Santa Teresa County Park,
Santa Clara County Parks,
Santa Clara County
In brief:
3.8 mile loop through rocky grassland, with impressive spring wildflower displays. Hosts a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.8 mile hike is easy, with about 550 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is around 600 feet. The park's highest point is around 1155 feet. Santa Teresa is small, and the trails should be manageable for even beginning hikers.

Exposure:
Almost totally exposed.

Trail traffic:
Light-moderate.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
2 hours.

Season:
Best in late winter and spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit #12B CA 85. Drive south on 85 and exit #1B Bernal Road/US 101. Drive west on Bernal Road, past Santa Teresa Boulevard, into the park. Continue uphill, and turn left, following the signs for the picnic area (if you start seeing ominous signs for IBM, you've gone too far). Park near the Pueblo Group Picnic Area, if possible.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/110

GPS coordinates* for trailh
ead:
Latitude 3712'45.80"N
Longitude
12147'16.01"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants about 2 miles northeast along Bernal Road. No camping.

Trailhead details:
Lots of parking. $6 entrance fee; use the automated payment box (bring sturdy bills, or a lot of change). Designated handicapped parking spots in some parking lots. Wheelchair-accessible restrooms across from Pueblo Group Picnic Area parking lot. Trails are technically accessible to wheelchairs, but I doubt that even with assistance they could be navigated. There are a couple of drinking fountains near the parking lots. Maps available at a signboard near the Pueblo Group Picnic Area. Emergency phone in the northernmost parking lot. There is no direct public transportation to this park, but you can walk from the VTA bus stop: visit the Transit Info website for details.

Rules:
Most trails are multi-use. A few restrict bicycles. Dogs are permitted on the hike described below, and are allowed on all park trails (they are restricted from some park areas). Park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.

The Official Story:
SCCP's Santa Teresa page
Park office 408-225-0225

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's Monterey Bay Region map to get there.
Map from SCCP (download Santa Teresa pdf)
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Santa Teresa hike.
• South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and trail descriptions.
• 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area, by Ann Marie Brown (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and featured hike.
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and descriptions of Santa Teresa's Ridge Trail segment.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber, has a simple map and park description (order this book from Amazon.com).

Santa Teresa in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

View 54 photos from the featured hike.
View some photos of the park in spring.




Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Santa Teresa County Park has a lot to love; Photo of the parking lot acres of rolling hills, serpentine soil that sustains many native plants and wildflowers, and views in every direction. The only things missing here are the trail signs! This Santa Clara County park is one of the poorest signed parks in the bay area. If you visit you may want to bring a map with you in case there are none in the park, because once you get out on the trails you'll probably need some guidance, particularly since well-worn unsigned paths are common.
      The trailhead at Santa Teresa is about 500 feet, and the high point in the park is 1155 feet, so it's easy to create a few easy or moderate hikes. The prime season to visit is spring, for wildflowers along Rocky Ridge and Bernal Hill trails (also see Stile Ranch page), but I have enjoyed the sun-baked chaparral and grassland on a July morning, and bet on a clear winter day the views would be at their best. If you're interested in a family outing, there are picnic tables at the Pueblo Day Use Area, and even a reservable group picnic area with a large barbecue pit, horseshoe pit, and volleyball area. Photo of Mine Hill Trail
     For the featured hike, start near the restrooms across from the Pueblo Group Picnic Area. Begin hiking uphill (to the left) on the Mine Trail (part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail). The wide dirt multi-use trail is unsigned (but for a Bay Area Ridge Trail symbol), so do not wander off course steeply uphill on a path that heads to private property; Mine follows along the park's road. The trail quickly comes to a crest near an abundance of sagebrush, then drops down and crosses a seasonal creek that sustains yellow (seep) monkeyflower in late spring and early summer. Fiddlenecks are common in spring throughout the grass. At 0.23 mile, Mine Trail ends at an undersigned junction with Hidden Springs Trail. The only signage is via Bay Area Ridge Trail symbols; turn right on Hidden Spring Trail.Photo of view west
      This wide trail, open to equestrians, cyclists, and hikers, heads uphill to the east, initially passing through poison oak, buckeye, and blue oak. After a gate, Hidden Springs, also part of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, climbs a bit more steeply. There's a stream on the right side of the trail, and moisture-loving plants such as elderberry and California bay thickly line the creekbed. At 0.44 mile, Ridge Trail begins to the left at a junction (now unsigned). Keep going uphill on Hidden Springs Trail. Black sage, a chaparral plant commonly mixed through other shrubs, occupies the hillside on the left. In spring, you might see bluedicks, Chinese houses, and California poppy. Look for a little pond (or damp green spot in the summer and fall) on the right. Hidden Springs ascends steadily until it ends at an unsigned junction at 0.70 mile. Stay to the right on Coyote Peak Trail.Photo of Coyote Peak Trail in spring
     Views to the east begin to open up, and you may see hawks perched on the power lines above the trail. The broad multi-use trail continues the climb that Hidden Springs Trail started, sweeping uphill through grassland mixed with blue elderberry and coyote brush. Ignore any unsigned paths and even more substantially worn trails, persisting on Coyote Peak Trail to another undersigned junction at 1.14 miles. A large antenna and ugly building sit on the southeast side of the peak, and the Boundary Trail sets out downhill the same direction. Take the trail uphill to the peak, which makes a loop around the crest. If it's clear you will be rewarded with views in every direction; most notably Mount Hamilton to the east and the Sierra Azul to the west. Return to the junction, which is only signed by a Bay Area Ridge Trail "end of segment" marker. Head downhill to the west on the Coyote Peak Trail.Rocky Ridge Trail in spring
      The trail drops and then climbs in a straight line through grassland almost completely devoid of any trees or shrubs. All the better for spotting wild turkeys as they shuffle through the grass. In spring, you might see johnny-jump-ups and fiddlenecks. A few steps before the little building at the crest of the hill, at 1.67 miles, look for an unsigned and narrow path that begins on the right side of the trail (there's another small path that heads downhill east of Rocky Ridge Trail; that trail is at the low point between two hills, while Rocky Ridge Trail is at the top of the hill just before the little building). Turn right onto Rocky Ridge Trail.
      Rocky Ridge Trail, although multi-use, is a mere whisper of a path. Serpentine rocks protrude from the grassland, providing perfect conditions for springtime riots of flowers. Early April wildflowers including creamcups, goldenfields, California poppies, popcorn flowers, and tidytips congregate throughout the hillsides, forming pools of vibrant color. Keep alert to bicycle traffic as you gape at the blossoms. The descent is gradual, and the trail gets rockier as you continue. Rocky Ridge Trail passes through an opening in a fence and winds past a large California bay. Then the path curves around to the right, as it heads east into Big Oak Valley. Soon California bay, toyon, California coffeeberry,and poison oak edge near the trail.Photo of Rocky Ridge Trail  You may see wild buckwheat in the summer. Rocky Ridge Trail draws near a creek, then turns to the left, continuing to descend, and crosses a wooden bridge. The path climbs sharply for a few feet, and meets an unmarked path coming in from the right. Stay to the left on the main trail as it follows along the creek, which is obscured by tangles of elderberry, blackberry and poison oak. In the summer you might notice an expanse of yellow star thistle, a non-native pest plant often kept under control in parks by grazing (there are no cows here). The trail splits just before crossing a creek. Either trail is an option, but for today, continue straight to the trail's end, at an unsigned junction with Mine Trail at 3.39 miles. Turn right on Mine Trail.
     California coffeeberry and blue elderberry are kept company by a large fig tree on the right side of the trail. Just before crossing the creek (again), look for a splendid California coffeeberry tree, one of the largest of these plants I have ever seen. As you get close to a parking lot, at 3.67 miles, stay to the right and walk through the corral, continuing on Mine Trail to the trailhead near the restrooms.

Total distance: 3.77 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, April 4, 2001