3.7 mile loop at a private nonprofit preserve and farm.
Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 3.7 mile loop hike edges toward the moderate side of easy, with
about 900 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is about 500 feet,
and the preserve's high point is about 1240 feet. Hidden Villa abuts Rancho
San Antonio Open Space Preserve, where the elevation soars to over 2600
feet, and you can easily create long grueling hikes through the two preserves.
If you stay inside the boundaries of Hidden Villa, choose from short
and very easy nearly flat hikes, or more challenging, though still short
treks with moderate elevation changes.
Mix of sun and shade.
Dirt trails and fire roads.
1 1/2 hours.
Nice any time.
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit El Monte/Moody Road and
drive west on Moody. Go straight through the stoplight at Foothill
College, and at a stop sign at about 0.6 mile, turn left to remain on Moody. Continue
on Moody (at the junction with Altamont bear left) and look for the signed
entrance to Hidden Villa on the left (altogether about 2.2 miles from 280).
Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Longitude 122° 9'26.20"W
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
There are no gas stations, restaurants, or stores in the immediate area,
but you'll find services a few miles north or south off 280. There is no
camping at Hidden Villa, but hostel accommodations are available.
Hidden Villa is open Tuesday-Sunday, from 9 a.m. to dusk. The preserve is
closed to the public for 9 weeks in the summer months. There is a small
parking area near the visitor center. $5 entrance fee; if the entrance kiosk
is unattended, drop your money in the pay box at the trailhead. There are
extremely nice restrooms, drinking water, and a pay phone at the visitor
center. Maps are available at the visitor center, and at an information
kiosk about 0.30 mile from the trailhead. There's one designated handicapped
parking spot, and trails departing from the visitor center are well-suited
to strollers and wheelchairs (other trails deeper in the preserve are not).
See details above for hours and note that the preserve is closed in the
summer. No bicycles are permitted. Most trails are signed hiking only, but
a few permit equestrian use. Groups of ten or more require reservations.
Dogs are not permitted on the trails.
The Official Story:
Hidden Villa website
Hidden Villa general information 650-949-8650
Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from Hidden Villa (pdf)
Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula, by the Trail Center (order
this map from Amazon.com) is a great guide to the trails of Hidden Villa
(and is useful in navigating to the preserve).
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber (order
this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map
photos from this hike.
Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page
Villa is a private non-profit farm and nature preserve, with
an organic farm, hostel, and 9 miles of hiking trails. The farm complex
and hostel are nestled in a flat, pretty valley, but south of the compound
hills rise sharply toward Monte Bello Ridge and Black Mountain. The trails
through the valley and along Adobe Creek are flat and easy, while other
paths more steeply navigate the surrounding wooded hills and chaparral-lined
Hidden Villa's 1,600 acres are almost completely surrounded by
public parklands, but the only trail connection is with the adjacent Duveneck
Windmill Pasture area of MROSD's Rancho San Antonio. If you're planning
a trip to Black Mountain you could start at Hidden Villa, but it's a shorter
and easier hike from the MROSD trailhead on Rhus Road.
There are a handful of trails fully inside the
boundaries of Hidden Villa, and you can create a variety of loops.
Bunny Creek Loop Trail climbs from 600 feet to 1000 feet, then descends
again, all at a moderate pace through woods where you might see a waterfall
in the wettest months. You'll find plenty of shade on Bunny Creek Loop,
as well as along flat Adobe Creek Trail, both good choices for a hot summer
day. On cool winter or spring days Hostel, Grapevine, and Toyon Trails
provide lots of sunshine and the opportunity to see a variety of chaparral
shrubs in bloom. Although Hidden Villa's trails (and parking lot) close
at dusk, you could plan an inexpensive get-away weekend by arranging for
accommodations at the on-site hostel. Hike all day, then spend the night
in a rustic cabin, serenaded by the farm's roosters, pigs, and sheep.
Start at the parking lot. Walk down
the paved path, which sweeps past the visitor center and reaches a
signed junction at about 140 feet. Bear right (you'll take the
other path on the return leg) onto the west loop.
A nature trail, with several plant identification stations, begins to
the right, skirting a level grassy meadow. This flat path runs just slightly
to the right of the loop, and is a good choice if you'd like to see buckbrush,
poison oak, coyote brush, coast live oak, elderberry, and big-leaf maple
specimens. Just past a picnic table under a massive California bay at
0.15 mile, the nature trail rejoins the loop trail, at the edge of a parking
lot. There's no sign, but veer left and cross the parking lot, aiming
for an information kiosk near the farm road.
Turn right and pick up an obvious dirt path
running parallel to the farm road. You'll pass the vegetable garden
to the right, and then at 0.30 mile, just past the hostel on the left,
look for a small but signed footpath. Turn left onto Hostel Trail.
