Santa Clara County Parks

Santa Teresa Park

County Parks Volunteers

County Parks Trails Program

Friends of Santa Teresa Park

New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association

Trail Work Days

Ohlone Trail Work Day, 4/20/02

Ohlone Trail Work Day, 4/26/03

Rocky Ridge Trail Day 4/10/04

Stile Ranch Trail Day, 1/8-9/05

Fortini Trail Work Day, 5/3/08

National Trail Day, Santa Teresa Park, 6/7/08

Trail Day, Ohlone Trail, 1/19/09

Savannah Trail, Coyote Lake, 4/18/09

Santa Teresa Norred Trail, 3/13/10

Mummy Mountain Trail Day 4/24/10

Trail Maintenance Links

Ridge Trail: Trailblazing Technology

Trail design and maintenance

California State Parks Trails Policy

California Trails and Greenways Conference

Trails Training Calendar

Trail Maintenance Cost Estimating

Trail Design and Construction - Best Practices

Trail Maintenance and Management

Trail Design and Maintenace Publications

NY-NJ Trail Maintenance Manual

PCTA Trail Maintenance Primer

FHWA: Trail Maintenance

County Park and Open Space Trail Pictures

Santa Teresa Park Wildflowers, Spring 2002

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

Mine, Fortini, Stile Ranch Wildflowers, 4/11/08

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

Coyote Ridge Wildflowers, 4/13/08

Almaden Quicksilver Wildflowers and Views, Spring 2008, Part 2

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

Uvas Canyon Healthy Trails Hike, 2/21/09

Healthy Trails Walk, Almaden Quicksilver 3/28/09

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

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

Calero Healthy Trails Hike, 4/25/09

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

Healthy Trails Walk, Fortini-Stile Ranch, 5/9/09

Mt. Madonna Geocaching Class, 7/11/09

Almaden Quicksilver Wood Road Geocaching Class 1/16/10

Uvas Canyon HDR Pictures 1/23/10

Joseph D. Grant County Park, 1/31/10

Uvas Canyon Hike, 2/13/10

Santa Teresa Park Sunset HDR Pictures 2/7/10

Rancho Canada Del Oro Hike, Mayfair Ranch Trail, 3/14/10

Pre-Mother's Day Hike & Event, Fortini-Mine-Stile Ranch Trails, 5/2/10

Park Trails

by Woody Collins, Trail Crew Leader

Rocky Ridge Trail

Our Santa Clara County parks serve a population of over 1.7 million Santa Clara County residents as well as several thousand regular visitors from neighboring counties. They provide a wide variety of educational and recreational activities. County parks include facilities for camping, boating and fishing, disc golf, picnicking, archery, hang gliding, golfing, and flying model airplanes as well as a motorcycle park, a velodrome and a shooting range, but the facilities most used by park visitors are our park trails.

Santa Clara County Parks encompass over 44,000 acres and provide nearly 300 miles of trails that have to safely accommodate hikers, joggers, bicyclists, geocachers and equestrians. Meeting the needs of such a diverse group of users while protecting and preserving the natural landscape is difficult and involves many trade-offs.

Factors that have to be considered include:
  • Visitor Experience
  • Visitor Safety
  • Environmental Impact
  • Sustainability
Each of these factors are complex topics that often present conflicting goals. Trail designers attempt to arrive at compromises that meet the needs of park visitors while still protecting and preserving the park environment.

Visitor Experience

Bernal Hill Loop Trail

Providing a pleasant, safe and satisfying user experience is an important goal for all trail design. Trails provide a mechanism by which park visitors can enjoy the beauty and enormous natural diversity that is an essential element of life in the San Francisco Bay area while also participating in some of their favorite activities, be they walking, hiking, geocaching, jogging, bicycling, horseback riding or just absorbing the sights and sounds of the natural world around us.

Mountain bikes and hikers on the Rocky Ridge Trail

Some of these activities have unique requirements that may conflict with other user groups, compromise safety, or conflict environmental concerns. Trails are constructed to meet the needs of as many visitors as possible but due to the Park Department’s limited resources, most trails in the system are designated as multi-use. A multi-use trail must be designed and maintained to accommodate all visitors, including hikers, joggers, bicyclists and equestrians and it is often impossible to fully meet all the expectations of all park users.

Hikers pushing a trail stroller on the Stile Ranch Trail

Visitor Safety

Hikers on the Norred Trail

To meet safety requirements, most multi-use trails require a minimum trail bed of at least 4 feet. A 4 foot trail bed provides adequate space for hikers, bicyclists and equestrians to safely pass one another without forcing anyone off the trail. It also allows maintenance and safety personnel to access the trail with an ATV. This can be critical in an emergency situation, especially in the case of a visitor injury which might otherwise require an expensive and time-consuming helicopter extraction.

