's a picnic table
for a rest stop on the shady bank of the creek. The trail runs through
the shade of trees along the creek bank, with steep hills on the left.
It then starts the climb to the top of Guadalupe Dam. A mine tailing pile,
some abandoned sheet metal buildings, and the huge concrete chute of Guadalupe
Dam's spillway are soon visible to the west of the trail. Suddenly, the
dam appears over a rise, and the waters of Guadalupe Reservoir appear behind
it, depending on the season. Unofficial fishing trails follow along the
east shore of the Reservoir. People also fish from the dam. I'm not sure
if this is legal, but I haven't seen anyone get in trouble for it. The
steep-walled spillway prevents crossing from the east end of the dam to
Hicks Road. While fishing is allowed on Guadalupe and Almaden Reservoirs,
eating the fish is not. The downside of the mercury mining history of the
area is the legacy of mercury contamination in the fish. Guadalupe Reservoir
is particularly beautiful when it's full, like it is after this El Nino
winter. The main trail continues its steady climb above the reservoir to
eventually meet up with the Mine Hill Trail. Deer can often be seen grazing
along the hills in this area.
Almaden Quicksilver County Park in spring (along
the Guadalupe Trail with the Sierra Azuls in the background)
The Randol Trail is a fairly level trail that winds in and
out of canyons along the middle of the eastern slope of the park's central
ridge for 4.7 miles. Trees provide shade on hot afternoons, as the sun
is on the western side of the ridge. The trail branches off of the Mine
Hill Trail at Cape Horn Pass and rejoins it just before the junction with
the Guadalupe Trail. Along the way are significant remnants of the mercury
mine. The Day Tunnel is a sealed off hillside mine tunnel, with a pool
and spring running out of it. Piles of mine tailings lie below it. Further
on are huge piles of mine tailings that lead to the ruins of the Buena
Vista Shaft. Here are huge granite-lined pits and foundations that once
held mining equipment. The Mine Hill and Randol Trails can be combined
for a day-long loop trip, starting with the tougher Mine Hill Trail and
returning on the flatter Randol Trail. The Great Eastern and Prospect trails
are short, steep connector trails that connect the Randol to the Mine Hill
The New Almaden Trail is a long (6.7 miles, the longest trail
in the park), winding trail that is a great trail to take if you want a
quiet, solitary walk in the woods. Even though this trail is closest to
the civilization, it takes you closer to nature and has more surprises
and varied terrain than the other trails. Unlike many of the other trails,
this one is heavily-shaded for most of its length, so it's a good trail
to take on hot days. Some areas are lush, with ferns and small creeks tumbling
down rocky ravines. It's a narrow, hiking-only trail, which can be a relief
for the nose compared to the other trails, which are popular among the
many equestrians in the Almaden Valley. Because the trail is so narrow,
it's not good for couples who like to walk abreast. When they say this
is a footpath, they're not just talking about its use, they're talking
about its width. Actually, in some places, it's barely as wide as your
foot, often overgrown by grass, so it's more like a wilderness trail than
the other trails, which are former mine roads. Watch out for ticks and
poison oak. The New Almaden Trail mostly runs along the lower portion of
the hills, along the eastern edge of the park. Because of the heavy forest
and lower altitude, you don't get the spectacular views of the higher trails,
but you do get some nice views forests, hills, and meadows. In some gaps
in the trees, you can see the million-dollar homes in the Almaden Valley.
It starts at the Mockingbird Hill Lane entrance and runs northwest to the
northern junction of the Guadalupe and Mine Hill Trails, then it drops
down steeply for a third of a mile in a narrow valley, past mountains of
mine tailings to join the Senator Mine Trail. There are no official branch
trails that lead into the park from the middle of the New Almaden Trail,
so you either have to make out-and-back trips from the ends of the trail,
make a car shuttle trip from one of the trail ends to the other, or make
a giant all-day loop trip with a return on the Mine Trail. I've only hiked
partway into the ends of the trail. The north end climbs high up and runs
fairly flat after it crosses the Mine Hill Trail, running in and out of
small wooded ravines. The south end starts lower down and climbs somewhat.
