SCCOSA: Coyote Ridge
Coyote Ridge Wildflowers, 4/13/08
Coyote Ridge Wildflowers, 4/18/10
Coyote Ridge, 4/18/10 (Facebook)
Coyote Ridge, April 17, 2011 (Facebook Album)
Silicon Valley Land Conservancy
Light of Morn: Coyote Ridge
Light of Morn: Coyote Springs Wildflowers
Coyote Ridge Serpentine Grasslands Field Trip
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Santa Clara County Open Space Authority
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Doan Ranch 11/22/08 Page 1, Page 2
Palassou Ridge 6/6/09
Rancho Canada Del Oro Hike, 5/16/09
Rancho Canada Del Oro Hike, Mayfair Ranch Trail, 3/14/10
Rancho Canada Del Oro, Mayfair Ranch 1/18/14 (Facebook)
Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve Hike, Boccardo Loop Trail, 8/14/10
Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve Trail Dedication, 10/22/11
Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve Hike, 11/23/12 (Facebook)
Ulistac Natural Area, 1/12/14, Santa Clara (Facebook)
Hikes and Trails at Santa Clara County Parks
Pictures of the Santa Clara County Parks
Almaden Quicksilver Wildflowers and Views, Spring 2008, Part 2
Healthy Trails Walk, Almaden Quicksilver 3/28/09
Almaden Quicksilver Wood Road Geocaching Class 1/16/10
New Almaden and Randol Trails (Almaden Quicksilver County Park), 12/28/11 (Facebook)
Hike on the New Almaden, Buena Vista, Randol, Capehorn Pass, and Hacienda Trails 1/27/12
Virl O. Norton Trail, the Easy Park, 12/8/12 (Facebook)
Fall Hike on the Senador, New Almaden, Mine Hill Trails, 12/1/13 (Facebook)
Post New Year's Hike, Almaden Quicksilver, 1/3/14 (Facebook)
Rosendin Park (Anderson Lake County Park), November 25, 2011 (Facebook)
Calero Healthy Trails Hike, 4/25/09
Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch Pictures, 3/10/07, 3/21-21/09, 4/18/09
Trail work Day on the Savannah Trail, Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear 4/18/09
Mummy Mountain Trail Work Day/Trail Opening 4/24/10
Geocaching Class, Mummy Mountain Trail 5/15/10
Mummy Mountain Geocaching 5/15/10 (Facebook)
Photography Class, Mummy Mountain Trail, 4/23/11
Willow Springs, Savannah, Rancho San Ysidro Trails, 12/22/11
Roop Pond and Rancho La Polka Trails 2/20/12
Photography Class, Mummy Mountain Trail, 4/7/12
Ed Willson Trail 11/10/12
Calaveras Trail Wildflowers, 4/9/13
Ed Willson Trail, Coyote Lake/Harvey Bear Ranch 4/9/13
Ed Levin County Park, Hike to Monument Peak, 3/3/09
Hellyer Sunset, 1/9/10 (Facebook)
Hellyer HDR Pictures 1/10/10
Joseph D. Grant County Park, 1/31/10
Hiking the Heron and Dutch Flat Trails at Joseph D. Grant County Park 12/21/11 (Facebook)
Mt. Madonna Geocaching Class, 7/11/09
POST Rancho San Vicente Hike, June 13, 2009
POST Rancho San Vicente Hike, April 10, 2010
Rancho San Vicente Photography, Wildflower Hike, April 17, 2010
Rancho San Vicente Hikes 4/3/11 and 5/15/11
Rancho San Vicente Hike, 10/14/12
Stevens Creek County Park Healthy Trails Hike 8/4/12
Uvas Canyon Healthy Trails Hike, 2/21/09
Uvas Canyon HDR Pictures 1/23/10
Uvas Canyon Hike, 2/13/10
Villa Montalvo Trails
Santa Teresa Park Pictures:
Santa Teresa Park Mine, Fortini, Stile Ranch Wildflowers, 4/11/08
Coyote Peak, Rocky Ridge Wildflowers, Feb-Apr. '08
Bernal Hill wildflowers and views, Feb-Apr. '08 Part 1, Part 2
Coyote Peak, Rocky Ridge, Feb-April '08
Mother's Day Walk, Fortini-Stile, 5/4/08
Outdoor Photography Class/Wildflower Walk, Bernal Ranch/Hill 4/4/09
Geocaching Class, Fortini-Mine-Stile Ranch Trail, 4/11/09
Pre-Mother's Day Walk, Fortini-Mine-Stile Ranch Trail, 5/3/09
Healthy Trails Hike, Fortini, Mine, Stile Ranch Trails, 5/9/09
