The Santa Teresa Hills

Santa Teresa Hills West of Snell Avenue at Coyote-Alamitos Canal Park


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Despite their simple appearance, the Santa Teresa Hills are remarkably complex. This page attempts to show the beauty and variety of the hills and why they are a precious resource worth preserving. Below are pictures of the Santa Teresa Hills, with a few of Santa Teresa County Park, which  is covered in more detail in other pages (see the link to the left). Click on the thumbnails below to see larger pictures:

Aerial Pictures

These pictures were taken from a plane flight into San Jose Airport. The flight path for planes heading into San Jose runs up the Coyote Valley and almost directly over antenna-topped Coyote Peak. As they head over South San Jose, the north side of the Santa Teresa Hills can be seen. The Santa Teresa and Blossom Valley areas can be seen below the hills. The Almaden Valley, the Los Capitancillos Ridge containing Almaden Quicksilver Park, and the high ridge of the Sierra Azuls can be seen beyond the Santa Teresa Hills. The mostly-undeveloped hills stand in stark contrast to the urban sprawl below them.
Coyote Peak to Calero Reservoir Bernal Rd, Santa Teresa Park, IBM's Almaden Lab Joice Bernal Rancho to Cottle Road to Los Pinos Way La Colina Park to Snell Avenue

Sakamoto School to Foothill Park Foothill Park to Lake Almaden
Zoom in on hills Zoom in on hills

View of the Santa Teresa Hills From the Coyote Valley

The southeast end of the Santa Teresa Hills lies just above Bailey Avenue in the Coyote Valley. It is across Santa Teresa Blvd. from Tulare Hill and the Coyote Valley Research Park. Most of the land in this section is undeveloped, so far, except for IBM's Santa Teresa Lab on Bailey Avenue. The lab takes up a very small portion of the land, which is mostly owned by IBM. The land in the hills behind IBM is leased by IBM to ranchers for cattle grazing and is off-limits even to IBM employees.
View of the southeast end of the Santa Teresa Hills from the Coyote Valley by Santa Teresa Blvd. IBM's Santa Teresa Laboratory, looking east from Bailey Avenue

Views From Coyote Peak in Santa Teresa Park

The southeast end of the Santa Teresa Hills can be easily seen from Santa Teresa Park, particularly from Coyote Peak, the park's highest point, and from along the Boundary Line Trail, which runs along the park's southern border. Coyote Peak is one of the best viewpoints in the Bay Area. On clear days, Oakland, San Francisco, and even Mt. Tamalpais can be seen to the north. Views to the south include the Coyote Valley and Morgan Hill. The view of the Santa Teresa Hills to the northwest is blocked by Bernal Hill, but the views to the south are unobstructed. The Santa Teresa Hills can bee seen running southwest  to the north and east shores of Calero Reservoir. The hills in this area, which is unincorporated county land, includes private ranchland and a luxury housing development along Country View Drive. East of the Santa Teresa Hills and Santa Teresa Blvd. is Tulare Hill, which marks the northern end of the Coyote Valley. Two controversial developments are being proposed next to Tulare Hill: the Metcalf Energy Center and the Cisco Systems industrial campus. The seasonal lake that appears south of Santa Teresa Blvd. is part of the land for the proposed Cisco development, though the Cisco buildings themselves will be built east of Santa Teresa Blvd.
Tulare Hill, Santa Teresa Blvd., seasonal lake, Coyote Valley Research Park, east edge of IBM property IBM Santa Teresa Lab property, Coyote Valley, Morgan Hill West edge of IBM property, hills east of Calero Reservoir Looking along the park boundary line southwest towards the Almaden Valley 

