Coyote Ridge

Coyote Ridge Wildflowers, 4/13/08

Silicon Valley Land Conservancy

Coyote Ridge: Treasure of Santa Clara Valley

Light of Morn: Coyote Ridge

Coyote Ridge Serpentine Grasslands Field Trip

Parks, Trails, & Open Space

Friends of Santa Teresa Park

Santa Teresa Park

Coyote Creek Trail

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Santa Clara County Open Space Authority

New Almaden Quicksilver County Park Association

Henry Coe State Park

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Rancho San Vicente Photography, Widlflower Hike, April 17, 2010

POST Rancho San Vicente Hike, April 10, 2010

POST Rancho San Vicente Hike, June 13, 2009

Blair Ranch Hike 3/28/10

Blair Ranch Hike, 5/9/09

Doan Ranch 11/22/08 Page 1, Page 2

Los Alamitos Creek Trail

Guadalupe River Park and Gardens:

Guadalupe River Trail

Guadalupe Creek Trail

Rancho Canada Del Oro Hike, 5/16/09

Rancho Canada Del Oro Hike, Mayfair Ranch Trail, 3/14/10

Calero Healthy Trails Hike, 4/25/09

Uvas Canyon Healthy Trails Hike, 2/21/09

Almaden Quicksilver Wildflowers and Views, Spring 2008, Part 2

Healthy Trails Walk, Almaden Quicksilver 3/28/09

Harvey Bear Ranch-Coyote Lake Pictures, 3/10/07, 3/21-21/09, 4/18/09

Palassou Ridge 6/6/09

Mt. Madonna Geocaching Class, 7/11/09

Hellyer HDR Pictures 1/10/10

Almaden Quicksilver Wood Road Geocaching Class 1/16/10

Uvas Canyon HDR Pictures 1/23/10

Joseph D. Grant County Park, 1/31/10

Uvas Canyon Hike, 2/13/10

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

Ron Horii's Outdoor Photography Pages:

Outdoor Photography

Outdoor Photo Gallery

HDR Experiments,
Part 2


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

Almaden Wildflowers

Bay Area Hiker: Wildflowers

Henry Coe Park Wildflowers

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

Big Effort to Save a Little Butterfly

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

Rare Butterfly Returning to Edgewood

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

Coyote Ridge Wildflower Walk

Bay checkerspot butterfly on popcornflowers

That colorful little butterfly above is largely responsible for the hike and spectacular wildflowers below. This 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. However, even in areas that have been protected from development, such as Santa Teresa Park, the butterfly has disappeared. Its last refuge, where it survives in healthy numbers, is Coyote Ridge.

Coyote Ridge lies east of Highway 101 between south San Jose and Morgan Hill. It is a 12-mile long, by 1 mile wide outcropping of serpentine rock. Serpentine is the state rock. What's important about serpentine is that it forms a soil that is poor in nutrients, particularly nitrogen, that non-native grasses need to thrive. These exotic grasses were introduced by European settlers to feed their cattle, which did not like the native vegetation. These introduced grasses quickly spread and crowded out the native plants, except in serpentine soil. Native wildflowers have evolved to be able to grow in serpentine soil, which normally allows them to compete against the non-native grasses. However, in modern times, these foreign grasses have found a friend in a human invention: the internal combustion engine. Automobile exhaust contains nitrogen compounds, particularly ammonia, which fertilize the serpentine soil and allows the non-native grasses to grow. Bay Area car exhaust, particularly from nearby Hwy 101 has resulted in grasses crowding out the wildflowers.

Certain organisms depend on the wildflowers to survive. One of these is the Bay checkerspot butterfly. It lays its eggs on dwarf plantain. The larvae hatch on the plantain and feed on it. The adult butterflies feed on nectar from other wildflowers. The plantain is a short and modest-looking plant that is easily crowded out by non-native grasses. The disappearance of the plantain has resulted in the loss of the butterflies.

