|Lots of hiking, people, and animals
Rancho San Antonio
County Park and Open Space Preserve
Even on weekdays, the parking lots of this 165-acre county park and
the adjoining 3,800-acre open space preserve are packed with cars.
And no wonder. Rancho San Antonio offers a wide range of
environments and recreational activities. As you drive in, you see
pilots flying their model aircraft. Walk a little farther, and you
find a paved two-lane bicycle path going up easy grades to the
foothills. You can also enter a special parking area for equestrians
and their horses. Walking up Permanente Creek Trail takes you past
large picnic areas and tennis courts.
Proximity to peninsula businesses and lots of flat, paved trails
make this a great place for a quick jog or run. On most days, you’ll
see more than a hundred runners of every size, shape, and
In spite of all this activity, “wildlife” was friendly and abundant.
I walked a few feet away from ground squirrels, rabbits, deer,
quail, hawks, and other wild critters. One fellow visitor told me
that he had almost stepped on a young rattlesnake. He also claimed a
sighting of a Swainson’s hawk, a raptor rarely seen in this area.
As you leave the county park, cross the road, and enter the open
space area, you can choose between dirt trail and paved road
versions of the Lower Meadow Trail. Both take you through a large
meadow for about half a mile to Deer Hollow Farm, a favorite
destination for mothers and small children. The walk to the farm is
relatively flat, but most hikers, joggers, and runners don’t stop
there. They are more likely to take the Farm Bypass Trail to the
Rogue Valley Trail, then left on the Wildcat Loop Trail or continue
on to the Upper Rogue Valley Trail or the Chamise Trail.
The Wildcat Loop Trail takes you up a single-track trail through
nice shade up a series of switchbacks on a northeastern hillside.
The foliage is thick but your climb is rewarded by occasional views
of San Francisco Bay and the Peninsula. When you reach the ridge, a
fifty-foot walk to the left on High Meadow Trail guides you over a
short trail to a vista point that discloses the entire peninsula.
At this point, you may be tempted to take the shortest path back to
the bottom via High Meadow Trail. It’s only 8/10 of a mile back to
the farm, but I recommend continuing on Wildcat Loop Trail to
Wildcat Canyon Trail. This 1.6-mile route descends down the western
slope through beautiful forest, along side a tributary of Permanente
Creek, and on a level trail through bay trees, maples, and willows
back to Deer Hollow Farm. Round trip from the parking area is a
little less than five miles. With occasional stops to get your
breath on the switchbacks, it should take you about three hours.
If you want to avoid the crowd, 23 miles of preserve trails offer
more solitude. For example, when you reach the top of Wildcat Loop
Trail, you can take the Upper High Meadow Trail and PG&E Trail for
an additional six miles. Or from the Rogue Valley Trail, you can
turn right to the Chamise Trail for a hike up to the very upper west
end of the preserve and Duveneck Windmill Pasture Area. The round
trip is over nine miles, but you’ll have more privacy.
Deer Hollow Farm
One reason I wanted to visit this preserve was to see the farm.
Midpen featured the Deer Hollow in its fall quarterly news. It is an
example of how an open space preserve can go beyond trails to
provide educational opportunities for school classes, community
groups, and families. During the 2004-2005 school year, over 4,000
students visited the farm and participated in programs about the
farm, wilderness, and Native Americans. Some sixty volunteers helped
at the farm throughout the year.
In spite of Midpen’s glowing report, I was a bit disappointed in the
farm. An open-side barn, complete with picnic tables was a good
place for lunch, but the gardens were tiny, only a few animals could
be seen, and the facilities looked somewhat shabby. Small children
may still enjoy seeing the animals, but it looks much less like a
working farm than Wilder Ranch.
Although less than perfect, this farm may serve as a model for our
own educational programs at Bear Creek Open Space Preserve. The
stables, a mountain history center, and our own mountain docents
could be a great educational resource, especially for the mountains
and South Bay. I still think it’s a good idea. Do you agree?
Take Interstate 280 north to the Foothill Expressway/Grant Road
exit, and go south on Foothill Boulevard 1/10 of a mile, then turn
right on Cristo Rey Drive. When you reach a traffic circle, go
halfway around to continue on Cristo Rey Drive. Watch for the
entrance to the park at about one mile. Bear right, and go as far as
you can. (If main parking lots are filled, you may have to backtrack
to another lot.) Trailheads are at the northwest corner of the
Rancho San Antonio is a good place for a morning walk, a quick run,
or a longer hike. Young children may enjoy seeing the farm animals.
Trails for horses and bicycles are limited. Dogs are not allowed.
For more information, visit www.openspace.org or call 650-691-1200.