Hikers and equestrian on the Fortini Trail

Note that a trail bed of 4 feet does not mean that the trail tread, that portion of the trail that is normally walked or ridden on, need be a full 4 feet. Most trails will fill in with vegetation leaving a 1 to 2 foot tread but will still have room for passing.

Trail surfaces also have to be relatively flat and free of tripping hazards and excessively long, steep grades must be avoided, even though some users may find them challenging. Trails built on contour with natural curves and undulations blend into the landscape without detracting from them and are much safer for all visitors.

Many of our trails also have to act as access roads for emergency use to accommodate fire and medical vehicles. While these one-lane roads are not as attractive as smaller, more intimate trails, they are never-the-less necessary for park maintenance and safety.

Equestrian on the Norred Trail

Environmental Impact

Mountain bike approaching the Stile Ranch Trail middle switchbacks

Our regional parks are as much preserve as playground. An important part of the County Parks Department charter is to protect and preserve the natural environment and cultural history of Santa Clara County.

Trails have to be designed and maintained to minimize damage to the environment while providing access to it. Of particular concern is erosion, both from rainfall and from visitor traffic. Trails are designed to shed water rather than concentrating it. This requires proper alignment, outsloping and drainage structures, all of which can breakdown over time and require periodic maintenance. Fall-line trails, which run straight down a hill are particularly problematic and are avoided at all costs as are excessively steep trail segments, even though they may be enjoyable for some park visitors.

Some parks, Santa Teresa in particular, contain especially sensitive areas that are very fragile and easily damaged. It is particularly important that visitors remain on the trails in these areas, principally along the Stile Ranch and Rocky Ridge trails, as they have thin soils that can be easily damaged and take a long time to recover.

Off-trail areas also provide important habitat for native plants and animals. Santa Teresa hosts a wonderful variety of plants, including several critically endangered species found in few other places. Numerous birds (including golden eagles), animals (including deer, bobcat, coyote and probably the occasional mountain lion) and reptiles are also endemic to the park and need room, apart from humans, to rest and reproduce.

Endangered Santa Clara Valley dudleya by the Rocky Ridge Trail


Work day on the Norred Trail, 3/13/10. Volunteers are improving the drainage near the Joice Trail junction.

Norred Trail at the Joice Trail junction, after the work was done.

All trails require periodic maintenance. Given the limited resources available, trails must be designed to minimize maintenance while holding up to heavy visitor use. Trails are aligned to avoid problem situations such as slide prone areas, wetlands and unstable soils. When maintenance is performed, it often has to be done with the long-term in mind. Just keeping the trails free of bothersome plants such as poison oak and thistle is a constant struggle. Brushing and tread maintenance are often performed to last for at least three years. While this may result in what looks like drastic changes to the trail, they are usually short-lasting, and the trail will return to its normal, rustic appearance in a year or so.

Ohlone Trail 6/16/08. The trail is overgrown and eroded.

Ohlone Trail work day, 1/19/09, volunteers cleared brush and flattened the trail.

Ohlone Trail, 3/17/09, the grass has been growing back, but pigs have been digging up the trail edges.

Lower Rocky Ridge Trail, 4/29/06. The trail is becoming over-grown.

Lower Rocky Ridge Trail in Big Oak Valley, 5/21/08 after trail work. The trail has been cleared.

Rocky Ridge Trail, same spot, 5/23/10. The grass has narrowed the trail.

Farther back on the Rocky Ridge Trail, 5/23/10, the trail has gotten much narrower.


Hikers and bikers on the Coyote Peak Trail

Meeting all these requirements is difficult, especially since many of our park trails are old ranch, mine or fire roads that were not designed specifically for trail use and many of our older trails were built to standards that have now become outdated or inappropriate for an urbane interface area like Santa Clara County. With unlimited resources, it might be possible to develop special trails to cater to the particular needs of specific user communities: technical trails for advanced mountain bicyclists; steep trails for fans of advanced physical fitness; equestrian only trails to prevent conflicts between equestrians and other users; hiker-only single track; etc. But resources are not unlimited and currently the only viable solution is multi-users trails that can serve, but may not fully please, all park visitors. In spite of these limitations, our park trails can provide a rich, rewarding experience for all users as long as we are considerate of other users and respectful of the park’s natural resources.

Bikes passing goldfields along the Stile Ranch Trail, overlooking the South Almaden Valley and Rancho San Vicente

Pictures, captions, and webpage by Ron Horii, 5/11/10, updated 6/4/10