2.9 mile loop through old orchards and woods.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This almost-3 mile hike is easy, with a total elevation change of
about 350 feet.
Mix of sun and shade.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
1 1/2 hours.
Nice any time; lovely in spring.
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit Foothill Expressway. Drive
southwest on Foothill Boulevard about 0.7 mile, then stay in the middle
right lane to continue straight on Stevens Creek. Drive on Stevens Creek
(which seamlessly turns into Stevens Canyon, just follow the gravel trucks),
about 2.2 miles, then turn right onto Montebello Road (just past the quarry
entrance). Drive about 0.5 mile, and turn left into the preserve.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 5'28.86"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, and store back on Stevens Canyon Road at Foothills. No camping.
Large gravel parking lot. No entrance or parking fees. Maps available at
information signboard. Restrooms and drinking water located less than 0.1
mile from parking lot, at the south side of the winery. Designated handicapped
parking for 2 vehicles, and wheelchairs and strollers should be able to
navigate some of the trails. There is no direct public transportation to
All but one trail are open to equestrians and hikers. One trail is designated
hiking only. No bikes, no dogs.
The Official Story:
MROSD field office 650-691-1200
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from MROSD (download Picchetti pdf).
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 Picchetti
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and preserve
this book from Amazon.com).
Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple
map and trail descriptions (order
this book from Amazon.com).
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula shows
some of the preserve's trail; it is a useful locator map.
photos from the featured hike (February 2002)
62 photos from the featured hike (June 2000)
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Ranch Open Space Preserve is situated on the grounds
of an old winery and farm. On weekends, you can hike at this small preserve,
and then sip wine at Picchetti Winery, which is leased from MROSD and
run by a private party. The historic winery complex, located next to the
parking lot, features an attractive house and ranch buildings, picnic
tables, and a collection of peacocks. Once you get past the winery, a
small cluster of trails and fire roads wander through old orchards, forested
canyons, and to a hilltop with views of Stevens Creek Reservoir.
Picchetti Ranch is particularly lovely in spring,
when the fruit and nut trees bloom, and in the autumn, when the same trees
blush and drop their leaves. This is a preserve suitable for families
with small children, as there is plenty to look at and the trails are
mostly level. If you do visit with kids, encourage your children to stay
on the trails. Poison oak is abundant. Picchetti closed its trails to
cyclists in late 2000,
so if you like to avoid bicycle traffic, it's a good choice.
With only a handful of trails, most of
them under a mile in length, Picchetti offers just a few loop hike
possibilities. Stevens Creek County Park wraps around the southeastern
section of Picchetti, and Zinfandel Trail connects to that park,
but once you get into Stevens Creek Park there are no connecting trails
nearby. If you like Picchetti, consider visiting Fremont
Older Open Space Preserve and/or Stevens
Creek County Park, just across the valley to the east of Stevens Canyon
Road. Both parks are larger than Picchetti and boast longer trails systems.
For the featured hike, start at the
southern end of the parking lot and walk down the dirt road to the
information signboard on the right side of the road. Take the trail
which starts to the right of the winery gate and skirts the historic
area. You may glimpse
(or hear) peacocks strutting across the groomed grass of the winery. The
trail crosses a creek, where blackberry and creambush thrive, then the
path feeds into Zinfandel Trail across from the restrooms, at about 450
feet. A walnut tree graces the junction. Bear right onto Zinfandel
This wide fire road, open to hikers and equestrians,
rises to an old orchard. Watch out for poison oak on the right side of
the trail, mixed through coyote brush. Apricot, plum, and pear trees continue
to produce, to the delight of local bluejays, which you may see flying
with large whole fruits in their beaks. Plum (white flowers) and apricot
(pink flowers) blossom first, typically in late February, followed by
pear in spring. Deer, cottontail, and quail are common. Although the setting
is bucolic, noise from the nearby quarry can be depressingly invasive.
At 0.21 mile, Orchard Loop Trail sets out on the left side of the trail
at a signed junction. Continue straight on Zinfandel Trail. A few
steps later, at 0.28 mile, you'll reach another signed junction, this
time with Bear Meadow Trail, which headswest.
Remain straight on Zinfandel Trail.
Large oaks and a few smaller madrones shade
the trail, which passes by a small pond, climbs a bit, then reaches another
signed junction at 0.44 mile. Orchard Loop Trail drifts downhill to the
left, and if you'd like to shorten this hike, take Orchard Loop all the
way back to Zinfandel Trail. Continue straight on Zinfandel Trail.
Wild roses grow profusely on the right side of
the path. After passing through a mixture of valley and coast live oak
and grassland, Zinfandel Trail begins a gently graded descent. A short
stint in the shade of madrone, coast live oak, and California bay is followed
by a stretch through chaparral, with toyon, buckeye, silk-tassel, creambush,
sticky monkeyflower, and California sagebrush dominating the landscape.
Through a break in the trees the Sierra
Azul and Mount Umunhum may be visible to the south, on a clear
day. Zinfandel Trail ducks into the forest and crosses seasonal creeks
from time to time, where you may see hazelnut shrubs, pitcher sage, ferns,
and common snowberries. The trail dips down to a bridge and creek crossing.
This shaded and cool spot is the quietest location at Picchetti, and makes
a nice lunch or rest spot during warm months. Then Zinfandel Trail climbs
easily through California bay back into chaparral, with honeysuckle, holly-leaf
cherry, cercocarpus, and toyon lining the trail. Paintbrush and
fairy lanterns bloom in the spring. At 1.34 miles, Zinfandel
Trail leaves Picchetti Open Space Preserve and enters Stevens Creek County
Park, managed by Santa Clara County. Stevens Creek Reservoir is visible
to the northwest. Marked by a generic MROSD "rules" sign,
this is the turnaround point for this hike, although you can continue
another 0.6 mile
to the end of the trail, then retrace your steps.
When you reach the previously encountered
junction with Orchard Loop Trail, at 2.24 miles, turn right.
The wide trail descends, bordered by coast live oak, willow, and a few
elderberry trees, with monkeyflower and poison oak in the understory.
After a short, sharp drop, Bear Meadow Trail begins on the right side
of the trail, at a signed junction at 2.38 miles. Orchard Loop
Trail splits; either path is fine, but for this hike, take a sharp
The narrow and level path passes a large
shrub of pitcher sage, and then meets the other path at 2.42 miles. Continue
straight. You might see silk-tassel on the right, under some
coast live oaks. At 2.44 miles, Bear Meadow Trail heads back to the pond
on the left side of the trail at a signed junction. Continue straight.
After a few more steps, you'll reach another signed junction at 2.46 miles.
The path straight ends at Montebello Road
(where there is no roadside parking). Turn left on Orchard Loop Trail
(signed to parking area).
A short but very steep segment may have
you stopping for a rest as you ascend. Looking around, you may see chamise,
coyote brush, ceanothus, poison oak, and pink-flowering currant. At 2.56
miles, the trail crests, and you'll reach a junction. Bear left.
The path ascends easily to a hilltop,
and at 2.58 miles, you'll reach a junction under a grove of coast live
oak. Continue straight a few feet to a viewpoint just before a fence.
This is a nice place for lunch, although the sounds from the quarry are
disruptive on weekdays. When you're ready, retrace your steps back
to the junction on Orchard Loop Trail. Turn left.
The peace-shattering eyesore quarry can
be seen to the north. Continue straight on Orchard Loop Trail,
which drops down to the previously encountered junction with Zinfandel
Trail at 2.76 miles. Turn right onto Zinfandel Trail and retrace your
steps back to the parking lot.
Last hiked: Wednesday, February