At the beginning stretch of the trail are interpretive plaques on the flora
and park history. It then drops down into a ravine behind some expensive
homes, then climbs gradually up a hillside. It crosses several small creeks
on wooden bridges. On one of these creeks is a nice, heavily-shaded picnic
area. As the trail climbs up over a hill, you can see both the Almaden
Valley and the valley in the park just below the Mine Trail. Someday I'll
try to hike the whole length of the trail when I have more time.
Here is a link on photographing
mushrooms in Almaden Quicksilver.
Rock Regional Park
This 730-acre park is administered by the city of San
Jose and is the city's oldest and largest park. It's located in a rugged,
rocky canyon on the foothills of the Diablo Range east of San Jose. It's
famous for its mineral springs that bubble out of little stone "temples"
that were built into the canyon wall many years ago. The springs drain
into a creek that runs down the heart of the park. The park is a popular
destination for city-dwellers, with grassy picnic and play areas and the
Youth Science Institute nature museum. Trails lead up the canyon walls.
Here are some Alum
Rock Park pictures.
Here is some information on Alum
Rock Park trails.
my Web pages on Arastradero Preserve
This 677-acre preserve is small for an open space preserve,
but is huge for a city park. The City of Palo Alto runs this hilly preserve,
which includes 6 miles of trails, mostly old ranch roads. The preserve
is located off Arastradero Road, a half-mile west of Page Mill Road, on
the west side of I-280. A few miles east is the northernmost and most research-oriented
part of Silicon Valley, anchored by Hewlett-Packard, Xerox PARC, and Stanford
University. However, in these hills, which are former ranchlands, the city
and modern technology seem far away. A short distance from the road, along
the Corte Madera Trail, is shady, reed-lined Arastradero Lake. Breaks in
the reeds allow fishing access. The Corte Madera Trail follows willow-lined
Arastradero Creek, with tree-covered slopes on both sides of the trail.
At the end of the trail is a small pond, surrounded by tall reeds. The
Meadowlark Trail runs through the middle of the preserve and leads up into
the grass-covered hills, with views of Palo Alto and the Bay below. Here
is a link on the wildflowers
at Arastradero Preserve.
This 2421 acre park is known for Calero Reservoir, a
popular motorboating, sailing, fishing, and waterskiing lake. However,
the park has 12 miles of back country trails in the hills surrounding the
lake. This is a very popular equestrian area (watch your step). The hills
offer fine views of Calero Reservoir and the Almaden Valley. Wildflowers
cover the grassy slopes in the spring. Oak forests provide shady walks
in the summer. Two small trailside ponds are pleasant surprises along the
trails. Calero often has excellent bass fishing, but fishing is strictly
for sport, since mercury contamination, as in Almaden and Guadalupe Reservoir,
renders the fish hazardous to eat. Here is a link on photographing
the wildflowers and wildlife at Calero.
Adams County Park
This tiny 4-acre park is small but mighty. It is located on a shady
scenic spot on Uvas Creek near Gilroy. It is rich in history. Its heritage
dates back thousands of years to the Ohlone Indians.
R. Levin County Park
This 1544 acre park in the eastern foothills above Milpitas
has a wide variety of activities. It has lawn and picnic areas. Fishing
is popular at Sandy Wool Lake, which is stocked with trout in season. Spring
Valley Pond is a popular kid's fishing lake. A 16-mile network of trails
run through grasslands and oak forests. Monument Peak is the park's high
point at nearly 2600 feet.
D. Grant County Park
This is the largest of the Santa Clara County Parks,
at 9522 acres. It lies in narrow, steep-walled Hall's Valley, one ridge
east of the Santa Clara Valley and one ridge west of Mt.
Hamilton, whose Lick Observatory domes look down on parts of the park.