Tulare Hill to Santa Teresa Park

1688-acre Santa Teresa Park straddles the widest part of the Santa Teresa Hills from the Santa Teresa area to the Almaden Valley. It includes some of the highest and most diverse lands in the hills. While the Pueblo Day Use Area has parking lots and picnicking facilities, most of the park is undeveloped wildlands. Trails run over sunny rocky slopes and through lush, shady canyons. The outer trails provide spectacular views of the surrounding urban areas, while the inner trails provide views of the wild hills, little changed from the 19th century. Winter rains turn the grass-covered slopes a luxuriant green. Creeks, ponds, and waterfalls appear. Spring brings out brilliant blooms of wildflowers. The park abounds in wildlife, with deer, wild turkeys, hawks, and brush rabbits seen frequently. Occasionally, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions are seen. The park gives a sample of what the rest of the hills are like. 
Laguna Seca Community Garden on Manresa Court Field archery center at east boundary of Santa Teresa Park Looking towards IBM from the Hidden Springs Trail in Santa Teresa County Park The Hidden Springs Trail below the Muriel Wright Center, Santa Teresa County Park
Walkers below Coyote Peak, Santa Teresa area in the background On the Coyote Peak Trail, near Country View Drive Private hills southwest of Santa Teresa Park near Schillingsburg Avenue Looking down the Fortini Trail in Santa Teresa Park towards the Almaden Valley
View of the IBM Almaden Research Center and Bernal Hill from the Rocky Ridge Trail Rocks on the Stile Ranch Trail, looking towards the Mount Hamilton Range Looking down towards the Joice-Bernal Ranch from the Joice Trail Looking west down the Santa Teresa Hills from the Joice Trail, horse ranches down by Cottle

San Ignacio Avenue to Cottle Road

Santa Teresa Park runs in the hills all the way to just above Cottle Road. Parts of the land below the hills belong to the park. Other portions are private or water district land. The Joice Trail and Vista Loop Trail, which are old ranch roads, run near the west edge of the park, providing good views of the hills to the west. PG&E power line service roads run right to park boundary, which is marked by a fence running through a wooded ravine. Service roads and private ranch roads can be seen running through the hills to the west.
County Park property at the corner of Curie Dr. and San Ignacio Ave. Water district property at the west end of Manila Drive West boundary of Santa Teresa Park behind St. Julie's Church at Cottle Rd. and Curie Dr.

Cottle Road to Malory Drive

Near the end of Cottle Road is San Jose's Century Oaks Park. A wooden fence and sign listing park rules indicate that this is parkland, but it is undeveloped, with no established trails or facilities. However, informal trails lead up to a small hill, which provides fine views of the hills and Valley. More views from this hill can be seen in the Coyote-Alamitos Canal page.  Century Oaks Park runs in a narrow strip below the Coyote-Alamitos Canal and above Curie Drive. Informal trails lead into the park. The 18 acres of parklands extend all the way to Galen Drive near Mindy Way. The Santa Teresa Hills south of Cottle Road rise to over 1000 feet. At the end of Cottle Road is a private horse ranch. The hills from here on are private property. They are mostly undeveloped ranchland. Cattle can be seen grazing on the slopes.
End of Cottle Road, Century Oaks Park View south from hill at Century Oaks Park by Cottle Rd. Century Oaks Park entrance on Curie Dr. east of Woosley Dr. Century Oaks Park entrance on Curie Dr. east of Malory Dr.

Views From the La Colina Park Hilltop

San Jose's developed La Colina Park, a popular place for youth sports, has a small hill that is an offshoot of the Santa Teresa hills. The bare 243' high hilltop provides 360-degree views of the area. Next to it is a higher hill bisected by Valroy Dr. This hill is completely paved over and developed, providing nice views for the people who live there, but the houses block the views from the street. 
Looking towards the end of Santa Teresa Park (along the treeline) above Cottle Road View looking south down Pearlroth Drive View over the intersection of Los Pinos Way and Valroy Dr. The hills are over 900' high. View southwest over Valroy Ct.  The hills dip down to around 550' here.

Curie Drive and Didion Way

At Curie Drive and Didion Way is an easily-climbed hill in Century Oaks Park, just below the fenced-off Coyote-Alamitos Canal. 
Century Oaks Park at Curie Drive and Didion Way Looking from the hill at Curie and Didion towards La Colina Park and Santa Teresa Hospital Looking southeast along the hills down Curie

