I started at the Mendoza Ranch
trailhead off of Roop Road. There are maps, water, and a restroom here.
The Rancho La Polka Trail is not on the map yet. There was a herd of
grazing in the field beyond. Cattle eat non-native grasses, which helps
reduce fire danger and promotes the growth of wildflowers. The day
started out overcast, so it wasn't great for landscape
photography, but it was good hiking weather.
A short distance from the trailhead, off the Mendoza Trail, is the
start of the short Roop Pond Trail.
This is the Roop Pond, a long stock pond formed by a small earthen
dam. The pond is right next to Roop Road, but there is no direct access
from the road.
This is a view looking along the pond near the dam, towards the feet of
There were cormorants looking for fish in the pond and a great egret
perched in a tree at the head of the pond.
This is a view back on the wide Mendoza Trail, flanked by ancient oak
trees, heading gradually uphill.
This is the Roop Pond as seen from the Mendoza Trail.
Up ahead, the Mendoza Trail continues off to the right to the Mummy
Mountain Trail junction. The Rancho La Polka Trail branches off to the
This is the start of the Rancho La Polka Trail.
This cattle gate leads to the
start of the Rancho La Polka Trail Loop. This is a hiking-only trail.
At the time, there were no signs to that effect, but there probably
will be in the future. Even though the trail is wide enough for bikes
and horses, when new trails were being planned, the hiking community
requested that some trails in the park be hiking-only. The agreement
was to designate the Mummy Mountain, Rancho La Polka, and future Ed
Wilson Trail as such. The peripheral trails in this area, the
Mendoza and Coyote Ridge Trails, are open to all users. You can bike or
ride a horse up to this trailhead, then go on foot for a short hike on
the loop trail.
This is the start of the trail going clockwise on the loop. The closed
path on the right is not a trail. There are several old PGE maintenance
roads, ranch roads, and temporary construction roads on this hill that
will be closed off eventually. Note the gravel surface on the official
This part of the trail goes past a pile of rocks.
Here is the pile of lichen-covered rocks, with live oak trees and
fallen limbs. This is prime rattlesnake habitat, so don't let kids play
in the rocks.
This is a view from the trail across rolling hills, grazed by cattle.
Roop Road is in the background, with private ranches behind it.
The trail comes closer to Roop Road and the ranches beyond it.
Below the trail, parts of Roop Pond are visible.
An oak tree arches over the trail. There was plenty of headroom for me,
but basketball players may have to duck.
The trail heads through more scattered coast live oak trees.
The hillsides get very steep here, so watch where you're going and stay
on the trail.
These gnarly old trees are covered with lace lichens, commonly called
The terrain on the other side of the valley gets steeper more rugged,
with more woodlands and less grasslands.
Just before the trail makes a turn-around is a hill with a picnic table
This is the picnic table and the view from it.
There is a short trail segment below the picnic table. The loose
branches are a hint that it's not an official trail.
Above the picnic table is another road going over the hill, but it's
not a trail.
Back on the trail, there's an overlook at the junction of Roop Road
(bottom and left) and Leavesley Road (right).
As the trail rounds a bend, it leaves the shade of the oak forest and
enters into a clearing with panoramic views of the valley to the south.
The pictures below were taken in sequence from right to left.
This is the first picture in the panorama, looking at where the trail
On the right is Roop Road heading towards New Avenue.
This is a view towards the south part of Gilroy. Far in the distance,
left of center, Hwy 101 runs around the base of the hill and intersects
Hwy 25 to Hollister.
This is a view looking south towards Hollister. There are large ranches
in the hills adjacent to the park.
This is the last picture in the panorama, looking back along the
Continuing on the trail, it runs through this rocky area.
A herd of deer grazes at the edge of an oak grove, next to a wide open
All this open hillside is part of the park. There are old ranch roads,
but no official
There's another picnic table here, with a view of Gilroy.
The trail goes goes through another rocky oak grove.
From here on, the trail is wide open, with no trees and nothing to
obstruct the views to the west. Far ahead on the left side of the hill
Mendoza Trail. The trail branching off to the right is a construction
road that will be closed eventually.
There's a rock here that looks like a bear.
This view shows how much undeveloped land there is here in the park.
This big open hillside is part of the park. The road below is Via Del
Cielo. It looks like a huge amount of land, but it is just a tiny
corner of the 4,595-acre park.
Looking northwest, Morgan Hill and El Toro Mountain are on the right in
the distance. Huge ranch estates are below the park.
This is the rest spot and future interpretive sign at the start of the
Mummy Mountain Trail, overlooking the Rancho La Polka Trailhead. The
cattle gate there is keeping the cattle out.
This is a view of the Rancho La Polka Trail from the Mendoza Trail.
The sun finally starts to peek out at the end of the hike. Back on the
Mendoza Trail, the cattle gather to say good-bye.
For more information, see the
the side. For copies of these and other pictures, contact Ron Horii