Santa Teresa County Park

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The Santa Teresa Hills and Future Hopes

Rainbows & Waterfalls 2000






Trails 1

Trails 2

Even though it's a big park, Santa Teresa Park takes up only a fraction of the Santa Teresa Hills. The hills run northwest for roughly another 4 miles from the park boundary, ending at Almaden Lake. From the southwest park boundary, the hills run another 1 3/4 miles to Bailey Avenue, though a finger of the ridgeline merges with the hills surrounding Calero Reservoir County Park and Uvas Road. The possibility of the park expanding to provide public access to the entire Santa Teresa Hills ranges from highly unlikely to feasible with some effort.

At the southwest boundary of the park, IBM owns a large chunk of land at the south end of the Almaden Valley for the Almaden Research Center. Most of it is hillside. However, only a small part of the land is developed for the lab itself. The rest is open space, used for cattle grazing and as a wildlife preserve. A portion of IBM's property along its southeast edge was provided as an easement to form the Stile Ranch Trail.

IBM's Silicon Valley (formerly Santa Teresa) Lab sits at the base of a huge plot of hilly land along Bailey Avenue. These lands form a large part of the southeastern boundary of the park. The lab buildings take up a tiny portion of the land at the base of the hills along Bailey. Most of the hills can be seen from Coyote Peak, but the lab buildings are hidden. The hills are leased to ranchers, so cows can often be seen grazing on the slopes.

To the southeast of the park, new roads wind through the hills leading to view sites for executive homes overlooking Calero Reservoir. Only a few houses have been built in this area so far, so most of the hills are still open space. Country View Drive and its side roads are public roads and provide a nice drive with fine views. The end of Country View Drive is a back entrance (not open to the public) to the park near Coyote Peak.

Most of the northeast slopes of the Santa Teresa Hills are undeveloped. Only a couple of expensive houses peek over the crest of the hills. Most of the land is ranchland. You can see cattle grazing in the hills. Occasionally, you can see riders on horseback on the trails, which are private.

In contrast, the southwest slopes in the Almaden Valley are more heavily developed. There are roads snaking up the slopes, leading to multi-million dollar homes. This part of the hills is lost forever to becoming parkland.

Near the west end of the hills, the Almaden Valley side is relatively undeveloped. Part of this area was used as a rock quarry. Sandstone quarried from these hills were used to build buildings in downtown San Jose, such as the current Museum of Art. They were also used to build Stanford University. A small stone building on Greystone Lane, built in 1870 and used for storing equipment, is the last remnant of the quarry. Some of the most impressive rock formations in the hills are above new houses near appropriately-named Rocky Crest Drive. 

At the far west end of the hills is a controversial development: the Boulder Ridge Golf Course. Although golfers anxiously anticipated the new semi-private 18-hole course, preservationists were concerned about the impact the development would have on the ancient Ohlone archaeological sites on the hill. In this area are huge rock formations with caves decorated with Ohlone rock paintings. Some of the rocks have bowl-shaped depressions used by the Ohlone for grinding grain. The golf course will allow people to (legally) see these rock formations that were on private property before, but they will have to be golfers.

The Coyote-Alamitos Canal, which is under the jurisdiction of the Santa Clara Valley Water District, cuts along the lower reaches of the hills, with gravel-paved maintenance roads along the canal levees. The canal used to carry water from the Coyote Canal along Coyote Creek to the Almaden Valley, but is now no longer in use for this purpose. It serves as a winter stormwater culvert, but is dry for most of the year. The levee roads follow the canal starting from the east side of Tulare Hill, near Monterey Highway and the Coyote Creek Trail. The canal runs along Tulare Hill, crosses under Santa Teresa Blvd. at the entrance to the Coyote Valley, then runs along the Santa Teresa Hills almost all the way to Lake Almaden. The level maintenance roads look like they would provide ideal hiking and walking trails, but they are not continuous, and they are not officially open to the public. In some places near private property, the canal is posted and fenced off. In some places, it is private property, owned by the homeowners below it. However, in a few places, there were no fences and no signs, so people could frequently be seen walking their dogs, jogging, or biking along these sections of the levee roads. This has changed recently, and more signs and fences have gone up, though people can still be seen using the canal levee, albeit illegally. The Santa Teresa Foothills Neighborhood Association, which was formed in 2000, has been investigating turning the canal levee into a public trail, as well as preserving the Santa Teresa Hills.

The undeveloped Century Oaks Park is a San Jose city neighborhood parks that occupies two separate narrow strips of land at the base of the hills below the Water District canal and above the backyards of homes along Curie and Colleen. These are mostly grass-covered hills that bloom with yellow mustard flowers in the spring. There are a few unofficial paths through Century Oaks Park, which are often used by neighborhood kids, who like to romp through the hills.