Snell Avenue, Colleen Drive, Shadelands Drive, to Blossom Avenue

In the hillside land below the Coyote-Alamitos Canal west of Snell is San Jose's undeveloped Coyote-Alamitos Canal Park, which runs to around Tillamook Drive. Snell Avenue ends at the entrance to a private ranch road. The grass-covered slopes of the hills here are used for cattle grazing. Colleen Drive runs along the base of the hills.  There are houses along Colleen, but there are several open stretches between the houses. They are not fenced off. A large stretch of open field is near the end of Blossom Avenue. Informal paths lead up to the Coyote-Alamitos Canal.
View along hills west of Snell View along Colleen east of Gunter Way View from Sakamoto School of hills above Colleen and Shadelands Dr. Hills along Colleen west of Blossom Avenue

 Glendora Court

Around Glendora Court are open fields along the hills. Even though they are not fenced off, they are posted.
Hills above Colleen east of Glendora Court Hills above Glendora Court, looking southeast Hills above culdesac in Colleen Drive west of Glendora Court

Views From Foothill Park

San Jose's Foothill Park encompasses a small 240-foot high hilltop at Cahalan Avenue and Foothill Drive. The partially-developed park's main attraction is its marvelous views of the Santa Teresa Hills and the South San Jose area. More views from the park can be seen in the Coyote-Alamitos Canal page. The hills from this point on begin to be more heavily forested.
View southeast. Buildings can be seen on the ridgeline. The hill in the distance is over 900' high. View looking over Rocky Glen Court. A water tank at 400' can be seen. View south. The Coyote-Alamitos Canal can be seen at the base of the hills, which are about 570' high here.

Miracle Mountain Drive to Lake Almaden

Near the end of the Santa Teresa Hills above Miracle Mountain Drive is a hillside clearing with a stone monument on it. Steep informal paths lead up to the monument, whose purpose has been obscured by vandalism. The Santa Teresa Hills end at Lake Almaden by Winfield Blvd. An overgrown road leads up the hill from Winfield Blvd. to a transmitter station near the top of the hills. Alamitos Creek and the Alamitos Creek Trail run along the base of the west end of the hills. Lake Almaden was once a rock quarry pit. It is now the focus of a popular city park. Alamitos Creek drains out of Lake Almaden, joins Guadalupe Creek, and becomes the Guadalupe River. 
Monument on hill above Miracle Mountain Drive View across Lake Almaden at the western end of the Santa Teresa Hills View of Lake Almaden from road to transmitter station in hills

Boulder Ridge Golf Course Construction, Almaden Valley

The controversial Boulder Ridge Golf Course is being built on the southwest end of the Santa Teresa Hills above the Almaden Valley, despite the protests of neighbors and archaeologists. The golf course is anxiously awaited by golfers, who complain about the low ratio of golf courses per capita. Unlike the public Santa Teresa Golf Club at the opposite end of the hills, the Boulder Ridge Golf Course will be semi-private, which means the public can access it, but at a high price. Even though the golf course is technically open space, it is not a natural environment. The irrigated, fertilized lawns will be green all year and may be nice to look at, but will alter the ecological balance in the hills, possibly favoring some non-native species at the expense of native species that are adapted to the dry hillside environment. It is not clear whether homes will be allowed to be built around the golf course. The golf course property includes boulders and caves that were once used by the Ohlone Indians. Archaeologists are afraid that Indian sites will be disturbed by the golf course construction.  (See here for more information on the golf course.) To be fair, the golf course may prevent another threat to these sites: vandalism by trespassers. 
Construction at west end of hills above Alamitos Creek Trail south of Lake Almaden Construction in hills south of Mazzone Drive Construction in hills north of Mazzone Drive Looking at hills south of Crossview Circle

Almaden Valley View from Guadalupe Oak Grove Park

Guadalupe Oak Grove Park includes an oak forest and a rocky undeveloped hillside, a miniature version of the Santa Teresa Hills. The park's hills provide good views of the Almaden Valley and the Santa Teresa Hills.
Looking down the Almaden Valley along the Santa Teresa Hills. Houses in the hills can be seen.