Santa Teresa Sunset Pictures 2/7/10
Bernal Hill Wildflowers 3/26/10 (Facebook)
Santa Teresa Sunset 5/25/10 (Facebook)
Coyote Peak Pictures, Santa Teresa Park, November 24, 2010 (Facebook)
Coyote Peak (Santa Teresa Park) December 2, 2011 (Facebook)
Bernal Hill Hike (Santa Teresa Park), 1/8/12 (Facebook)
Santa Teresa Park, 4/11/12, Pueblo Area Sunset (Facebook)
Post-Thanksgiving Hike to Coyote Peak, 11/29/13 (Facebook)
Bernal Hill Hike, Santa Teresa Park, 12/8/13 (Facebook)
Archery Range, Santa Teresa Park, 2/22/14 (Facebook)
Mid-Peninsula Open Space District
Woods Trail Wildflowers, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve 5/14/11 and 5/21/11
Mt. Umunhum, September 24, 2011 (Facebook)
Ron Horii's Outdoor Photography Pages:
Outdoor Photo Gallery
California Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley
Santa Teresa Park Wildflowers, Spring 2002
Santa Teresa Park Wildflowers, 4/11/08
Almaden Quicksilver Wildflowers and Views, Spring 2008
Wildflowers of Almaden Quicksilver County Park
Bay Area Hiker: Wildflowers
Henry Coe Park Wildflowers
California Academy of Sciences: California Wildflowers
Western Wildflowers: Wildflower Trails of the San Francisco Bay Area
Nature, Environment, Conservation, Land Use
Creekside Center for Earth Observation
Coyote Valley Specific Plan
Conservation in Action: The Checkerspot Comes Home
Cows Come to Rescue of Butterflies
Critical Habitat Designated for Threatened Butterfly
Coyote Valley: Another Drive-by Extinction?
Valuable Environmental Lesson Taught by Checkerspot Butterfly
Threatened butterfly habitat preserved in Santa Clara County
Friends of Edgewood: Bay Checkerspot Butterfly
Proposed Designation of Critical Habitat for the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly
Committee for Green Foothills
Bay checkerspot butterfly life cycle
Bay checkerspot butterfly food sources
Rare Species of Santa Clara Valley
Rare Animal Species of Coyote Ridge
EPA Endangered Species Facts: Bay Checkerspot Butterfly
USFWS Species Profile: Bay Checkerspot butterfly
Center for Biological Diversity: Saving the Bay Checkerspot Butterfly
Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan: Species Protection
Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan: Santa Clara Valley Dudleya
CNPS Fremontia Magazine articles on Serpentine (pgs 28-28)
Coyote Ridge Wildflower Walk, 4/13/14
Bay checkerspot butterfly on fiddlenecks
That colorful little butterfly above is the Bay Checkerspot butterfly, a federally-listed threatened species, protected by the Endangered Species Act. The butterfly used to be found all over the Bay area, but has nearly vanished due to habitat loss. Most of the habitat loss has been due to development. One of the last refuges of the butterfly is Coyote Ridge, located above the Kirby Canyon Landfill. Coyote Ridge has more Bay Checkerspot butterflies than anywhere else in the world.
Coyote ridge is normally closed to the public, but docent-led guided tours are conducted in the spring by the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority (SCCOSA), which doesn't own, but manages the land. 548 acres on Coyote Ridge are owned by the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). VTA purchased the land as mitigation for highway projects in the area. SCCOSA manages the land to protect the rare and endangered species found there. The SCCOSA gives tours on Saturdays that follows the landfill service road, the same route followed by the Silicon Valley Land Conservancy tours in 2008. On Sundays, like today, they follow old mine roads up to the top of the ridge.
