Calero County Park,
Santa Clara County Parks,
Santa Clara County
In brief:
5.1 mile loop on grassy hills above Calero Reservoir. Lots of equestrian traffic.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 5.1 mile loop hike is moderate. Park elevation ranges from about 500 to 1500 feet. The featured hike starts at 500 feet, climbs to about 980 feet, then descends back to the trailhead. This is a short hike, but the trails do wander up and down considerably, and you'll face about 1000 feet in elevation change throughout the hike.

Exposure:
Almost completely exposed.

Trail traffic:
Light.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt fire roads and trails.

Hiking time:
2 1/2 hours.

Season:
Best in spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, take CA 85 south (toward Gilroy). After about 12 miles, exit at Almaden Expressway, stay in the ramp's middle/right lane, make the first left, then the next right onto Almaden Expressway. Drive about 5 miles to the end of Almaden Expressway, and turn right onto Harry. Almost immediately, turn left onto McKean. Drive about 5 miles to the far end of the Calero Reservoir (past the entrance near the boat launch), then turn right into the park. Continue about 0.2 mile to the parking area on the right side of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/106

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3710'31.82"N
Longitude
12145'42.21"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, restaurants, and pay phones back along Almaden Expressway. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Large dirt parking lot. No admission or parking fees for this trailhead (there is a fee to park at the reservoir/boat launch area). Portable toilet at edge of lot. Drinking water and maps near Ranger Station. There is no direct public transportation to the park, or designated handicapped parking. Trails are not well-suited to wheelchairs.

Rules:
Bikes are prohibited. All trails are open to hikers and equestrians. Dogs are permitted in the picnic and parking areas, but not on the trails.

The Official Story:
SCCP's Calero page
Calero entrance station: 408-268-5240

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's Monterey Bay Region map to get there.
Map from SCCP (download the Calero pdf)
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Calero hike.
South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and trail descriptions.
• Tom Taber's Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).

View 76 photos from the featured hike.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