Foothill Park is another San Jose city park at the base of the Santa Teresa Hills near Cahalan. The partially-developed park has gravel paths that lead up from the street to the top of the hill. The hilltop provides a 360-degree view of the valley and the Santa Teresa Hills. The Coyote Alamitos Canal can be easily seen from the park and touches its southern corner, but is not technically accessible from it. 

The Santa Teresa Hills are criss-crossed by huge high-tension power towers. Powerline maintenance access roads cut across the upper parts of the hills. Some of these are probably the origin of some of the trails in Santa Teresa Park, such as the Bernal Hill Trail. They continue on across the hills to the Almaden Valley. Some are overgrown, others appear to be in excellent condition. Unlike the Water District Trails, these access roads are often steep, following the shortest, rather than the easiest way to the towers. Some go right up the crest of the hills, as this is where the towers are. These roads would provide excellent and challenging trails for hiking, horseback ridiing, and mountain biking.

The Santa Teresa Hills end at Winfield Blvd., next to Lake Almaden. Just before the road ends past a condominium development, an unmarked and unfenced paved road leads up the north face of the hills. The road is somewhat overgrown, but has great views of the surrounding area. The road ends at the top of the hill at a radio transmitter. A fence marks the private property boundary to the south.

From the road to the transmitter, you can see below a hill that has a monument at the top. This hill is accessible by a steep unofficial (probably illegal) footpath at the end of Miracle Mountain Road. Unfortunately vandals have defaced the monument, which is surrounded by trash.


Hopefully someday the entire undeveloped ridge of the Santa Teresa Hills will either become parkland, or have easements for trails along it, like the Stile Ranch Trail. It would be great to be able to walk or bike from the Coyote Valley at Bailey Avenue or McKean Road near Calero Reservoir County Park, all the way along the ridge to Almaden Lake and the Los Alamitos Creek Trail. This would open up the park to benefit thousands more people along the route, from Blossom Valley to the Almaden Valley. The trails are mostly already there: farm roads, the Coyote-Alamitos Canal roads, the PG&E service roads, and some already-existing footpaths.

It wouldn't be hard to open up most of the northeast side of the hills to public access. It just takes money and the will to do so. It's not necessary for all the hillside land to become part of the park. As the Los Gatos Creek Trail shows, a trail doesn't have to be wide to be a great trail. It just has to be long and have lots to see along the way.

Levee trails along the Santa Clara Valley Water District's waterways have been turned into some of the best trails in the Bay Area: the Coyote Creek Trail, the Los Alamitos Creek Trail, the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and trails under construction along Stevens Creek and the Guadalupe River. Though these are great trails, they have one major limitation: they are not connected to each other. If the Coyote-Alamitos Canal levee roads were turned into recreational trails, they could connect the Coyote Creek Trail with the Alamitos Creek Trail. The elevated canal levee trails would have one important feature that none of the other water district creek trails have: a panoramic view of the Valley. The levee trails are above the surrounding neighborhood, so they provide views of most of South San Jose.

If trails were completed through this area, it would be possible to make a giant loop trip through most of the length of the Santa Teresa Hills, down the Almaden Valley via the Los Alamitos Creek Trail, then back into the park through the Fortini or Stile Ranch trails. Further connecting trails could link these trails with Calero County Park, Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and the Coyote Creek Trail, forming a huge network of trails in this part of the valley, greatly expanding the recreational opportunities. The Coyote Peak Trail is already part of the partially-completed 400-mile Bay Area Ridge Trail. When the links are completed, this will open up access to hundreds of miles of ridgetop trails circling the Bay. The Alamitos Creek Trail will eventually join with trails along the Guadalupe River all the way to the Bay. There, they will intersect the other partially-completed 400-mile Bay-circling trail network: The San Francisco Bay Trail.  People will be able to hop on the trails literally in their own backyards and continue on them as far as time and their physical abilities will allow. It will be like having a continuous park of virtually unlimited size. This will become more important as the population of the Bay Area grows, and the need for recreational space becomes more acute.

I created a Website that discusses the Santa Teresa Hills and the Coyote-Alamitos Canal in detail.

Created 9/20/99, updated 10/22/14 by Ronald Horii


View from Coyote Peak of the hills south of the park boundary and the Coyote Valley

Santa Teresa Hills above Cottle Road seen from La Colina Park

Powerline maintenance roads leading west from the Bernal Hill Trail to the park boundary at the treeline

Santa Teresa Hills and Coyote Alamitos Canal seen from Foothill Park

Open but posted land at the end of Glendora Ct. near Foothill Park

Expensive houses on the Santa Teresa Hills in the Almaden Valley

Rocks on the Santa Teresa Hills above homes in the Almaden Valley

Santa Teresa Hills ending at Almaden Lake and condominiums

Service road up the Santa Teresa Hills in the Almaden Valley leading to Boulder Ridge Golf Course development 

Monument on a hill near Almaden Lake, seen from the road to the transmitter station