Peninsula Open Space Trust

POST on Facebook

POST: Rancho San Vicente

Flickr: Rancho San Vicente Pictures

Mercury News Article on Rancho San Vicente,

San Jose Business Journal article on Rancho San Vicente

Santa Clara County Parks

Almaden Quicksilver County Park
Park Map

Calero County Park
Park Map

Santa Teresa County Park
Park Map

SCC Open Space Authority

Rancho Canada Del Oro Open Space Preserve

Canada Del Oro and Calero Trail Map

Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Bay Area Ridge Trail

Ridge Trail Guidebook

Park and Trail Pages:

Blair Ranch Hike, 5/9/09

Doan Ranch Page 1, Page 2

Los Alamitos Creek Trail

Guadalupe River Park and Gardens:

Guadalupe River Trail

Guadalupe Creek Trail

Coyote Creek Trail

Bay Area Biking

Bay Trails, South Bay

Bay Area Parks

Friends of Santa Teresa Park

Almaden Quicksilver Park

Bay Area Back Pages

SF Bay Rec & Travel

Calero Healthy Trails Hike, 4/25/09

Uvas Canyon Healthy Trails Hike, 2/21/09

Coyote Ridge Wildflowers, 4/13/08

Almaden Quicksilver Wildflowers and Views, Spring 2008, Part 2

Healthy Trails Walk, Almaden Quicksilver 3/28/09

Harvey Bear Ranch-Coyote Lake Pictures, 3/10/07, 3/21-21/09, 4/18/09

Santa Teresa Park Pictures:

Santa Teresa Park Mine, Fortini, Stile Ranch Wildflowers, 4/11/08

Coyote Peak, Rocky Ridge Wildflowers, Feb-Apr. '08

Bernal Hill wildflowers and views, Feb-Apr. '08 Part 1, Part 2

Coyote Peak, Rocky Ridge, Feb-April '08

Mother's Day Walk, Fortini-Stile, 5/4/08

Outdoor Photography Class/Wildflower Walk, Bernal Ranch/Hill 4/4/09

Geocaching Class, Fortini-Mine-Stile Ranch Trail, 4/11/09

Pre-Mother's Day Walk, Fortini-Mine-Stile Ranch Trail, 5/3/09

Healthy Trails Hike, Fortini, Mine, Stile Ranch Trails, 5/9/09

Rancho San Vicente Hike,
June 13, 2009

On June 13, 2009, the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) featured a hike of their newly-acquired property, Rancho San Vicente. POST purchased the 966-acre property on June 1, 2009. The ranch has been used for cattle ranching since the 19th century. Cattle still graze on the land. However, there were plans to develop the land. At one time, there was a proposal to built up to 900 residences and an 18-hole golf course here. The most recent plans included 300 units on the flat part of the land and 16 large homes on 40-acre lots in the hills. Because of problems securing permits and the real estate market, the landowners agreed to sell the land to POST for $16 million, the same price they paid for it in 1998. POST hopes to sell the land to a park agency, like the Santa Clara County Parks, so it can be opened to the public for recreational use.

The ranch is at the south end of San Jose's highly-developed Almaden Valley, strategically located between Calero County Park and Almaden Quicksilver County Park and very close to Santa Teresa County Park. It is not yet open to the public, but on June 13, POST gave a guided tour to invited guests. The hike began by the corral just off McKean Road, near Fortini Road. Here are some pictures from that hike.

The POST sign for Rancho San Vicente is on McKean Road across from Rakstad Road and just a short distance from Fortini Road. The entrance to the ranch is just ahead on the right.

The group parks by the corral used for branding cattle. There are no homes or barns on the ranch, just trailers.

Gordon Clark, conservation project manager for POST, talks about the ranch. Jennifer Tucker, POST's annual giving manager is on the left and helped to greet the visitors.

Rick Alpers, grazing tenant, talks about cattle ranching.

Marc Landgraf (right), POST's director of land acquisition talks about how POST purchased Rancho San Vicente. Gordon Clark is to his left and POST communications associate Ann Duwe is second from the left.

The group heads up the hill on a ranch road, led by Rick Alpers. Cattle graze on the hill beyond the fence. The ranch is divided into 4 fields. The cattle are moved from one field to another.