Rocks in the Hills Above the Almaden Valley

One feature that distinguishes the Almaden Valley side of the Santa Teresa Hills from the Santa Teresa side are the huge rock formations in the hills on the Almaden side. Rock quarries operated here many years ago. Buildings at Stanford University and downtown San Jose were built of stone quarried from these hills. These rock formations also include small caves and huge jumbles of boulders that would make a wondrous playground for rock climbing and exploring. They rival the rock formations at Castle Rock State Park. There is just one problem: they are all on private land. Huge luxury homes begin to occupy the hillsides and ridgetops east of Stonehill Drive. They are the other feature that distinguishes the Almaden Valley side of the hills from the Santa Teresa side.
Sandstone formations in hills above homes Looking up Rocky Crest Drive at large rock formations in hills Rocky hillside at Boulder Mountain Way and Rocky Crest Drive
Rocks by Boulder Mountain Way Houses on ridge above Stonehill Ct.

Almaden Valley Views from Woodview Place

Woodview Place is on a hill north of Almaden Expressway and west of Alamitos Creek. Views from here show the most heavily-developed portion of the Santa Teresa Hills. Luxury homes and ranches colonize the hills. These are all private lands. Trespassers are definitely not welcome. These homes illustrate that hillside development is possible in these hills. Fire is a constant danger here during the dry season. Ridgetop homes were threatened by the grass fire on the Santa Teresa side of the hills, seen on the home page.
The Santa Clara Valley Water District's Santa Teresa Water Treatment Facility can be seen on the right. There is a large open field here, with homes on the ridgeline above it. More homes can be seen here, some surrounded by large open fields. Huge homes and ranches line the hills from top to bottom in this area
The homes in this area are especially large, surrounded by nonnative vegetation, such as palm trees and Italian cypresses. The hills above here are mostly undeveloped private ranchland. View above Harry Road. IBM's Almaden Research Lab peeks over the hills. Most of the land south of this area belongs to IBM and is undeveloped.

Santa Teresa Hills from Almaden Quicksilver County Park

Almaden Quicksilver County Park occupies most the Los Capitancillos Ridge on the west edge of the Almaden Valley. Views from the trails can be spectacular. The Hacienda Trail provides excellent views of the southern Santa Teresa Hills. 
Looking up Harry Road to developed section of the hills Fortini Road, Fortini Trail, Stile Ranch Trail, Santa Teresa Park View of Coyote Peak, Santa Teresa Park, Schillingsburg Avenue New and future housing development sites on Country View Drive

View of the developed section of the Santa Teresa Hills from Almaden Quicksilver County Park, Harry Road is in the center

Why Preserve the Santa Teresa Hills?

  • Aesthetically, the undeveloped hills contribute to the beauty of the area. They form a natural backdrop that provides visual relief from the urban sprawl on the valley floor. The hills bloom with wildflowers and are cloaked in lush green grass in the spring, making them a beautiful sight. In contrast, houses in the hills increase the appearance and feeling of urban overcrowding. As an example, see the hills of Daly City.
  • The hills are a unique environment, one of the few hillside areas of open space in the Silicon Valley surrounded on both sides by dense urban development. The hills are an island refuge for wildlife. Development can threaten this.
  • The hills have tremendous potential recreational value. Santa Teresa Park gives a sample of this. Its hilltops and hillside trails provide some of the best views in the Bay Area. The hills contain cool, shady forests and rugged rock formations that invite exploration. If the hills are developed, this can lock up those parts of the hills forever, preventing their conversion into parkland.
  • Building houses in the fire-prone hills is an invitation to disaster. The Oakland firestorm and similar fires all over California show the danger and folly of hillside construction. The Santa Teresa Hills frequently catch on fire. The last fire threatened homes at the top of the hills. Luckily there were no homes on the hillsides or they might have been destroyed. (See the picture on the home page.) If homes are built there, firefighters may be forced to take more urgent and risky measures to try to save them, possibly putting their own lives in danger. More resources would have to be dedicated to fighting the fires, making them more expensive to fight. Concentrating on saving homes might give second priority to undeveloped lands, resulting in the wider destruction of wildlife habitats or parklands.
  • Landslides are another potential danger, not only for houses in the hills, but for houses at the base of the hills. Construction up in the hills can increase the risk of landslides to homes below them, as has happened in other parts of the state, such as Pacifica.
  • The destruction of multi-million dollar hillside homes in fires or other natural disasters is not just a problem for their rich owners. It can raise insurance rates for everyone.

Created 11/6/00, migrated 10/14/09, repaired 3/4/11 by Ronald Horii