The park is a former ranch with 40 miles of trails along the valley, up
the steep slopes, along shady creeks, and to a number of small lakes and
ponds. The largest lake is Grant Lake, which is easily accessible and offers
a warmwater fishery. This park was a farm, and many farm buildings have
been preserved. Farming and ranching still goes on in the area. Don't be
surprised if you come face-to-face with grazing livestock on some of the
trails. Shaded picnic areas and campsites are available. Elevations range
from 1600 feet at Grant Lake, to around 2500 feet on the west side along
the Dutch Flat Trail, to nearly 3000 feet at Antler Point on the east side.
Like most parks in the Diablo Range, this park can get hot and dry in the
summer, but is covered with lush green grass and colorful wildflowers in
the spring. Here's a link on the wildlife and wildflowers of the park:
Area Ramblings - Joseph D. Grant County Park. Many trails run through
this park. Some are fairly level and run along the valley. Others wind
up the steep hills. A nice loop trail is the Loop Trail. It starts near
the park office, runs down the valley, up a hillside along a rocky creek,
meets Bass Lake, crosses Mt. Hamilton Road, runs down a shady ravine to
McCreery Lake, and comes back to the park office. Instead of looping back
to the park office, you can take the Canal Trail at the end of McCreery
Lake and follow an old irrigation canal to a short connector trail that
leads west to Grant Lake and east to the Los Huecos and Halls Valley Trails.
The Los Huecos Trail is a steep trail that goes almost straight up the
mountainside, passing through grazing land, and eventually hitting the
Canada de Pala Trail. The Halls Valley Trail is a more winding trail that
roughly parallels the Los Huecos Trail across a steep valley. It also ends
up at the Canada de Pala Trail. The latter is a long trail that starts
at 1600 feet where it intersects the Hotel Trail and ascends the mountains
to the park's high point at Antler Point. The Hotel Trail starts at the
park office and runs along the center valley of the park, climbing up the
eastern slopes to an elevation of over 2000 feet at the southern end of
the park at Eagle Lake and Pig Lake.
Madonna County Park
This 3219 acre park is located along the crest of the
Santa Cruz Mountains at Hecker Pass, between Gilroy and Watsonville. It
overlooks both Monterey Bay and the Santa Clara Valley. In its fog-washed
higher reaches are redwood forests. On its dryer lower slopes are oak forests,
chaparral, and grassy meadows. Tiny scenic Sprig Lake provides trout fishing
for young children. A pen holds a herd of rare white deer. There are camping
sites in the redwood forests.
This is one of the coolest of the county parks, temperature-wise.
It's a good place for hiking on a hot summer day. It's in a steep canyon
on the eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, deeply-shaded by redwood
trees. As a rule, if you want cool shade, find a redwood forest. The park
is also well-developed, with large grassy lawns, RV and walk-in campgrounds,
group picnic areas, manmade ponds, a youth hostel, and a nature center.
Short easy trails run through the redwoods and along the creeks on the
lower reaches of the park. The steeper Sanborn and San Andreas trails ascend
the mountains, reaching all the way to Skyline Blvd. along the summit of
the Santa Cruz Mountains. Summit Rock, which is a popular rock-climbing
spot with great views of Saratoga and the South Bay, is at the upper edge
of the park, easily accessible from Skyline Blvd. The park contains the
start of the Skyline Trail, which runs along the ridge of the mountains,
and the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail, which runs to the ocean. Lake Ranch Reservoir
is a small, scenic mountain lake at the southeastern side of the park,
separated from the main part of the park. It's accessible by a steep canyon
trail at the end of Sanborn Road, or a longer, but flatter trail starting
at Black Road. The latter, which runs high up along the sides of Lyndon
Canyon, is a lightly-used trail, but is very lush and shady, crisscrossed
by small streams tumbling into the steep-sided canyon, which was formed
by the San Andreas Fault.
Teresa County Park
See my Website
on Santa Teresa County Park
See the Website for
the Friends of Santa Teresa Park
Santa Teresa County Park in spring, looking down
the Fortini Trail to the Almaden Valley
This is my favorite park, primarily because it's the closest
open space park to me, but also because it's a beautiful park with a lot
to offer. It's a park that has gradually grown and changed over the years.
