3.1 mile loop through grassland and old orchards around a historical estate.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.1 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.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
2 1/2 hours.
Nice any time; lovely in spring.
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:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
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.
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.
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:
Fremont Older page
MROSD field office 650-691-1200.
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from MROSD (download Fremont Older pdf).
Order the Saratoga to Big Basin map from Redwood
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
this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Fremont
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula includes
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).
Older in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured
View 71 photos from
the featured hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
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
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
For a loop of about 5 miles, sampling 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.
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.
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 0.4 mile, the right side of the trail opens up to a grassy
hillside. At the signed junction, turn right towards Hunter's
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 signed trails. Walk uphill on the
broad fire road, then at the next signed junction at 0.5 mile, turn
right onto 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 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 streambed until it reaches a junction at 1.2 miles. (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
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,
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 2.1 miles dead-end Rainbow Knoll Trail departs on the right. Continue straight.
A few steps down trail there is a multiple trail junction. The path to the left skirts the south slope of the hill (and also offers access to Ranch Road). Turn right onto Woodhills Loop Trail.
The wide fire road sweeps uphill, with great views north. Look for California poppies and blue and white lupines blooming here in early spring. At 2.3 miles, Woodhills Loop Trail ends at the path to Hunters Point. Turn left at
the signed junction.
This broad bare hilltop
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, retrace your steps back to the previous junction. Descend a short distance to a second junction with Hayfield Trail. 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 2.4 miles, a trail to the right heads to a pullout on Regnart Road. Continue straight on Hayfield Trail.
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 2.5 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 2.6 miles. Bear right.
The trail drops down to another previously encountered junction, this
one with Cora Older Trail, at 2.7 miles. Continue straight.
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 2.8 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 3
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
Total distance: 3.1 miles
Last hiked: February 25, 2015
August 24, 2001