Rick Alpers with one of his cattle. Cattle are an important part of land management. Grazing reduces fire danger. There have been 3 fires on the ranch in recent years, but because the cattle reduced the amount of flammable fuel, the fires were extinguished quickly. The cattle also eat the non-native annual grasses, which compete with the native grasses and wildflowers. This provides a more favorable habitat for endangered native species, such as the bay checkerspot butterfly.

The group continues through a ranch gate.

The road passes over the Almaden-Calero Canal that brings water from Almaden Reservoir to Calero Reservoir. The canal was built in 1935 and is the last operating canal in Santa Clara County. It runs through the ranch and belongs to the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The SCVWD has an easement through the ranch for the canal.

Looking back down the road, you can see the canal and the service road that runs along the canal levee.

Part of the hillside has collapsed, revealing the rocks below the surface. Over 500 acres of the ranch are covered in serpentine rock. This shiny green rock is the state rock and is poor in nutrients. It discourages the growth of non-native annual grasses, but the native vegetation, which is adapted to it, can thrive.

A small pond next to the road is filled with tadpoles.

A larger farm pond can be seen below the ranch road. Cattle graze on the hills above it.

Dudleya (a member of the stonecrop family) grow on the lichen-covered rocks.

The road runs along a gently-sloping hillside above New Almaden. Cattle grazing has kept the grasses short. In the spring, the hills are green and covered with carpets of wildflowers.

Below to the north is the historic mining district of New Almaden, with the steep hills of Almaden Quicksilver County Park above it.  Park trails can be seen in the hills.

This is a view of the hills of Almaden Quicksilver. The New Almaden brick chimney can be seen on the hill on the lower left. The chimney dates from the 1870's and was used to vent sulfur fumes from the Hacienda Reduction Works in New Almaden. The chimney is on the lower slopes of Mine Hill, which rises to 1728 feet and was the center of the park's mercury mining activities.

The road wraps around the hill as it climbs. In the background, the hillside is private property and is cut with roads and dotted with large homes. It shows what Rancho San Vicente might have looked like had it been developed as planned.

The road ascends the hill towards its summit. The ranch roads which reach the high point of the property are wide, well-graded, and gently-sloped. They would be ideal for multi-use trails, which lessens the need for trail-building to open up the property as a park.

This is the view looking northwest along Almaden Road. The whole Almaden Valley and much of the South Bay Area is in view. On a clear day, the skyscrapers of San Francisco and Mt. Tamalpais should be visible.

The group takes in the view.

This is view more towards the north. Most of the undeveloped hills below are part of the ranch. The Santa Teresa Hills are on the right.

To the east, the lower flat area of the ranch lines McKean Road. There are some small private ranches on the other side of McKean Road. The hills ahead are the Santa Teresa Hills. To left is private ranchland and large estates.

This is a zoomed-in view of the center of the previous picture. The green buildings are IBM's Almaden Research Center. The Stile Ranch Trail runs along the switchbacks starting on the lower part of the hill. The trail is on IBM property, on an easement granted by IBM. It passes through the rock wall angling up the hill on the right. The hill is Bernal Hill, which tops out at about 1000 feet.

This is a zoomed-in view farther to the right, showing more of the hills of Santa Teresa Park and the valley of Santa Teresa Creek. The Fortini Trail runs through the base of the valley along what was once a major trading route. The ranchlands below were part of historic Rancho San Vicente, which was owned by the Berryessa Family.

More to the west is the steep Capitancillos Ridge, which was once part of historical Rancho San Vicente, and now contains Almaden Quicksilver Park.

The top of the hill is visible, with a transmitter tower, power pole, and service building on the summit.

The group finally reaches the top of the hill, which is at about 1050 feet. In the background is Calero Reservoir.

Calero Reservoir is to the east of the hilltop. The hills above it to right are part of Calero County Park.

More to the south, ranch roads run along the hillside. Behind it are the tall hills of the west side of Calero County Park.

To the east are the Santa Teresa Hills and Santa Teresa County Park. Behind them are the foothills of the Diablo Range.

The top of the hill is rocky, with little soil.