The hike began near the Coyote Creek Golf Course, led by Paul Billig, accompanied by docents Rick Mandel and Judy Fenerty. We stop here before starting the climb. In the small creek behind Paul are rare Mt. Hamilton thistles.
We begin the climb along an old service road.
We leave the road and climb up the hill, stopping to look at wildflowers along the way.
The hillside is covered with rocks containing serpentinite, a metamorphic rock, which creates serpentine soil. This soil is high in some minerals, like iron and magnesium, and lacking in others, like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium. This composition makes it favorable to native wildflowers, like these yellow goldfields, which have evolved to thrive in these soils and normally would be hostile to non-native grasses. However, nitrogen compounds from car exhaust and other manmade sources deposited in the soil allows the non-native grasses to grow and crowd out the natives. To counteract this, cattle are used to graze down these grasses, giving the native plants a fighting chance to survive.
Growing here on these bare rocks are succulents, members of the stonecrop family. They are Santa Clara Valley dudleya (dudleya setchellii), a federally-protected endangered species, the highest level of species protection. They are only found in serpentine environments in South Santa Clara County, primarily around the Coyote Valley. They can be found here in Coyote Ridge, as well as in nearby protected lands, such as Santa Teresa County Park, Tulare Hill, and Calero County Park. The dudleya grow where almost nothing else can grow. They have roots over 6 inches long that reach deep into the cracks in the rocks and pull out any moisture they can find, storing it in their fleshy leaves.
The yellow flowers are goldfields. The purple and white flowers are birdseye gilia.
Goldfields can form dense carpets, turning a hillside a bright yellow. They are short flowers and cannot compete against tall non-native grasses. They grow well in serpentine soil where the grasses have been grazed down by cattle. Managed cattle grazing in Coyote Ridge, combined with the serpentine soil, is responsible for the extensive wildflower blooms.
This is a Bay Checkerspot butterfly, resting near some purple sanicle. The butterfly needs the kinds of wildflowers found in the serpentine environment of Coyote Ridge, so the two go together. From an environmental protection standpoint, this is the most important insect in Santa Clara County. It is a central species and the only insect in the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Conservation Plan, which seeks to protect and restore rare and endangered species, while streamlining development projects in the county.
We begin to ascend the hill, following the traces of an old rocky mine road.
The disturbed soil of the old road is favorable to goldfields, which grow on the roadbed, turning it into what the docents call the "Yellow Brick Road."
The road splits here. We follow the road leading up to the hilltop and will return on the road on the right.
This is the road that we'll use on the return trip, which runs horizontally for a ways along the hillside.
Here amongst the yellow goldfields are light purple serpentine linanthus.
Growing among these rocks are phacelia, also called scorpionweeds. They have flower heads that curve like a scorpion's tail.
The steep part of the ascent begins.
We slowly ascend the steep rocky hill.
Looking down during the ascent, we get great views of the Coyote Valley.
We continue the climb, stopping to look at wildflowers along the way.
Continuing up to the top.
Looking back down, we can see more of the Coyote Valley and the grass-covered hillsides.
We stop to rest and take in the view.
One last climb to the top.
Looking back down from near the top.
Finally we reach the ridgetop, where we see several fenced areas that are being used for scientific studies.
Another Bay Checkerspot butterfly rests on the ground near goldfields and white popcornflowers.
Looking down from the top, the off-ramp from Hwy 101 leads to the Coyote Creek Golf Club on the right. The road near the center leading into the hills is Palm Avenue, at the end of which is the Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, owned by the Open Space Authority. The second ridge behind it include Rancho Canada Del Oro Open Space Preserve and Calero County Park. The highest ridge in the distance is the Sierra Azul Range, topped by Mt. Loma Prieta. The Mid-Peninsula Open Space District owns about 17,000 acres in the Sierra Azuls, parts of which are open to the public.
There are more wildflowers on the ridgetop. Here amongst the goldfields are orange California poppies, white creamcups, and tiny white popcornflowers.
This is a research plot. Several colleges have research projects here, studying the plants and animal species in this unique protected serpentine environment.