The key to restoring the wildflowers is to get rid of their non-native grass competitors. There are ways to control the grasses. On Coyote Ridge, this has been done by cattle grazing. The cattle eat the European grasses, which they find tastier than the native vegetation. This allows the native wildflowers to grow. As a result, the numbers of Bay checkerspot butterflies have been increasing on Coyote Ridge. In areas where cattle grazing has been stopped, the grasses have taken over and caused the extinction of the butterfly. That is what caused the Bay checkerspots to disappear from Santa Teresa Park and similar areas.

Because of the cattle grazing, there are more Bay checkerspots on Coyote Ridge than anywhere else in the world. Another benefit has been the spectacular display of spring wildflowers on the ridge. Coyote Ridge is also the home of several other rare or endangered species, including the California red-legged frog, the California tiger salamander, the Santa Clara Valley dudleya, the most beautiful jewelflower, and the Mt. Hamilton thistle. Because of the endangered species, large parts of Coyote Ridge are protected from development, but also have restricted access.

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. They give 2 types of tours, called the Coyote Springs Hikes. One goes along the hillside following an old mine road. Another goes all the way to the ridgetop, the same route followed by the Silicon Valley Land Conservancy tours in 2008. On April 18, 2010, the season's last ridgetop tour of Coyote Ridge took place. These are pictures from that tour, which covered 4 miles and took 4 1/2 hours.

The hike began around 9 am at this parking lot in the
Kirby Canyon Landfill.

SCCOSA Coordinator of Interpretive Programs Teri Rogoway (left) greets visitors.  Docents Cait Hutnik and Michelle Valdez led the hike. Cait is an expert on plants and animals and leads interpretive hikes for the SCCOSA and the Santa Clara County Parks.

At the start of the hike, we look at the difference between fields that  have been grazed by cattle (foreground) vs. ungrazed land (background). The grazed area is covered with wildflowers, particularly dwarf plantain, which the bay checkerspot butterfly needs to survive. The ungrazed area is over-grown with non-native grasses and is devoid of wildflowers.

Cait points to phacelia, commonly called scorpionweed because of the way the plant's flowerhead curls like a scorpion's tail.

Taking pictures of owl's clover in the midst of popcorn flowers. Owl's clover is a secondary host for the Bay checkerspot butterfly. The trail follows a service road leading up Kirby Canyon above Badger Creek.


The rare native Mt. Hamilton thistle grows near creeks and seeps. Its flower heads bend over. These are also called fountain thistles. It is a candidate for federal endangered species status.

Poppies and bluedicks

The rare most beautiful jewelflower in the foreground, with popcornflowers and silverpuffs.

Wooly desert dandelions and bluedicks

Owl's clover, popcornflowers, and dwarf plantain

Heading up the hill along the service road. The road is lined with poppies.

Poppies on lichen-covered rocks, phacelia in the foreground.

Lomatium, also called spring gold, is a nectar source for the Bay checkerspots.

Poppies grow along the lower side of the road.

Jeweled onions, another nectar source for the Bay checkerspots, grow on the hillside above the road.

On the left is the endangered Santa Clara Valley dudleya, a succulent and a member of the stonecrop family. It grows on rocky outcrops in serpentine grasslands and oak woodlands. It is only found in Santa Clara County around the Coyote Valley down to San Martin.

More Santa Clara Valley dudleya.

Cait describes the wildflowers on the hillside.

On the hillside above the road are lots of owl's clover, mixed in with popcornflowers, poppies, and silverpuffs.

The hills are covered with goldfields, poppies, and popcornflowers. Looking back down the hills, Hwy 101 runs along the base of the hills. Behind it on the right is the Coyote Creek Golf Course.

Looking at the flowers on the hill just below the ridgetop.

The rare Franciscan wallflower.

As we approach the ridgetop, looking back down the canyon, we see the hills to the north, the northern part of the Coyote Valley, Santa Teresa Park, and Tulare Hill.

