Fremont Older Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,

Santa Clara County
In brief:
2.7 mile loop through grassland and old orchards around a historical estate.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 2.7 mile loop hike is on the moderate end of easy. Trailhead elevation is around 580 feet. The preserve's high point is around 1025 feet. The featured hike is a bit of a roller coaster, climbing to about 900 feet, descending to 560 feet, climbing to 930 feet, then descending back to the trailhead -- total elevation change is about 600 feet. Fremont Older is a small preserve, but you can extend hikes into Stevens Creek County Park for longer and more vigorous hikes.

Exposure:
Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
2 1/2 hours.

Season:
Nice any time; lovely in spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, take CA 85 south for about 2 miles, then exit at DeAnza (turn right at end of ramp). Drive about 0.4 mile toward Saratoga, then turn right onto Prospect Road. After about 0.5 mile, turn left across the railroad tracks at the stop sign, to remain on Prospect. Drive 1 mile more, then turn left at the Fremont Older sign. Continue on this narrow stretch of road for about 0.25 mile to the parking lot at the end of the road.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/392

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3717'9.64"N
Longitude
122 3'32.81"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, restaurants, and stores back on DeAnza. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Parking for about 15 cars in a dirt lot. Park as far as you can from the golf course fence. Maps available at the information signboard. Portable toilet located just west of the parking lot. No admission or parking fees. One designated handicapped parking spot, and trail access is not obstructed, although trails are a bit steep for wheelchairs. There is no direct public transportation to the preserve.

Rules:
Most trails are multi-use. A few are closed to bicycles. Dogs are permitted on leash. Preserve is open from dawn until one 1/2 hour after sunset.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Fremont Older page
MROSD field office 650-691-1200.

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from MROSD (download Fremont Older pdf).
• Order the Saratoga to Big Basin map from Redwood Hikes.
Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has an overview of the preserve, descriptions of hikes, and simple maps.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Fremont Older hike.
• The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula includes Fremont Older.
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com) .
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map, trail descriptions, and suggested hikes (order this book from Amazon.com).

Fremont Older in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View 71 photos from the featured hike.





Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

I've never liked natural history museums all that much, and on a hike at Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, I realized why. I love learning, but inside a building all history seems dead, like a butterfly pinned to a board. But walking the earth is a different story -- the land remembers everything and history is all around you. Every deep scar in the dirt, ancient grove of trees, and disintegrating stone fence whisper of the past. At the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve the legacy of the Older family, as well as the vanishing agricultural past of Santa Clara valley, lives on in the gnarled fruit and nut trees and hayfields of this 735 acre parcel not far from the towns of Saratoga and Cupertino. Trailhead
        There are two major trailheads into Fremont Older; the first is described above, and the second is in Stevens Creek County Park (click here to see the Stevens Creek County Park page). A third access point is via a small roadside pullout on Regnart Road. From Stevens Creek County Park you can enter Fremont Older on the short and steep Coyote Ridge Trail, or the long and easy combination of the Stevens Canyon and Lookout Trails. These trails cover the west portion of the preserve. The Prospect Road trailhead is convenient to all the trails at Fremont Older. For a loop of about 5 miles that samples all the features of the preserve, start at the Prospect Road trailhead and combine the Cora Older Trail, Seven Springs Trail and Ranch Road, then climb up to ridge line (some trails aren't named, so follow the signs for Stevens Creek County Park) and hike along the Bay View Trail and Coyote Ridge Trail, visit Maisie's Peak, descend back to Hayfield Trail, and return to the parking lot via Creekside Trail. View of the preserve from Maisie's Peak
     I have yet to experience the peak of spring at Fremont Older, but with such a variety of plants you should find plenty of blooming shrubs and wildflowers throughout the grassland and woods. I enjoy hiking here in the summer, when the dried grass smells amazing and the cercocarpus are breathtaking. On typical clear winter days you'll have the best views from Hunter's Point or Maisie's Peak; consider a short hike to either after a cold winter storm for glimpses of snow-topped peaks in the east bay.Cora Older Trail
     For this featured hike, begin at the edge of the Prospect Road parking lot on Cora Older Trail. A gentle climb through coast live oak and California bay, this trail was widened in the late 1990's, and is now open to equestrians and cyclists as well as hikers. In summer, cercocarpus (otherwise known as mountain-mahogany) put forth feather-like stigmas, resembling fruit trees in full spring blossom. Blue elderberry, coyote brush, monkeyflower, and poison oak are common, but also look for an olive tree on the left side of the trail. Just before you reach the junction at 0.29 mile, the right side of the trail opens up to a grassy hillside. At the signed junction, turn right towards Hunter's PointSeven Springs Trail
      Note the many firebreaks cut into the hillsides at this preserve. A firebreak is a wide swath cut through vegetation, generally at the edge of a wooded section. They serve to keep small fires contained by taking away any potential fuel, therefore stopping fires from jumping across fields. At Fremont Older if you're not familiar with the trails, you may be confused by the firebreaks, as they look like lumpy fire roads (and I have seen tire tracks on the fire breaks, so I know some cyclists use them).The trails are very well signed here, so your best best to avoid getting turned around is to stay on the main trails. Walk uphill on the broad fire road, then at the next signed junction at 0.35 mile, turn right onto Seven Springs Trail. Seven Springs Trail
        Be alert for bicycle traffic and runners on this multi-access narrow path. Seven Springs Trail edges along the north side of a hillside, descending through coast live oak and California bay, with some buckeye and patches of chaparral featuring holly-leaf cherry, toyon, poison oak, pitcher sage, and creambush.  In the winter toyon berries turn bright orange-red, giving the drab surroundings a burst of cheerful color. As you descend, look for a few sycamore trees. The trail winds through an old walnut orchard, then runs along a stream until it reaches a junction at 0.93 mile. (If you want a shorter hike, turn left onto Ranch Road and hike uphill to Hunter's Point, then return to the parking lot on the Hayfield and Creekside Trails). For this featured hike, go straight and continue hiking on the Seven Springs Trail. View from Seven Springs Trail
        The trail now climbs out of the canyon, winding between fruit and nut trees, until it turns north at the preserve boundary, a rather unattractive high metal fence. On a hike in November I enjoyed the colorful display of red leaves on a small tree (maybe sumac?) at the crest of the trail (photo). Seven Springs Trail edges near a high power line, curves around the contour of the hill to the west, turns again near some pines, and ascends through grassland. Birds seem to be everywhere in this preserve in the winter, rustling in the leaves on the ground as well as soaring through the sky. I've seen redtail hawks, vultures, and even black shouldered kites hunting above the hillsides. A short segment of the trail dips beneath the trees on the cool slopes of the hill, but most of this trail is exposed, with wonderful views as you climb. A variety of plant communities are visited, such as chaparral (California sagebrush, yerba-santa, toyon, monkeyflower,coyote brush, and chamise), grassland (good for spring wildflowers), and mixed woodland (California bay, coast live oaks, and a few buckeyes). Some plum trees along the trail still bear fruit in the summer. At 1.67 mile, stay straight (toward Hunter's Point) at a signed junction. The grade slackens some as you skirt a hill. At 1.84 miles turn right at a signed junction to visit Hunter's PointView from Hunter's Point
      A short climb up the trail brings you a junction with Woodhills Trails at 1.92 miles. Bear right and walk a few more feet to Hunter's Point, a broad bare hilltop that is a great place for a picnic or for quiet contemplation. (On one hike here I was accosted by a woman who wanted to talk about Jesus, but I'm guessing that was a freak occurrence.) From this belvedere, as from Maisie's Peak, up the ridge to the southwest, the whole south bay opens up at your feet. On clear days, San Francisco and Mount Tamalpais are visible to the north, Mount Hamilton to the east, the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, and Mount Umunhum (the Ohlone Indian word for "resting place of the hummingbird") to the south. When you are ready, return back to the junction with Hayfield Trail, at 2.01 miles, then turn right.
        The broad trail, punctuated here and there with coyote brush, keeps a mostly level pace as it wanders through grassland. On an August hike I watched some goldfinches nibbling on thistle seed pods, distributing clouds of fluff to the wind. At 2.14 miles, a trail to the right heads to a pullout on Regnart Road. Continue straight on Hayfield Trail. Returning downhill toward the trailhead
      Although a lot of the grassland in this preserve (as well as through the bay area) has been invaded by yellow star thistle, a non-native plant, the grass on this rolling hill is still growing strong. It even gets green in the spring, something that seems incredible when you walk through the brown dead grass in the summer and winter. At a signed junction at 2.25 miles, a trail departs to the right, on to way to a ridge and Maisie's Peak. Stay to the left, toward Prospect Road parking.
     After a short descent, you'll reach a previously encountered junction with Seven Springs Trail at 2.33 miles. Bear right. The trail drops down to another previously encountered junction, this one with Cora Older Trail, at 2.39 miles. Continue straight.Creekside Trail
     Grassland diminishes as oaks, a few walnuts, and California bays reclaim some territory. The trail, closed to cyclists here, descends easily to a signed junction at 2.50 miles. Turn left onto Creekside Trail (a gated trail entrance straight ahead leads to a paved road, an optional route to return to the trailhead). On a warm day, shaded Creekside Trail is a welcome relief. California bays dominate, but you might also see a few buckeye and some large coast live oaks. Look for an old stone staircase on the right as the trail winds downhill. Wild rose and snowberry, a plant with rather peculiar looking white berries, are common in the understory. The trail crosses a stream on a wooden bridge, then ends at the road and a signed junction at about 2.64 miles. Turn left and walk the remaining 0.1 mile back to the parking lot on a paved and flat road. Watch out for cars along the way.

Total distance:  2.74 miles
Last hiked: Friday, August 24, 2001