Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,
Santa Clara County
In brief:
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.

Exposure:
Mix of sun and shade.

Trail traffic:
Moderate.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
1 1/2 hours.

Season:
Nice any time; lovely in spring.

Getting there:
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:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/393

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3717'40.30"N
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.

Trailhead details:
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 the preserve.

Rules:
All but one trail are open to equestrians and hikers. One trail is designated hiking only. No bikes, no dogs.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Picchetti page.
Picchetti Winery page.
• MROSD field office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from MROSD (download Picchetti pdf).
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 Picchetti hike.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and preserve descriptions (order 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.

View photos from the featured hike (February 2002)
View 62 photos from the featured hike (June 2000)




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve is situated on the Parking lotgrounds 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 Zinfandel Trail2000, 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 glimpseZinfandel Trail (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 Trail.
     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 headsOrchard Loop Trailwest. 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 Coast live oaks on the hilltopSierra 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 mileView from the hilltop  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 left.
     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 RoadOrchard Loop Trail  (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.

Total distance: 2.94 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, February 13, 2002