6.1 mile loop around and above Stevens Creek Reservoir.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 6.1 mile loop hike is moderate. Trailhead elevation is
around 400 feet. The featured hike's high point is about 1170 feet, but
one trail wanders up and down considerably, and the hike's total ascent
is about 1110 feet. You can take this hike in either direction, but Coyote
Ridge Trail is a steep fire road, in my opinion, better hiked down than
Mix of sun and shade.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
Nice any time.
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit Foothill Expressway (exit
#13) and drive south on Foothill Boulevard about 1 mile to the junction
with Stevens Canyon Road. Stay in the middle right lane and drive on Stevens
Canyon Road about 2 miles to the park entrance on the left side of the road.
Drive downhill, pull into the Chestnut Picnic Area on the left to pay the
entrance fee, then continue on the park road to the ranger station on the
right side of the road. Pick up a map, then continue down the road
to the Baytree Picnic Area at the end of the road.
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 4'28.81"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
$5 entrance/parking fee. Parking for 17 vehicles, and one designated handicapped
parking spot. Restrooms and drinking water at picnic area. If you look at
the map(s) on line before visiting these parks, note that although the maps
show parking areas at the Madrone and Sycamore Group Areas, the gates leading
to the areas are not always open. There is some roadside parking at this
southern portion of the park, but your best bet is to use the main entrance
to Stevens Creek County Park as a trailhead. There is no direct public transportation
to the park. Trails are wheelchair accessible for short distances.
Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, pay phone, and store back on Stevens Canyon Road at Foothills. No camping.
Some trails are multi-use, some just open to hikers and equestrians, and
a few hiking only. Dogs are not allowed on every trail on the hike described
below: they are permitted below the dam on Stevens Creek Trail in Stevens
Creek County Park, and on the Fremont Older trails.
The Official Story:
Steven's Creek page (click on Find a Park, then Steven's Creek)
Stevens Creek County Park office: 408-867-3654
Fremont Older page.
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
from SCCP (download Stevens Creek pdf).
from MROSD (download Fremont Older pdf).
The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula is
an excellent guide to Stevens Creek County Park.
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail
this book from Amazon.com).
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber, has a map
and preserve description (order
this book from Amazon.com).
Creek County Park in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the
View photos from this hike
have to pick your poison when you plan a hike to
Stevens Creek County Park. Are you bothered by crowds? Then go on a weekday.
Dislike the roar of quarry trucks? Your best bet is a weekend hike. The
quarry on Stevens Canyon Road, on the west shore of the reservoir, is
very noisy, but the trucks roar Monday through Friday, taking Saturday
and Sunday off. That's when throngs of fishermen descend to Stevens Creek
Reservoir, cyclists zip up and down the steep fire roads, picnickers unfurl
their blankets, and archers let their arrows fly at a range in the southeast
corner of Stevens Creek Park.
Stevens Creek is Santa Clara County's first
park. The county has gradually increased the park from an original 1924
400 acre purchase to 1,042 acres. Fremont
Older Open Space Preserve abuts the park to the east, and Picchetti
Ranch Open Space Preserve to the west, permitting long loops and out-and-back
for cyclists, hikers, and equestrians. From the trailhead at Baytree Picnic
Area, there aren't any short loops, although an out-and-back hike on Stevens
Creek Tony Look Trail would be a good choice for a brief walk. For
a longer hike, you can extend this featured hike by visiting Nob Hill,
on the southeast corner of Fremont Older (see MROSD's Fremont Older map),
then taking Toyon and Bay View Trails back to Coyote Ridge Trail. The
trail systems at Fremont Older and Pichetti Ranch are more conducive to
Although Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail is
mostly shaded, I wouldn't recommend a summer hike at Stevens Creek County
Park or Fremont Older. Too much valley smog. Autumn is nice, with attractive
sycamore, cottonwood, big-leaf maple, and cercocarpus foliage. In winter
there are tiny waterfalls on Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail, and spring
to the grassland and woods.
For the featured hike, start at
Baytree Picnic Area's parking lot. Walk back along the park road,
cross the bridge, and after about 180 feet, turn right onto
gated and signed Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail. The broad trail, open
to hikers and cyclists, follows along Stevens Creek. The slightly ascending
trail is well-shaded by California bay and coast live oak, as well as
clusters of sycamore, big-leaf maple, cottonwood, and alder, all pretty
in autumn. At 0.40 mile, there's a fenced flat area, and a few steps later
you'll reach a signed junction, with Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail
veering off to the right, and Coyote Ridge Trail beginning the climb to
the ridge on the left. Stay to the right on Stevens Creek Tony Look
After a brief climb through coyote brush,
poison oak, and sagebrush, the trail levels out. A few coast live oak
shade the trail as it edges near the reservoir. A short section of
fence, blocking off the spillway, ends and you can reach the water's edge,
but no wading or swimming is permitted. The trail, with coast
live oak, toyon, and coyote brush prominent, follows along the shore until
0.76 mile, when Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail swings to the left. The
other trail ends about 0.2 mile further. Turn left to remain
on Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail.