More and more surrounding property have been added to the park, until now
it covers 1688 acres. It's a smaller sister to Almaden Quicksilver, running
parallel to it along the Santa Teresa Hills. It ranges in altitude from
200 feet at the Santa Teresa Golf Course to 1155 feet at the top of Coyote
Peak, the highest point in the Santa Teresa Hills. The park has 14 miles
of trails. It guards the southern gate to the Silicon Valley. To the northeast
is the Blossom Valley/Santa Teresa area of San Jose, with its high-tech
industries and middle-class suburbs. Beyond that to the east is the high,
dry ridge of the Diablo Range, topped by Mount Mt Hamilton and the domes
of Lick Observatory at 4213 feet. To the southwest is the wealthy Almaden
Valley, the Los Capitancillos Ridge of Almaden Quicksilver County Park,
and the steep green Sierra Azuls, reaching 3486 feet at Mt. Umunhum. All
of this can be seen from the heights of the park.
Though smaller than Almaden Quicksilver, Santa Teresa
Park is more developed. Near its entrance is the public Santa Teresa Golf
Course. At the southern end of the golf course is a field archery range
that extends into the hills. In the center of the park in the Pueblo day
use area are parking lots, family and group picnic sites, restrooms, open
fields for sports, and a horse corral. At the top of one of the hills is
the off-limits Muriel Wright Girls' Ranch, run by the County Department
of Corrections. The main park road, Bernal Road, runs into the park and
ends at the entrance to IBM's Almaden Research Center, one of the premier
private research institutions in the world. Much of the land northwest
of the park is IBM property, part of which has been granted as an easement,
along the Stile Ranch Trail. Southeast of the park are hilly ranchlands,
which are owned by IBM, leased to cattle ranchers, and provide a backdrop
to the IBM Santa Teresa Programming Laboratory on Bailey Avenue.
Coyote Peak in fall, view from Rocky Ridge
Coyote Peak provides the best view
of the park and the southern Silicon Valley. There are several trails up
to Coyote Peak. The easiest way up is to park at the Pueblo day use area,
at 600 feet, then hike the remaining 500 feet up the Hidden Springs Trail
to the Coyote Peak Trail. The most challenging way is from the valley floor
entrance to the narrow winding Ohlone Trail, the moderately steep Coyote
Peak Trail, and the very steep Boundary Line Trail, with a total altitude
gain of 900 feet. At the top is a huge antenna tower, a porta-potty, horse
trough, and benches for resting and taking in the incredible 360-degree
view. On very clear days, you can see Mt. Tamalpais in Marin and the towers
of San Franciso and Oakland.
The park is a wildlife sanctuary. I almost always see
deer grazing there. I've seen huge wild turkeys on occasion. Quail, hawks,
and turkey buzzards are common. The park includes Coyote Peak and is on
the edge of the Coyote Valley. Once I was hiking on the Bernal Hill Loop
Trail and heard an eerie screaming cry. I looked up to see the silhouette
of a large doglike animal on the crest of the hill. It was a coyote. My
friends have seen bobcats on the trails. This is prime rattlesnake territory.
I almost ran over one that was stretched across the Fortini Trail. This
is also mountain lion territory, like most of the open spaces in the Bay
Area. I've never seen a mountain lion, but have heard of people seeing
them or their tracks.
Fall View from Coyote Peak looking east, Tulare
Hill, Diablo Range, and Mount Hamilton
Spring View from Coyote Peak, looking south, IBM
Santa Teresa Lab property in the foreground, Coyote Valley, Morgan Hill
in the distance.
Spring View from Coyote Peak, looking northwest,
Santa Teresa County Park and Hills
There are many trails through the park:
The main entrance to the park begins at Bernal Road and Heaton
Moor. A few parking slots are at the intersection. Bernal Road continues
into the park, climbing up the hills. A short walk from the entrance, just
before the Coyote Alamitos Canal on the left side of the road, is a gate.