We continue down to a service road that runs along the spine of the ridge. we begin to see the valley east of the ridge.
The service road leads to this hilltop, which has a dense carpet of goldfields.
We'll head to the end of this goldfield-covered hilltop for lunch.
This hillside is behind us, covered with goldfields and poppies.
This is a view looking back from our hilltop rest spot. Note the hill in the distance has green grass and few wildflowers on the right, and less grass and more wildflowers on the left. This shows the boundary between the rocky serpentine soil on the left, which supports wildflowers, and the less rocky non-serpentine soil on the right, which favors the non-native grasses. Many of the wildflowers which are adapted to serpentine soil cannot compete against other plants in non-serpentine soil.
On this hilltop rest spot, we get sweeping views all around us. This is looking towards the south part of Coyote Ridge.
This is a view looking south down Coyote Ridge. Part of Anderson Reservoir can just be seen above the treeline.
East of Coyote Ridge is Shingle Valley. The creek there is Las Animals Creek, which drains into Anderson Reservoir. The hilltop in the distance is covered with pine trees and is part of Henry Coe State Park.
Between Joseph D. Grant County Park, Mt. Hamilton, and Henry Coe State Park is the huge 28,359-acre, 10-mile-long San Felipe Ranch. Owned by the Hewlett and Packard families, the ranchland is the large piece of private property in Santa Clara County. It is protected from development by a conservation easement, donated by the families to the Nature Conservancy and worth about $40 million. Along with cattle, rare tule elk graze these hills.
This is the view looking north. The domes of Lick Observatory top Mt. Hamilton on the left of center.
Lots of Bay Checkerspot butterflies like this one are flying all around us and landing on the wildflowers.
After our lunch break, we begin to head down the hill.
We begin our trek down the hill, following a different route, farther to the south.
In the distance, the hill in the center is Coyote Peak in Santa Teresa County Park. The lower hill on the right is Tulare Hill, at the foot of which is the Metcalf Energy Center power plant.
These ponds in the Coyote Valley are the Ogier Ponds, part of the Coyote Creek Parkway. The paved Coyote Creek Trail can be seen running between the ponds and the freeway. The bright orange patch around the trail in the center is a field of poppies.
We carefully avoid this section in the middle of the old road, as there are many Santa Clara Valley dudleya growing in it.
We reach the old mine road running horizontally along the hills.
The rest of the group descends from the ridgetop.
There is a variety of flowers here: redmaids, goldfields, birdseye gilia, creamcups, and poppies.
The group rests at the base of the hill.
This flat area has a wide variety of wildflowers.
Here are more serpentine linanthus and popcornflowers.
We find sun-bleached cattle jawbones.
We follow the "Yellow Brick Road" back down the hill.
We backtrack down the route that we originally took on the way up.
The faint trace on the hill in the center is the route we took to get to the ridgetop.
This is the rocky field of goldfields that we crossed through on the way up.
The end of the hike near the golf course is in sight.
We finally reach the end of the hike near the golf course.
GPS Tracks and Google Maps
The blue line is the track recorded by my GPS receiver, which shows the route of today's hike on Coyote Ridge, superimposed on a 3D satellite image in Google Earth. This is a view looking south down Hwy 101 on the right. The Coyote Creek Golf Club is near the bottom on both sides of the freeway. Anderson Reservoir is in the upper left corner. The cut hillsides of the Kirby Canyon Landfill can be seen farther south on the hills.
This is a view looking northeast, showing the hike route on the left and the landfill on the right. Anderson Reservoir is on the upper right.
This is a view looking northwest along Coyote Ridge, showing the landfill at the bottom. In previous years, the hike to the ridgetop followed the service road above the landfill.
This compares the route on the landfill's service road on the right, which I took in 2010, with today's hiking route on the left. Today's route is a more direct, but steeper route to the top of the ridge.
This is a closeup view of the hillside between the landfill service road on the right and today's route, which follows old mine roads. In-between the two are traces of old mine roads that run horizontally along the hillside to old magnesite mining pits. An easier hike follows this middle mine road along the hillside, which still has impressive wildflower displays.
Created by Ronald Horii, Friends of Santa Teresa Park secretary, 4/18/14