Santa Teresa County Park



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Trails - Part 1



Rainbows & Waterfalls 2000
 


Introduction
 


Location
 


Features
 


Coyote
Peak
 


Wildlife
 


Trails 2
 


Future
Hopes

Santa Teresa is a popular park, but many people who visit it miss the best parts of it. I've lived near the park for many years, but I usually just drove up to the picnic area and drove down. The drive-up areas cover only a small part of the park and though they are the most popular, they are not the most interesting parts. It wasn't until I started hiking on the park trails that I discovered the many hidden treats and treasures in the park. There are miles of trails through the park. See the official park Web site to get a map of the park. The distances cited below are from the park map.

Trails on this page:

The main entrance to the park begins at Bernal Road and Heaton Moor. Parking is along the street. 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 Laurel Canyon Nature Trail. The .3-mile nature trail goes into narrow, shady 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, rocky nook, with a lovely seasonal waterfall splashing and cascading down the rocks. There's also a redwood tree here, possibly the only one in the park. It sits next to small cave.

Lower Laurel Canyon Falls
Waterfall at the end of the Laurel Canyon Nature Trail

The Ohlone Trail is a narrow footpath that runs along the lower and middle slopes of the east faces of the hills for 1.5 miles. 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 Laurel Canyon Nature Trail. The Nature Trail crosses the Ohlone Trail. At the junction, you can take the Ohlone 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 curves to the left and becomes a service road. After .1 miles, a branch to the left leads to the end of the parking lot at the Santa Teresa Golf Course. After .3 miles, the Ohlone Trail drops down off the service road to the left, becoming a narrow footpath again. The service road continues on and climbs up the hills above the archery range, dead-ending at a storage building, but is not accessible to the public. The Ohlone Trail continues to wind along the hillsides for another .4 miles, above the southern part of the golf course, ending up near the entrance to the archery range at Bayliss Drive. Before then, it crosses over the Coyote Alamitos Canal on a sturdy bridge. Don't take the canal road to the right, or else you may find arrows whizzing by you at the archery range.

Pond at Santa Teresa Golf Course, seen from the Ohlone Trail

 

The Coyote Peak Trail has some of the most incredible views in the Bay Area. It 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. After .2 miles, the Boundary Trail branches off to the left. After another .3 miles, the Coyote Peak Trail 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 unfolding views becoming increasingly more awesome with every step. You begin to see the surrounding South San Jose suburbs, then more of San Jose, then all of Silicon Valley, then all of the Bay Area to the mountains in Marin County on clear days. The trail rounds a hill, with a service road (no public access) leading to the private inholding on rocky ridge. The Almaden Valley and the IBM Almaden Research Center come into view. Beyond that is the ridge of Almaden Quicksilver County Park, topped by the Sierra Azuls in back. Continuing on as the trail rounds Coyote Peak, there are gorgeous views of the nearly untouched western hills in the park. Finally .4 miles from the Hidden Springs Trail junction, it reaches the top of the peak. A gravel-paved loop leads to the benches on the north and west sides of the peak. The trail continues down along the ridge to the southwest, past a concrete pad that once was an abandoned microwave station, heading into the Almaden Valley. The Rocky Ridge Trail branches off to the north. Technically, the trail ends here. Beyond this point, it is a service road, not a trail. It continues south for .56 miles, then passes by a gate leading to paved Country View Drive. (This is not an official park entrance.) 
Hidden Springs and Coyote Peak Trail below Coyote Peak
Green area along the lower Coyote Peak Trail
Hidden Springs trail (foreground) leading to the Coyote Peak Trail (center left to upper right)
Bike going down Coyote Peak, view of Santa Teresa Hills
View of Almaden Valley from Coyote Peak
Bike heading down Coyote Peak the hard way, South San Jose in the background
View from Coyote Peak of Rocky Ridge, IBM Research lab, Almaden Valley, Sierra Azuls

The Hidden Springs Trail starts off the Mine Trail above the Norred Ranch and crosses Bernal Road halfway up the hill. After .1 miles, the narrow footpath of the Ohlone Trail branches off to the left where the Hidden Springs Trail curves to the right. The latter 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, hence the name. The Hidden Springs trail climbs up the hill below the Muriel Wright Center for another .5 miles, crossing the remnants of what used to be Bernal Road. (This unmarked old road is still mostly 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 rare sight that only appears in very wet years. (The pictures below were taken during the wet El Nino rainy season of 1997-1998.)  It is a beautiful waterfall that is only visible from one part of the Hidden Springs Trail below the Wright Center, 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. The Mine Trail joins it here from the right. It then begins the climb up to Coyote Peak. It climbs steeply upward, passing by a creek in a shady, rocky ravine. After .2 miles, the Ridge Trail drops down to join it from the left. As you climb up, the wildflower-covered ridge to the left blocks your view of the suburbs below, so you can imagine what the area looked like during the Rancho days.  The trail levels off at a seasonal frog pond that feeds the creek. It's the overflow from this pond that forms the waterfalls in Laurel Canyon below. The chaparral-covered slopes of Coyote Peak come into view, and after .4 miles, the trail ends where it meets the Coyote Peak Trail.
Upper Laurel Canyon Falls
Long view of Laurel Canyon from the Hidden Springs Trail
Upper Laurel Canyon Falls visible from the Hidden Springs Trail
Hidden Springs Trail to Coyote Peak
Hidden Springs Trail heading towards Coyote Peak
Spring pond along the Hidden Springs Trail

The short .6-mile 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 picnic tables by a shady spring. The trail passes between huge moss-coated 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, with great views of the valley, then drops down to join the Hidden Springs Trail. Trees along here often serve as perches for hawks and other raptors.
Moss-covered boulder near the Laurel Springs Rest Area
Picnic tables at the Laurel Springs Rest Area

The Boundary 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 official trail in the park. It's the only trail marked "steep" on the park map. It's a good trail for those who want a real challenge. It's mostly open, with little shade on hot days. It starts by climbing steeply up to the southeast from an already steep part of the Coyote Peak Trail. It levels off somewhat as it follows the hill contours and heads for the boundary line. It then turns up the hill to the right. The trail gets steeper and steeper from there on. Switchbacks are few as the trail runs almost straight up the hills, paralleling the fence along the southeastern border of the park, with great views of the Coyote Valley. It finally crests a hill, drops down, and comes back up to eventually rejoin the Coyote Peak Trail at the top of Coyote Peak. Going up is tough enough. Going down the steep, gravelly trail is a hair-raising experience, though plenty of suicidal mountain bikers seem to take it. Fortunately, you can see most of the trail for a long distance, so it's easy to watch out for bikers careening down the slopes. Going up the trail is not recommended for those who are not in good physical shape. Going down is not recommended for those who are afraid of heights.
 
 

Boundary Line Trail
Looking down the Boundary  Trail, Tulare Hill in the background

Created 9/17/99, updated 10/22/14 by Ronald Horii