6 mile out and back through the Duveneck Windmill area.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 6 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 1000 feet in elevation
change. Trailhead elevation is just over 400 feet, and from there you have
no choice but to climb to at least 1100 feet. If you're ambitious you can
ascend all the way to Black Mountain, elevation 2800 feet. Easier hikes
descend to about 400 feet at the preserve's eastern section, but you'll
have to climb back to Rhus Ridge Trail before you can drop down to the trailhead.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Nice year round but extra pretty in early spring.
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit #16 El Monte/Moody Road
and drive west on El Monte. Go straight through the stoplight, pass
Foothill College, and at the stop sign, turn left onto Moody Road. Continue
on Moody (at the next junction bear left to stay on Moody) and turn left
onto Rhus Ridge Road (it's about 1 mile from 280). Drive about 0.2 mile
on this narrow road, then turn right into the parking lot. The main
entrance to Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve is through Rancho San
Antonio County Park: exit Interstate 280 at Foothill Boulevard. Make
the first right onto Cristo Rey Drive, then turn drive about 1 mile, and
turn left into the parking lot.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
Gas, food, and lodging:
There are no facilities in the immediate area -- gas, stores, restaurants,
and pay phones a few miles to the north or south off 280.
The Duveneck Windmill Trailhead has parking for about 10 cars (if everyone
parks accordingly); no parking on Rhus Ridge Road. No entrance or parking
fees. No toilet facilities or drinking water. No designated handicapped
parking, and trails are poorly suited to wheelchairs. Maps available at
information signboard. There is no direct public transportation to this
trailhead, but Santa Clara County's VTA buses service Foothill
College, about 1 mile from the Duveneck Windmill trailhead: visit the Transit
Info website for details. At the main trailhead, there is no entrance
fee, lots of parking (fills up on weekends), restrooms and maps.
Most trails are designated hiking and equestrian only. A few are open to
hikers and cyclists only. There are a handful of hiking only trails. Dogs
are not permitted.
The Official Story:
MROSD field office 650-691-1200
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from MROSD (download the Rancho San Antonio 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 Rancho
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula includes
Rancho San Antonio and surrounding preserves.
Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a map
and preserve description (order
this book from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail
this book from Amazon.com).
View 33 photos from the featured
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Windmill Trailhead is the backdoor
into Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. If you've ever been
to Rancho (especially on a weekend) you've probably noticed
that it gets really crowded. It certainly must be the most heavily used
of MROSD's preserves. Sometimes it feels like Central Park on a hot
summer day. Thankfully, although I am a dog lover, the preserve does
not permit entry to canines. I think if dogs were permitted here the preserve
would become a free-for-all.
Rancho San Antonio's trump card is its size. This
is a large preserve with lots of trails and loop possibilities. By
hiking from the Duveneck Windmill Trailhead you can partially escape the
throngs and experience the preserve in a whole new light, but be warned:
no matter how you enter Ranch San Antonio, it's not a good choice if you're
searching for solitude. Consider
using the preserve for two things: exercise, and activities for babies
and rather sedimentary folks who like nature.
For a gentle family-oriented
outdoor experience, visit Deer Hollow Farm, a level mile hike from the
County Park trailhead. The working farm (operated by the City of
Mountain View, open Tuesday-Sunday) has pigs, chickens, goats, and other
fun farm stuff.
If you're looking for a stiff
cardio workout, there are trails at Rancho San Antonio to get your
blood pumping. A challenging 7 mile loop starts at the County Park trailhead
and combines Coyote Trail, High Meadow Trail, Wildcat Loop Trail, Upper
High Meadow Trail, and the PG&E Trail. This hike climbs from 400 to
1300 feet, and visits most of the preserve's special features, traveling
along a cool, shaded canyon, through grassy meadows, and dry chaparral-lined
slopes, with views of the south bay from a vista point. Many hikers
relate that they experience peak wildlife encounters along Upper High
The most challenging hike at Rancho is
the trek up Black Mountain. Starting at
the Duveneck Windmill Trailhead, Rhus Ridge Trail starts at just over
500 feet, and climbs up to the summit (2800 feet) of Black Mountain, a
9.4 mile round trip. The hike would be easier if not for the steep
upper portions of the Black Mountain Trail. It you do it, take plenty
of water, and shoot for a cool day. For easier access to Black Mountain,
visit from the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve,
where you can hike to the summit on a less than 6 mile round trip, with
an elevation gain of about 700 feet.
For this featured hike, start
from the Duveneck Windmill Trailhead and begin walking up Rhus Ridge
Trail, which is open to hikers and equestrians only (no dogs or bikes).
The trail initially crosses under huge California bay trees in a small
canyon, passes the caretaker's residence and after a gate, begins
climbing. Angling along the side of the hill, the wide dirt trail
runs through buckeye and California bay trees, with poison oak, common
snowberry, and blackberry bushes in the understory. Expect to see deer,
especially on the upslope of the hill. About halfway up, a belvedere on
the right side of the trail is a nice spot to stop and catch your breath,
with vistas to the north and
east of San Francisco, Mount Tam, and the east bay hills. Rhus Ridge
Trail climbs relentlessly, gaining 600 feet in less than a mile. To
add insult to injury (at least as far as your legs go), the last bit of
trail before the crest seems to be the steepest. It's always a welcome
site to reach the flat junction at 0.9 mile. A huge oak tree guards
the intersection, with a gentle sweeping meadow at which to rest (unfortunately
the grass is infested with yellow star thistle) and a great view up to
Black Mountain. The trail to the right climbs to Black Mountain,
while the remaining three trails (although only two are shown on the map;
all three rejoin shortly) travel to the east. Take the trail straight
ahead, signed "to historic windmill site".
The trail descends slightly,
then leaves the grassland to meander among California bay and oak trees,
and some chaparral. At about 1.2 miles, you'll reach the historic windmill
site, which really is just an interpretive display explaining that a windmill
once stood in this meadow and that the Duvenecks gave this property to
the district in 1977. Continue on the trail past the site, back
into grassland and then to an unsigned junction. You'll take the trail
on the left on the return leg of this hike, but for now continue straight
(or right) on the main path. The Chamise Trail passes through oak
and California bay trees, before settling on chaparral as its main plant
community. In the winter, the bright orange-red berries of the toyon
stand out among the rusty-colored leaves of the chamise and the fuzzy
white seedpods of the coyote brush. At some spots on the east side of
the trail the foliage
clears and views to the valley and further east are great. The wooded
slopes of the mountains to the west strike a dramatic counterpoint. You
may see rabbits, and even bobcats along the trail.
At about 2 miles, Chamise Trail
makes a sharp turn to the south (right) at a signed junction with a dead-end
trail. As you continue downhill on Chamise, look for olive trees along
the sides of the trail. The predominant plant remains chamise. Some deer
paths and dead-end trails cross the main trail. Chamise Trail steadily
descends, and runs parallel to a thin ridge to the west. This is the quietest
part of the featured hike. Some large deluxe-looking houses are visible
to the east, just beyond the preserve's boundary. Soon the shaded
canyon floor, and Rogue Valley Trail come into view, quite a contrast
to the dry sunny Chamise Trail. At 3 miles, and 600 feet, you'll come
to a signed junction. If you want to extend this hike, continue straight
on the ridge, or turn right to visit the canyon. For this featured hike,
this is the turnaround point. Retrace your steps, taking the middle
trail through the grassland back near the Windmill site.
Total distance: 6 miles
Last hiked: Friday, December 3, 1999