This is a view looking straight down the hill at Calero Dam, the Almaden-Calero Canal on the right, and McKean Road on the left. The Calero boat launching ramps are on the upper center.

This is the view near the antenna tower, looking towards the rest of the Bay Area.

Gordon Clark points out the parts and features of the ranch.

Under the guy wires for the antenna, the group begins to head back down the hill.

The group follows the ranch road down the hill, with the ridge of the Sierra Azuls in the background.

To the left are the bald peaks of Calero County Park and Rancho Canada Del Oro. The tall peak on the right is Mt. Loma Prieta.

Another ranch road leads along the hills in the southern part of the ranch, with the ridges of Calero and Rancho Canada Del Oro in the background.

In the background are Mine Hill in Almaden Quicksilver and Mt. Umunhum in the Sierra Azuls.

Kids stop at the pond to look at the tadpoles.

This is the Almaden-Calero Canal and its service road heading towards Almaden Reservoir.

This is the Almaden-Calero Canal and the service road along it, heading towards Calero Reservoir.

This is the ranch hillside below the canal.

The corral area and the end of the hike is ahead.

Views of Rancho San Vicente From Santa Teresa County Park

The pictures below were taken from the Stile Ranch Trail in Santa Teresa County Park on 3/28/09.  They show views of Rancho San Vicente to the south.

The entrance to the Stile Ranch Trail is on San Vicente Road. Fortini Road runs along the left side of the field ahead. At the end of San Vicente Road to the right is the start of the Calero Creek Trail. That leads to the Alamitos Creek Trail, which leads to the Guadalupe River Trail. When completed, the Guadalupe River Trail will lead from the Almaden Valley to Alviso and the San Francisco Bay Trail. So from here, someday you will be able to take trails all the way to the Bay.

The road on the left is Fortini Road. It ends at McKean Road, which runs along the base of Rancho San Vicente. This shows how close Santa Teresa Park is to Rancho San Vicente. The first line of hills are part of the ranch. The fields in the foreground are owned by the San Jose Unified School District. At one time, there were plans to build soccer fields here, but they were dropped.

Looking a little farther to the east, Fortini Road is in the center. The tall hill behind it is the high point of Rancho San Vicente.

This is zoomed in view of the hill in Rancho San Vicente. McKean Road is at the bottom. The Almaden-Calero Canal cuts along the base of the hill. Note how heavily forested the left side of the hill is. The antenna can be seen on top of the hill. Behind it is the Bald Peaks ridge that runs from Calero County Park to Rancho Canada Del Oro Open Space Preserve and rises to over 1800 feet.

View of Rancho San Vicente from Calero County Park

This picture was taken from the Javelina Loop Trail in Calero County Park on 2/17/08. The Calero Dam is on the right. Rising behind it to the left is the big hill in Rancho San Vicente.

View of Rancho San Vicente from Almaden Quicksilver County Park

This is a view from the Mine Hill Trail in Almaden Quicksilver County Park, taken on 3/9/09. The whole hill rising to the right is the antenna-topped hill in Rancho San Vicente.

Rancho San Vicente is a key piece in connecting islands of protected parklands and preserves into a continuous belt. The following parks and preserves are either contiguous or very close to each other:
POST owns Rancho San Vicente and manages it, but POST does not have the resources to operate parks. To open it to daily public access requires management by a park agency, most likely the Santa Clara County Parks & Recreation Department, since the property adjoins Calero County Park. It would be a logical addition to Calero and would bring it to the doorstep of Almaden Quicksilver and closer to Santa Teresa. It's a long, complicated and expensive process to make it a park, and it may take several years before it becomes one. At least for now, the land is protected from development so that it can become a park in the future.

Update 3/3/10: Rancho San Vicente was purchased by Santa Clara County for $16 million. The Board of Supervisors authorized the parks dept. to proceed with the purchase on 8/11/09. The money came from the County Park's Charter Fund. It is now a County Park, but it is not yet open to the public on a daily basis. There will be guided tours of the park by the County Parks Dept. and by POST in 2010. Check their websites for more information.

Created by Ronald Horii, 6/16/09, 11/19/09, 3/3/10