Check out the boy scout-built bat house
at the junction. This portion of the trail was built in 1988 by volunteers,
and it's a fantastic hiking-only path through woods of coast live oak,
buckeye, California bay, poison oak, creambush, and toyon. If you think
of blackberry as a benign plant, check out the spot not far from the junction
where vines have completely overtaken the understory. Switchbacks smooth
out the elevation gain. At the highest point along the trail, the path
cuts through an amazing patch of old-growth chaparral. Some of the shrubs,
especially the chamise, are the size of small trees. You might also see
sagebrush, toyon, pitcher sage, cercocarpus, and hollyleaf cherry. Views
to the forested slopes across the reservoir are unobstructed. The trail
snakes downhill, passing
through a grassy area with some elegant coast live oaks. A fence guards
a steep dropoff as the trail drops to a bridge. There's nowhere to go
but up, and Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail climbs a bit before reaching
a clear spot with yerba santa-framed views of the southern tip of the
reservoir. In autumn, look for lovely golden leaves on sycamores at the
shoreline. Stevens Creek Tony Look Trail descends again, and another fence
prevents shortcuts as a shallow switchback channels the trail downhill.
Through the trees you might see ducks and herons in the quiet pools of
the reservoir. The narrow trail edges beneath a strange slab of rock where
small seasonal waterfalls feed the reservoir on rainy winter days. After
one last bridge, the trail climbs through grassy woodland and reaches
Laurel Flat, the end of the volunteer built section of trail. The trail
widens and passes what seems to be the park dump on the left. At 2.76
miles a gate blocks the fire road's exit to Stevens Canyon Road.
Take the trail to the left.
This small, hiking-only trail winds around
the back of Madrone and Sycamore Group Picnic Areas. Stay to the left
at two unsigned junctions, at 2.82 and 2.92 miles. This path becomes
Lookout Trail somewhere along here
(the Fremont Older map suggests the transition at the Madrone Group Area;
it doesn't really matter because it's the only trail at this point). The
trail is very narrow in sections, and although switchbacks cushion the
blow of much of the climb, the ascent will have your heart pumping. Luckily,
the trail is thickly forested with coast live oak and California bay,
so it's cool and shady. Look for creambush and gooseberry in the
understory. At a grassy flat spot on the right side of the trail, a break
in the trees reveals a spectacular view to the southwest (this is a nice
lunch spot). In autumn, on the high, sloping vineyards across the valley,
grape leaves, lit with color, stand out from the surrounding chaparral
and woods. At 3.63 miles, Lookout Trail crests and crosses through a gate
into Fremont Older and grassland.
The trail drops down a bare
slope near a power line (there's a faint path that bypasses the sharp
descent to the left), then climbs easily to two junctions at 3.71 and
3.77 miles. Go straight
at the first junction, and then at the second, turn right onto
Vista Loop Trail. (Either branch of Vista Loop Trail will hook
up with Coyote Ridge Trail eventually, but the trail to the right has
nicer views to the east.) You'll walk down a broad, level multi-use
dirt road lined with eucalyptus trees, with nice views south to Mount
Umunhum. The archery range is visible down the slope to the right. At
3.92 miles, turn left at a signed junction onto Coyote Ridge Trail.
Coyote Ridge Trail is a hiking, bicycling,
and equestrian trail, so be alert for traffic. The trail climbs
a little, and there are views back downhill to Lookout Trail. At 4.13
miles, a spur trail not on the map (but marked by a faded wooden informative
sign) leads to the highest point in the preserve. Take the short
trail uphill to the right to Maisie's Peak.
This vantage point offers particularly
good views of the eastern portion of Fremont Older. On a clear day you
should be able to see Mission Peak, Mount Diablo, Mount Hamilton, Mount
Umunhum, and even San Francisco and Mount Tamalpais. Maisie's Peak is
a great lunch or break spot, but it can get uncomfortably windy in winter.
When you are ready to continue, return to Coyote Ridge Trail, turn
right and then continue straight at the signed junction with Vista Loop
Trail, at 4.27 miles.
Grassy slopes visible on the left side
of the trail are crisscrossed with animal paths. Look for deer and coyote
footprints on the ground, and vultures and hawks soaring in the thermals
overhead. Poison oak, toyon, sagebrush, scrub oak, monkeyflower, cercocarpus,
coyote brush, and chamise take over the landscape, but there are some
occasional pockets of coast live oak and blue oak. Coyote Ridge Trail
rises and falls a bit as it passes three signed junctions: the first with
a trail descending to Bay View Trail (at 4.43 miles), the second with
Fern Trail (at 4.49 miles; not on the Stevens Creek County Park map),
and lastly with another spur leading down to Bay View Trail (at 4.57 miles). Stay
on Coyote Ridge Trail at each junction.
trail draws near to some houses, a water tank, and a few pines on the
right, before veering back into chaparral. Coyote Ridge Trail begins a
plunge back toward Stevens Creek County Park. At 5.04 miles, stay to
the left at a junction with an unnamed trail (it deadends after 0.4
The descent is sharp, and beware of cyclists
traveling downhill. High tension power towers accompany coast live oak,
buckeye, blue elderberry, toyon, and hollyleaf cherry along the trail.
At 5.73 miles, you'll reach a previously encountered junction. If you
want a different walk back to the parking area, walk straight a few feet,
then look to the left for a break in the fence just past the junction
and "no horses" sign. This path, Rim Trail, runs along Stevens
Canyon Road and ends near the parking lot. I prefer the gentle sound of
running water to the roar of a diesel (most of the time), so continue
back the way you came, to the parking lot at Baytree Picnic Area.
Total distance: 6.13 miles
Last hiked: Monday, December
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page