A short walk in two small parks
Picchetti Ranch and Stevens Creek

Neil Wiley

Not every hike has to be an all-day trek through uncharted wilderness. You may want a short walk in the park. Literally. So put away your boots and survival gear. Instead, bring your kids, a reluctant exerciser, or perhaps a favorite aunt who walks with a cane. Pack a picnic lunch and a few bottles of water. You are ready for an easy half-day saunter.

Drive to Saratoga, then turn left on their main street, Big Basin Way/Highway 9, then turn right up Pierce Road (the road to Mountain Winery), and left on Mount Eden Road. Pass by wrought-iron fences guarding giant castle-like houses that let you know that some people are way richer than we are. But as my yoga instructor Paulie Angel says when I fall down, "Donít worry so much about it." Just remember that you own your day.

After passing Garrod Farms and lots of horses, you can make your first stop at the Lakeshore Picnic Area of Stevens Creek Park, Santa Clara Countyís oldest county park. Itís a short walk through the forested picnic area, complete with benches, fire stands, telephones, and bathrooms, down to the waters of Stevens Creek Reservoir.

Back in the car, continue along the reservoir past the CDF fire station, and then turn left on Montebello Road. The road takes you around a curve and uphill to the gates of the Picchetti Ranch Winery where a nice, big parking lot awaits. If you are there between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m., you can visit the winery first.

The area within the winery complex has wide dirt roads and bathrooms accessible to wheelchairs. The four miles of trails around the complex are not all wheelchair-accessible, but you could push a stroller over most of them.

If you want to walk the trails first, stay to the right as you enter the winery area. Youíll see signs that show the entrance to the open-space-preserve trails. Youíll walk through orchards and vineyards to oak-studded and chaparral-covered hills. The entire preserve fits within 308 acres.

Take a leisurely walk to a small pond on the Bear Meadow Trail. Continue on to a forest-covered knoll offering superb views of Santa Clara Valley. Or walk the 1.9-mile-long Zinfandel Trail through shaded areas lush with ferns and views of Stevens Creek Reservoir. I walked a pleasant loop, taking the Zinfandel Trail past the pond to Bear Meadow Trail, then back on Orchard Loop Trail.

After your hike, stop by the winery for a picnic, wine tasting, or a soft drink, The old buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Inside, youíll find interesting historical artifacts and some tasty local wines. Outside, you can enjoy a little stream, some waterfalls, picnic benches, and a visit with the resident peacocks.

If you need more exercise after your picnic, drive back down Montebello Road, then turn left up Stevens Canyon Road. About 3/10 of a mile beyond the Baytree Picnic Area, watch for the entrance to the Chestnut Picnic Area. (Itís easy to miss.) Drive down to the parking lot. (Parking costs $5.) From there, you can walk down an access road to the ranger station/visitor center where you should find maps and posted information. Continue down the road until you see a sign for the Stevens Creek/Tony Look Trail. This trail takes you by the reservoir spillway, dam, and shoreline.

For a short hike, you can see the spillway, and then retrace your steps until just past a gate behind the spillway, where you turn left on the Coyote Ridge Trail connecting to Rim Trail. This trail takes you on the other side of Stevens Creek, and then loops back to your starting point near the Visitor Center.

For a longer hike, instead of turning back at the dam continue down the eastern shore of the reservoir past Laurel Flat, and hike into Fremont Older Open Space Preserve, and then loop back on Coyote Ridge back to the north end of Stevens Creek Park. You can also explore several picnic areas at the top and bottom ends of the park.

If you are looking for an easy-to-reach, easy-to-walk hike that is long on picnicking opportunities and short on walking miles, you may enjoy Picchetti Ranch and Stevens Creek Park. For more information about Picchetti Ranch Open Space, call 650-691-1200, or visit www.openspace.org. For more about the winery, call 408-741-1310, or visit www.picchetti.com. To learn more about Stevens Creek Park, call 408-355-2201, or visit www.parkhere.org.



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