The narrow hiking-only trail heads uphill
through California bay, toyon, buckbrush, madrone, holly-leaf cherry,
pitcher sage, cercocarpus, coyote brush, and creambush. Look for flowers
on gooseberry bushes in early winter, around the same time
that silktassel shrubs put forth blossoms. There are switchbacks, but
the overall grade is still steep enough that I was glad to pass through
some breaks in tree cover, where I had an excuse to stop and admire the
views back downhill to the farm. As Hostel Trail ascends, there are a
few wooded stretches where California bays arch just over the trail, necessitating
a brief limbo. The trail climbs through chamise and coast live oak, then
edges along a pretty sloping meadow dotted with buckeyes. At 0.58 mile,
you'll reach a signed T junction with Toyon Trail. Turn left and remain
on Hostel Trail (you could shorten this hike by turning right here
and picking up the featured hike at the junction with Bunny Creek Loop
Still open to hikers only, the trail squeezes
through a chaparral community of sagebrush, chamise, monkeyflower, silktassel,
gooseberry, shrubby oaks, and toyon. There are nice views back to the
west. Hostel Trail ascends at an easy pace, with occasional switchbacks
that abruptly change the path's orientation. In winter look for pink blossoms
currant shrubs along the trail. At about 1000 feet, the hillside drops
away on the left, revealing views northeast to Los Altos Hills. But the
trail veers right and plunges back into thick stands of chaparral, obscuring
additional vistas. Hostel Trail heads straight uphill to a gate and crest
at 0.78 mile. Walk around the gate and be sure to pause and admire the
360° view. Now on the ridgetop, you might notice bobcat, deer, and
coyote tracks and scat. Hostel Trail descends easily, taking broad sweeps
across the chaparral-lined hillsides. At 0.94 mile, you'll reach a confusing
non-junction, where a path (blocked on my visit with a bit of dead brush)
continues straight, and the trail takes a sharp turn left. Be sure
to stay to the left here.
Descending along a north-facing slope, the
trail wanders past buckeye, toyon, and coast live oak. There's one stretch
where Hostel Trail passes right through the low-sprawling branches of
a buckeye. At 1.12 miles you'll reach a signed junction withGrapevine and Ridge Trails. Turn right onto Grapevine Trail.
The trail, open to hikers and equestrians,
drops at a moderate grade through chaparral, with buckbrush, silktassel,
chamise, sagebrush, toyon, holly-leaf cherry, monkeyflower, coast live
oak, and buckeye prominent. There are unobstructed views to the south.
Grapevine Trail makes a sharp left and descends toward Adobe Creek. California
bay, California coffeeberry, snowberry, and coast live oak mark a transition
to a cooler microclimate. At 1.46 miles, Grapevine Trail ends at a signed
junction with Adobe Creek Trail. Turn right onto Adobe Creek Trail.
The nearly level hiking and equestrian trail
is sheltered by thick stands of California bay and big-leaf maple. Adobe
Creek Trail meets Pipeline Trail at a signed junction at 1.51 miles. Continue
straight on Adobe Creek Trail (Pipeline runs across the hillside parallel
Creek Trail and is an optional route).
The trail follows a few feet from the creekbed,
crossing the stream twice on bridges. On the left the hillside climbs
steeply towards the southwest, but the trail retains an easy pace. At
1.81 miles, you'll reach the signed junction with the other end of Toyon
Trail (which Pipeline Trail feeds into). Continue straight on Adobe
After just a few steps, the trail reaches
a confluence of three creeks, a picnic area, and a junction at 1.87 miles.
If you'd like to cut this hike short, turn right here, but otherwise continue
straight on Bunny Creek Loop Trail.
The hiking-only trail passes a boulder ringed
by California bay trees, on the left. Climbing slightly, Bunny Creek Loop
Trail crosses the east fork of Adobe Creek, then turns sharply right,
away from the creek, and reaches an unsigned junction at 2.01 miles. Bear
left and continue uphill on Bunny Creek Loop
The trail makes good use of switchbacks
as it ascends through a forest of toyon, coast live oak, California bay,
and madrone. At 2.25 miles you'll reach a second unsigned junction. Bunny
Creek Loop Trail continues uphill to the left (straight), while an unnamed
path not on the map veers right. (I guessed wrong here and ended up on
the unnamed path, so if you want to stay on Bunny Creek Loop Trail continue
straight.) Bear right.
The tiny path (which I have named Cottontail
Cutoff) meanders through the woods, generally descending all the way.
This is truly a hobbit-sized course, and some fallen trees and big boulders
make it a little more challenging then Bunny Creek Loop Trail, but the
trail is still obvious and
navigable. Although vegetation screens all views, noise from the farm
filters uphill from the right. After a short section of labyrinth-like
switchbacks, the trail ends at an unsigned junction with Bunny Creek Loop
Trail, at 2.80 miles. From here you can turn right and return to the trailhead,
or (particularly if you're visiting in the winter or early spring and
you want to see the waterfall), turn left onto Bunny Creek Loop Trail.
The cool canyon is lined with graceful California
bays, and moss covers trees and rocks in a luxuriant display. At 3.00
miles you'll reach the base of the falls. If the water has filled the
canyon's creekbed, continue across the creek and follow the trail on switchbacks
uphill, with several different vantage points at which to admire the falls.
When you're ready, retrace your steps back to the junction with Cottontail
Cutoff, then continue straight on Bunny Creek Loop Trail.
Heading out of the canyon, Bunny Creek
Loop Trail crosses the stream
on a bridge, then reaches Hollow Oak Campground. You'll descend at an
easy grade to a signed junction at 3.30 miles. Turn right onto a farm
road (the road left heads to the off-limits former house of Hidden
Villa founders Frank and Josephine Duveneck).
You'll pass through the farm's maintenance
yard, then edge along the chicken and pig range. At 3.36 miles the flat
road meets another at a T junction. Turn left.
The tin barn and sheep pasture sprawl on
the left. At 3.45 miles you'll reach a previously encountered junction
with Hostel Trail, on the right. Retrace your steps back to the information
kiosk and parking lot, then take the east trail (on the right,
parallel to the farm road) back to the trailhead.
Last hiked: Wednesday, January 9, 2002