On the ridgetop, the hill is covered with tidytips, another nectar source for the Bay checkerspots.

Bay checkerspot butterfly surrounded by tidytips and goldfields.

Following the service road on the ridgetop, past fields of tidytips and goldfields.

Native serpentine morning glories among tiny white muillas.

Looking west across a field of owl's clover, goldfields and tidytips. Mt Loma Prieta is in the background.

Cait leads the group through the wildflower-covered field.

The group takes pictures among the flowers

Looking east is the San Felipe Ranch. The ranch buildings are in the center. The 28,359 acre ranch is owned by the Hewlett and Packard families and is protected from development by a Nature Conservancy easement. It is located between 9560-acre Joseph D. Grant County Park, the largest Santa Clara County Park, Anderson Lake County Park, and 87,000-acre Henry Coe State Park, the largest state park in Northern California.

Looking southeast, the northern tip of Anderson Reservoir can be seen at the bottom of the valley. Anderson is the largest reservoir in Santa Clara County. It is 7 miles long and covers 1250 surface acres. It is a popular boating and fishing lake, but there are no trails around the lake.

Looking southeast across the field covered with tidytips, the hills of Henry Coe State Park are in the background.

Looking northwest, a small herd of cattle graze on the hill. The cattle have kept the grass short on the foreground hills, allowing the wildflowers to grow on the serpentine soil. The hills in the background do not have serpentine soil, so they are covered with grasses instead of wildflowers.

This fenced off area is the site of a university research project.  The plot was mowed down to ground level by the researchers, which allowed the dense wildflower growth.

We head back down the hill.

We find the most Bay checkerspot butterflies on this hilltop (including the butterfly at the top of the page).

Bay checkerspot on goldfields.

Bay checkerspot on popcornflowers.

A bronze-colored beetle on poppies.

A four-spotted clarkia

The wildflower areas are north of an active landfill, owned by Waste Management. The landfill is used for recycled building materials. In the background are percolation ponds along the Coyote Creek Parkway. The green area is the Coyote Creek Golf Course.

A tiny creek runs down the valley, forming a small waterfall. Mt. Hamilton thistles grow in the wet areas.

White common yarrow and yellow desert pincushions cover the hillside.

This is a chalcedon checkerspot, a more common checkerspot butterfly.

Poppies on the hill above Badger Creek.

On the hill above the service road is the old mine road that is used for the hillside hike (see below).

Looking down the hillside covered with desert pincushions, popcornflowers, and poppies.

Looking down the canyon towards the parking area.

Looking back up the canyon.

Nearing the end of the hike.

As we reach the end of the hike at 1:20 pm, we encounter a group of college students preparing to hike up the hill as part of their class.

Hillside Hike 4/3/10

These are pictures from the hillside hike on 4/3/10. The hillside hike is shorter and easier than the ridgetop hikes. It starts from the same parking lot and runs up the main service road. After ascending for about half a mile, it departs from the main service road and runs nearly level along the hillside (see above).

Docent angie Costa and Teri Rogoway lead the group over the ladder at the start of the hillside trail.

The trail follows an old mine road. Along the side and base of this roadcut are numerous wildflowers, including Santa Clara Valley dudleya, which are growing on the road itself. Parts of the road are marked off with tape to avoid stepping on the dudleya.

Posing for pictures by the wildflower-covered hillside.

This is the site of a magnesite mine. The mineral was mined to provide magnesium during World War 1.

This hill is covered with goldfields, popcornflowers, and poppies.

This trench was another magnesite mine site.

Hilltop carpeted mostly with goldfields.

Looking down the hill, Hwy 101 runs along the base of the hills. The off-ramp for the Coyote Creek Golf Course and the Kirby Canyon Landfill is in the center.

At the farthest end of the hike, there is another magnesite mine pit.

This is our rest stop and turn-around point.

Created by Ronald Horii, Friends of Santa Teresa Park secretary, 4/18/10, Updated 3/28/19