Past the gate is the start of the nature trail. The nature trail goes into
narrow Laurel Canyon, with interpretive signs marking some of the trees
and bushes. The path parallels the creek. At the end of the trail is a
cool nook, with a small seasonal waterfall splashing down the rocks.
The Ohlone Trail is a narrow footpath that runs along the
lower and middle slopes of the east faces of the hills. It winds in and
out of shady ravines and across grass-covered hillsides. The easiest way
to access it is to take the path to the nature trail. You can take the
trail up the hill to the right to its end near the beginning of the Hidden
Springs Trail. Or you can take it to the left, where it passes above the
cool green lawns and placid lakes of the Santa Teresa Golf Course. It then
crosses the beginning of the Coyote Peak Trail in an oak woodland. The
Ohlone Trail continues along the hillsides, ending up near the entrance
to the archery range.
The Coyote Peak Trail starts off in a lush, shady oak woodland,
just above the largest pond in the golf course. It climbs up the hill,
alongside a valley strewn with moss-covered boulders. After .2 miles, the
Ridge Trail branches off to the right, while the Coyote Peak Trail climbs
steeply upward in a big loop to the right. It eventually joins the end
of the Hidden Springs Trail. Antenna-topped Coyote Peak looms above you.
It's pretty obvious which way to go. The trail sweeps up and around Coyote
Peak, with the views becoming increasingly more impressive with every step.
Finally it reaches the top of the peak. A gravel-paved loop leads to the
benches on 3 sides of the peak. The trail continues down along the ridge
to the southwest, past an apparently abandoned microwave station, heading
into the Almaden Valley. Signs say the Rocky Ridge Trail branches off to
the north just before the abandoned microwave station, but it's not on
the park map. The Coyote Peak Trail continues south, then passes by a gate
leading to paved Country View Drive. It turns west and continues on an
old dirt farm road and ends at a private road. There's no official trail
looping back into the park from here yet, so you have to back-track to
The Hidden Springs Trail starts halfway up Bernal Road. It
passes through a shady woodland, past a densely-vegetated hillside. There
must be a spring there to cause all this plant growth, but it's hidden.
The trail climbs up the hill below the girl's ranch. It crosses the remnants
of what used to be Bernal Road. (This old road is still paved and accessible,
but it's not maintained as an official trail, so it's becoming overgrown
and can be swampy near its terminus at new Bernal Road.) As the trail climbs
up steeply, it rounds a hill, revealing steep Laurel Canyon. At the head
of Laurel Canyon is a beautiful seasonal waterfall that is only visible
from one part of the Hidden Springs Trail just before it descends into
the developed area of the park. The trail passes by the Pueblo Day Use
Area and is easily accessible from here. It then begins the climb up to
Coyote Peak. It climbs steeply upward, passing by a creek. The Ridge Trail
drops down to join it from the left. The trail levels off at a seasonal
frog pond that feeds the creek. The chaparral-covered slopes of Coyote
Peak come into view, and the trail ends where it meets the Coyote Peak
The Ridge Trail branches off the Coyote Peak Trail in the
middle of one of the coolest and lushest parts of the park. The Laurel
Springs Rest Area has a picnic table by a shady spring. The trail passes
between huge boulders draped with vegetation. It then emerges into sunlight
and climbs steeply upward. The steepest part of the trail can turn into
a muddy mess in the rainy season from heavy equestrian traffic. The trail
peaks, then drops down to join the Hidden Springs Trail.
The Boundary Line Trail branches off the Coyote Peak Trail
about .2 miles from its start. It climbs 500 feet in .8 miles and is probably
the steepest trail in the park. It's a killer of a trail for those who
want a real challenge. It's mostly open, with little shade on hot days.
It runs along the southeastern border of the park, with great views of
the Coyote Valley. It eventually rejoins the Coyote Peak Trail at the top
of Coyote Peak.
