Hidden Villa Farm and Wilderness Preserve,
Santa Clara County
In brief:
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.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
1 1/2 hours.

Nice any time.

Getting there:
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:
Latitude 3721'13.34"N
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.

Trailhead details:
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

Map Choices:
• 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

View photos from this hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Hidden Villa is a private non-profit farm and nature preserve, Trailheadwith 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 slopes.
     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.Hostel Trail  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.Toyon Trail  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 Toyon Trailtime 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 Trail).
      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 Grapevine Trailon 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 withAdobe Creek TrailGrapevine 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 to AdobeBunny Creek Loop Trail 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 Creek Trail.
     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 Cottontail CutoffLoop Trail.
     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 andBunny Creek falls  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 streamReturning to the trailhead  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.

Total distance: 3.75 miles
Last hiked: Wednesday, January 9, 2002