Steep trails lead to excellent vistas at Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve, which covers a swath of the rugged foothills of... more » the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The high ridges look out over much of Silicon Valley; on clear days you can see the white domes of the telescopes atop Mount Hamilton. It's difficult to imagine such rough country so close to civilization till you actually get out there.
Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve borders nearby Calero County Park, opening broad opportunities for all-day hikes.
This hike, with a healthy 1,800 feet of elevation gain, is more of a half-day outing covering the main trails at Rancho Cañada del Oro. It has two significant climbs on the first half of the loop and is all downhill on the second half. You'll get a good workout.
Trails used: Mayfair Ranch Trail > Longwall Canyon Trail > Bald Peaks Trail > Catamount Trail > Serpentine Loop Trail.
Best times to go: Spring wildflower season when the hills are still vivid green will be prettiest; winter hikes after a storm system washes away the smog can be spectacular (though potentially muddy). Autumn will be dry but temperate; summer will be too hot, typically. less «