Santa Teresa County Park

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New Views - Rainbows and Waterfalls





Trails 1

Trails 2


I went out to Santa Teresa County Park on Sunday 2/27/2000. It had been raining on and off all week. I knew from previous trips during the El Nino season that there was a secret waterfall that flows only after heavy or frequent rains. Heading up Bernal Road, I could see a lot of water flowing down the rocky culvert along the road near the park entrance. This was a good sign, since this water mostly comes from the creek that produces the falls. I drove up to the upper park, and parked in the lot by the entrance to the Hidden Springs Trail, just before the park road turns to the right by the new group picnic site. I went up the Hidden Springs Trail to the left below the girl's ranch. It was a little muddy, but by stepping carefully, I made it up the short hill. It was still raining, so I got a nice view of a rainbow over the Santa Teresa Golf Course and Tulare Hill. 
(Click on the thumbnails below to see a larger picture)
Rainbow over Tulare Hill
Santa Teresa Golf Course
The best view was between two large trees on the right of the trail. Looking back towards Coyote Peak and down into Laurel Canyon, I could see the falls tumbling down a cliff. The falls are fed by the watershed of Coyote Peak, the park's highest point. Coyote Peak was cloaked in green and towered above the falls. 
Coyote Peak, with waterfall below
Coyote Peak, with waterfall below
Going past the second tree on the trail, the falls were hidden again. However, they could be seen again a little farther along from a small hill off the main trail. The view from here also revealed a smaller cascade below the main falls.

It also provided a good view of the Santa Teresa neighborhood. The tract homes, strip malls, school yards, and industrial parks were in sharp contrast to the rugged, natural hills nearby. The gleaming towers of downtown San Jose were visible in the distance. The Hidden Springs Trail below this point tends to be muddy, so I turned back. 

Hidden Springs Trail with waterfall below
Closeup of falls
View of Santa Teresa neighborhood, IBM plant
I then went up the upper part of the Hidden Springs Trail towards Coyote Peak. Though the trail was wet, the drainage was good, so it wasn't too soft. Along the way, I could hear the roaring of the creek feeding the falls. 

The creek runs under the trail in a tunnel. To the left of the trail, it falls steeply down through a densely wooded ravine below the Ridge Trail. To the right of the trail, it tumbles down a rocky ravine that can be accessed from the trail. 

Near the junction with the Ridge Trail is the steepest part of the Hidden Springs Trail, and the footing can be tricky. I carefully made it up the hill. The rocky slopes to the left were covered new green grass. In the spring, there should be wildflowers growing here. As I reached the crest of the hill, I could see a small stream along the side of the trail to the right. At the top of the trail, I could see the source of the stream: the small seasonal pond at the base of the hills. In the spring, this pond teams with tadpoles, who race against time to develop into frogs before the pond dries up. In the summer, this is a dry depression, surrounded by dry grass. In the winter, however, it fills up and becomes a beautiful reflecting pond at the gateway to Coyote Peak.

Creek to right of Hidden Springs Trail
Small stream from seasonal pond outlet
Pond on Hidden Springs Trail, source of the waterfall
I continued on up the Hidden Springs Trail along the narrow valley above the pond. To the right, the green slopes of Coyote Peak rose above the trail, capped by the antenna-crowned peak itself. To the left, the steep, rock-covered ridge blocked the view of the Santa Teresa neighborhood, so there were very few signs of human habitation visible. 

Up to Coyote Peak

Coyote Peak from the Hidden Springs Trail

The Hidden Springs Trail ends at the junction with the Coyote Peak Trail. I took the Coyote Peak Trail and began the steady climb to the peak. There were small rivulets racing down the trail, but otherwise, the trail surface was in excellent condition. As I ascended, the view became more and more spectacular. Every step revealed more sights: the Santa Teresa Hills, the Almaden Valley, the Los Capitancillos Ridge of Almaden Quicksilver County Park, and the dark green wall of the Sierra Azuls. All around, the hills were clothed in a lush green coat of fresh grass. It was refreshing to see the green grass now, because I knew that in a few weeks, after the rains stop, the hills will turn a dry brown and will stay that way the rest of the year.

Finally, I made it to the top of Coyote Peak, about a 1000 feet above the valley floor. Towering high above the surrounding hills, Coyote Peak provides 360 degree views of the surrounding area. It sits at the southern edge of the Silicon Valley, so to the north are endless plains of houses and business, but in other directions are undeveloped hills, mountain slopes, and fields. From this vantage point, I could see all the way south down the Coyote Valley to Morgan Hill. To the east, I could see Tulare Hill and the northern Coyote Valley, a hotbed of controversy now because of the proposed power plant and Cisco campus. Now, it was just a big green field, with a seasonal lake across the road. To the immediate southeast were the rolling undeveloped ranch lands, most of which are owned by IBM. IBM's Santa Teresa Lab is on Bailey Avenue, but it was hidden by the hills. Beyond and down the Coyote Valley were more green fields, scattered seasonal ponds, and bright splashes of yellow mustard. The buildings and warehouses of Morgan Hill were barely visible on the horizon. To the south, I could see the hills of Calero Reservoir County Park. A sliver of blue was all I could see of Calero Reservoir itself. To the southwest was the trail leading down along the rolling hilltops below Coyote Peak to the abandoned microwave station at the start of the Rocky Ridge Trail. Beyond that was the Sierra Azuls, topped by Mt. Loma Prieta, the highest point in the Santa Cruz Range. To the west, looking into the setting sun bursting through the clouds, I could see down the Big Oak Valley into the Almaden Valley. A spotlight of sunlight lit up Rocky Ridge to the northwest, behind which was the IBM Almaden Research Center and the most populated part of the Almaden Valley. To the north was Bernal Hill and the ridge of the Santa Teresa Hills. Beyond that was Silicon Valley and the rest of the Bay Area. On very clear days, I've seen the skyscrapers of San Francisco and Oakland from here, and even the top of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County. On this day, dark clouds and sheets of rain obscured the view up the Bay. 

Here are some views from Coyote Peak, starting from Tulare Hill and turning to the right: 
Looking towards Tulare Hill, Santa Teresa Blvd., Coyote Research Park, Monterey Hwy, Coyote Creek, Diablo Range
Looking across IBM property down the Coyote Valley towards Morgan Hill
Looking across IBM property towards Calero County Park

Looking along the ridge towards Mt. Loma Prieta
Looking towards Big Oak Valley, Almaden Valley, Almaden Quicksilver Park
Looking towards Rocky Ridge, IBM Research Lab, Almaden Valley

Just before the sun began to set, I saw rainclouds approaching, so I quickly made my way down the mountain and back to my car before the rain hit.

For a description of the Hidden Springs Trail and pictures from the last El Nino Season, click here
For a description of the Coyote Peak trail, click here.

Pictures taken 2/27/2000 

Created 2/28/2000, updated 10/22/14 by Ronald Horii