The Mine Trail is a long trail that begins above the old
Buck Norred Ranch. The ranch is technically closed to the public, but the
old ranch road climbs steeply uphill and turns into the Mine Trail just
below the short connector to the beginning of the Hidden Springs Trail.
The Mine Trail continues up the hill, paralleling Bernal Road. It eventually
crosses the road and loops up and around and down Trench Hill in the middle
of the park. This hill is covered with green grass and wildflowers in the
spring. The trail comes back into the developed heart of the park, runs
above the picnic area and ends at the Hidden Springs Trail, which can be
taken to complete the loop.
The Fortini Trail is one of two trails (the Stile Ranch is
the other) that connect the park with the Almaden Valley. It's the flatter
and easier of the two trails. It starts out as a wide farm road at a junction
with the Mine Trail. The road branches to the left, leading to a private
farm. The trail continues as a narrow rocky path as it rounds a hill. It
goes past the remains of a pool and picnic area that used to be a resort.
It parallels private Fortini Road along a grassy hillside, then turns and
eventually hits the entrance to the Stile Ranch Trail.
The Stile Ranch Trail is an awesome
trail. It has some of the best wildflower-viewing in the park and provides
great views of both the Almaden Valley and the Blossom Valley. It's on
an easement provided by IBM, on a hill just below the forest-green buildings
of the Almaden Research Center. Some of the researchers at the center have
created some excellent Web
pages on the wildlife habitats in the area, with beautiful
wildflower photographs. The best way to take the trail is to start
from its entrance in the Almaden Valley, at the intersection of Fortini
Road and San Vicente Avenue. The trail zig-zags up a steep rocky hillside,
that in the springtime becomes a wildflower-covered rock garden, bursting
with color. Glowing orange poppies line the trail. As the trail winds higher,
more and more of the rural parts of the Almaden Valley come into view,
with the hills of Calero and Almaden Quicksilver Parks and the Sierra Azuls
in the background. The trail passes through an old stone wall that runs
through much of the park. It crests one hill, with views of the eastern
part of the park, then drops steeply down into a U-shaped valley. It crosses
over a bridge, then climbs steeply up the other side of the valley, crests
another rocky hill and drops again into another U-shaped valley. The trail
runs over another bridge, then follows the opposite side of the valley
to the right, eventually ending at the Mine Trail.
Using the Mine Trail and Fortini Trail, it's possible to
make a loop trip of the Stile Ranch Trail. An old dirt farm road, the Calero
Creek Trail, leads west from the head of the Stile and Fortini trails at
the end of San Vicente Avenue. It can be taken to join up with the Alamitos
Creek Trail, which ends up at Almaden Lake. It's possible to make a bicycle
loop trip between the Blossom Valley and Almaden Valley, starting at Bernal
Road, to the Pueblo Day Use Area, the Mine Trail, the Stile Ranch or the
Fortini Trail to the Almaden Valley, the Calero Creek and Los Alamitos
Trail to the head of the Almaden Valley, then take surface streets along
the hills back to Bernal Road. You could theoretically walk it, but it
would be an all-day trip, with half of it through the suburbs.
The Joice Trail starts at the Joice Bernal Ranch at the corner
of Camino Verde Drive and Manila Drive at the northwestern corner of the
park. This part of the park was added recently and is not yet developed.
The old farm buildings are off-limts. The trail is the old farm road that
starts behind the barn. It's mostly along steep grassy and rocky hills
with little shade, so it's best taken in cool weather or in the morning
or late afternoon. It runs almost straight up the hill in a very steep
initial climb. It then sweeps around a valley and up around a hill, with
great unobstructed views of the Blossom Valley/Santa Teresa area all the
way. At a junction, it hits the Bernal Hill Loop Trail. The trail to the
right climbs higher up the hill, then levels off. A short connector to
the right leads to a gate. When the gate is open, the trail climbs higher,
revealing views of the Almaden Valley and Calero Reservoir. It loops around
the top of the hill, passes by bushes that shelter and deer and wild turkey,
drops down steeply through an oak forest, then comes back to the gate.