Calero County Park is a treasure for hikers seeking solitude, especially from cyclists and dog walkers. TrailheadThe park is open only to equestrians and hikers, a rarity in the south bay. While there is a stable on the park's grounds, I encountered only one equestrian (and one other hiker) on a weekday visit. The trails obviously get more equestrian use on the weekends, and in the winter muddy, rutted trails are a reality. But on a weekday in the dry months, the lonely trails provides ample quiet time for nature study and daydreaming, particularly in the spring, when the park's grasslands are dotted with wildflowers. With a field guide in hand a curious hiker can spend the whole day at Calero identifying and admiring the splendid displays of blooming flowers.
      The park's trails sprawl on the south side of the Calero Reservoir. Since the boat launch is on the north side of the reservoir, the southern shore is mostly free of boaters and fishermen, although the kind of garbage prone to reservoir usage may be found sprinkled around the water's edge at times.Los Cerritos Trail
      There are a few loop options available. A 2.6 mile stretch includes Figueroa, Vallecito, Peña, and Los Cerritos Trails. This hike does not approach the reservoir's shores at all, instead climbing along a creek to a ridgeline with great views of Mount Hamilton, and finally descending around the edge of lovely small pond. The grand loop at Calero is a 7.5 mile trek that explores the different regions of the park. Combine Los Cerritos, Peña, the Javelina Loop, and Figueroa Trails, and prepare for an inspiring, sometimes steep hike. If you're short on time or energy, Los Cerritos Pond is a short round trip of less than 0.5 mile from the trailhead.
     For the featured hike, cross the street from the trailhead and go through the gate which marks the start of the trail. Walk on this short connector which edges around a fenced horse-grazing area, passes an information signboard, then ends at the unsigned junction of Los Cerritos and Figueroa Trails, at 0.21 mile. Los Cerritos Trail In the damp seep downhill from Los Cerritos Pond, spring flowers, including the yellow/orange fiddlenecks flourish. Curly dock is another prominent water-loving plant found along the sides of the trail. It's tough to miss in the late summer, when its reddish-colored seed pods jut up from the leaves. The seeds are devoured by deer, fox, and coyote, and evident in their scat. Take Los Cerritos Trail uphill to the right.
      The dirt path winds along the shore of Los Cerritos Pond. A wooden deck beneath an oak tree makes for a fine resting spot, or destination. The hilltops to the southwest are thick with trees, but the Los Cerritos Trail, which initially stays close to the reservoir, cuts mostly through open grassland. In the spring, deciduous oaks are easy to pick out, as their soft green leaves are just pushing out of their buds. Buckeyes are already fully engulfed in fresh foliage by late winter. Los Cerritos Trail crests just past the pond, then drops back down and crosses a creek. After a short climb, at 0.60 miles, Los Cerritos Trail meets Peña Trail at a signed junction. Continue on Los Cerritos Trail.Los Cerritos Trail
     Los Cerritos Trail cuts a straight path through the grass. Yellow California buttercups, white wild radish, pink checker-blooms, and orange johnny jump-ups dotted the hillside on a hike in March. The path curves to the right and nears the Calero Ranch Stables. On the first day of spring I watched a horse rolling on her back in a sandy spot, like a happy dog. A large stand of mustard grows off the side of the trail. Stay to the left on Los Cerritos Trail, and note that, although the stables would make a fine shortcut back to the trailhead, access is for boarding equestrians only. As the trail climbs slightly, you may see ground squirrels scurrying about, trying to evade the many hawks soaring around the reservoir. Los Cerritos Trail crests, then descends gently toward the water. Los Cerritos TrailThe Bailey Fellows House is visible back to the right, on the shore of the reservoir. In the grass on the sides of the trail, look for blue-eyed grass blossoms in spring. Ducks and grebes swim and fish in the shallow water near the reservoir's edge. Overhead, in addition to hawks and vultures, you may see gulls. Some large clumps of serpentine rock near the water harbor shrubs of poison oak. Los Cerritos sweeps uphill and then turns left, away from the reservoir. The trail continues to climb through some oaks, and gooseberry and poison oak are common close to the ground. At a flat spot, your climbing is rewarded with a view to the west, including the hills of Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and beyond, to Mount Umunhum. The grassy plateau on the left side of the trail is a perfect spot for some lazy spring flower identification, or for a sunny snooze. Sprinkled through the luxuriant lawn-like grass are popcorn flowers, Johnny jump-ups, and creamcups. Los Cerritos Trail winds through some oaks, and renews its climb. Oak Cove can be glimpsed back to the right; Figueroa Trail the Javelina Loop accesses the just-out-of-site Cherry Cove section of the park. After a short dip in elevation, Los Cerritos Trail climbs in earnest. If you find yourself panting on the side of the path, be sure to look back behind you for a great view of the reservoir. Los Cerritos finally exhausts itself and ends at a signed junction with Peña Trail at 2.72 miles. (If you're ready to head back to the trailhead, turn left onto Peña Trail and descend to Los Cerritos Trail, turn right and retrace your steps to the trailhead.) Turn right on Peña Trail.
     The wide dirt road continues to climb. As you draw close to the crest, oaks and poison oak overtake the grassland. A service road breaks off to the left; continue right on Peña, which curves around the top of the hill and begins a downward stretch. Javelina Loop is visible, and the mountains of the Sierra Azul stand in the distance to the southwest. Peña Trail descends to a signed junction beneath a grove of California bays at 3.09 miles. (If you want to extend your hike 2.6 more miles, take Javelina Loop Trail to the right.) For the featured hike, take the trail to the left, Figueroa Trail.Vallecito Trail
      Figueroa Trail ambles downhill along a creek. California sagebrush grows throughout a grass and oak lined hillside in sporadic clumps on the left side of the trail. This trail edges along the park's property boundary; you may notice that down the steep slope to the right a sturdy-looking barbed wire fence runs along the creekbed. As Figueroa Trail leaves the tree cover behind and enters the edge of a meadow, this is a good spot to compare the different vegetation zones of the area. The hills to the right (southwest) are forested; the hills to the left (northeast) are lightly sprinkled with oaks, but dominated by grassland. At 3.77 miles, Figueroa Trail meets Vallecito Trail at a signed, but easy to miss junction. (If you like Figueroa Trail, you could continue to the previously encountered junction with Los Cerritos Trail and return to the trailhead.) Turn left onto Vallecito Trail.Pena Trail
     This trail used to be a hiking-only path, but now, like the rest of Calero's trails, it is open to hikers and equestrians.Vallecito Trail is one of the best places in the bay area for an intimate walk through grassland. The trail is so insignificant, especially at the start, that you may have a "Sound of Music" moment and run through the grass with your arms spread wide, singing "the hills are alive" and whatnot. California poppies, filaree, fiddlenecks, Johnny jump-ups, and bicolor lupine add brilliant color to the verdant grass in early spring. Deer may be glimpsed in the distance. A small creek runs through the valley floor downslope to the right. Vallecito Trail crosses a damp spot and then begins to climb. Poison oak islands off the left side of the trail add a burst of color to the hillside in the autumn when their leaves turn red. A few oaks dot the slopes. As the path nears the crest, be sure to look back for a lovely view of the valley. The unsigned junction with Peña Trail comes into view, as Vallecito Trail ends at 4.27 miles. Turn right onto Peña Trail.
     The broad dirt fire road descends rather sharply, affording terrific views of the reservoir, US 101, and Mount Hamilton. At 4.53 miles, Peña Trail ends at the previously encountered junction with Los Cerritos Trail. Turn right on Los Cerritos Trail and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

Total distance: 5.13 miles
Last hiked: Tuesday, April 16, 2002