This area may be closed for cattle grazing. Meanwhile, the main trail drops
down a very steep hill. At the bottom, it hits the Bernal Hill Loop Trail.
If you take it to the left, it climbs up around the hillside and loops
back to the Joice Trail. To the right, the trail passes under the shade
of oak trees to join the Mine Trail.
The trail that runs over Rocky Ridge isn't an official trail.
It may even be illegal because it runs through private property. However,
it's one of the most popular trails in the park because it's right above
the picnic areas. Several volunteer paths lead straight up Rocky Ridge
from the picnic areas. Kids love to climb up this hill. This isn't called
Rocky Ridge for nothing. At the top are lots of rocks, with footpaths winding
between them. There are some volunteer paths leading down the ridge at
the west end. At the east end is a fenced off section of private property.
Be advised that this is private property, so don't say I didn't warn you.
If you go through the break in the fence, you would find a trail that runs
further up the ridge and eventually joins the Coyote Peak Trail just below
Coyote Peak, or so I've heard.
The Big Oak Trail is not officially complete yet. It branches
off the Mine Trail just west of the paved part of the park, then enters
Big Oak Valley. A very steep unofficial footpath branches to the left to
climb up to the top of Rocky Ridge. It follows the fence outside the triangular
in-holding of private land. Another unfinished trail goes deeper into the
valley, then starts climbing along the south sides of the valley.
Creek County Park
This park, located in the eastern slopes of the Santa
Cruz Mountains above Cupertino (home of Apple Computer), is dominated by
Stevens Creek Reservoir, a popular fishing lake, particularly for stocked
rainbow trout. Trails run along the creek above and below the reservoir
and along the ridges above it. It's adjacent to Fremont Older Open Space
Preserve, whose trails can be combined with those of Stevens Creek for
loop trips. Here are some Stevens
Creek County Park trails:
Canyon County Park
Black Rock Falls at Uvas Canyon County Park
Uvas Canyon County Park is a 1200-acre park located on
the steep heavily-wooded slopes of Uvas Canyon, west of Morgan Hill on
the eastern sides of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The park has 7 miles of
trails through the canyon. In the rainy season, this park turns into a
miniature Yosemite, a virtual showroom of waterfalls. The slopes provide
a large watershed. The steep, fast-draining canyon sides result in lots
of waterfalls in the rainy season. The rocky canyon floor results in good
hiking conditions even when wet. The waterfalls dry up in the summer, but
the shady canyon provides cool hiking on sunny summer days. The Waterfall
Loop Trail is an easy trail that takes you by most of the waterfalls. One
waterfall after another, each with its own unique character, appears on
the main trail or side trails. Long cascades string them together. Redwood
trees provide cooling shade. You can take the short loop back, or keep
going up Swanson Creek to Basin Falls, the old hothouse site, and the Countour
Trail. The nearly level but winding Countour Trail runs through the scrub
oak and madron forests along the hillsides. It terminates in the middle
of the Alec Canyon Trail. If you take this trail to the right, you'll reach
the short trail to Triple Falls. This is a beautiful fall that drops 40
feet in 3 steps. Beyond Triple Falls, the Alec Canyon Trail runs up along
Alec Creek to the site of the old logging camp. Along the way is a rest
stop at Manzanita Point, which offers a nice view of Uvas Canyon. You must
backtrack along the Alec Canyon Trail to get back. Past the Countour Trail
junction, it drops steeply to the start of the Waterfall Loop Trail. For
views of Uvas Canyon and the Santa Cruz Mountains and more exercise, you
can take the steep .4-mile Knobcone Trail to Knobcone Point, at a little
over 2000 feet. For an even better view and a tougher workout, you can
take the very steep 1.5-mile Nibbs Knob Trail from the campground to 2700-foot
Nibbs Knob. The trail continues upward for another .4 miles to join Summit
Road. Here is a "cyber-hike"
through the park.