Duveneck Windmill Trailhead,
Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve,

Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,

Santa Clara County
In brief:
6 mile out and back through the Duveneck Windmill area.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
This 6 mile out and back hike is easy, with about 1000 feet in elevation change. Trailhead elevation is just over 400 feet, and from there you have no choice but to climb to at least 1100 feet. If you're ambitious you can ascend all the way to Black Mountain, elevation 2800 feet. Easier hikes descend to about 400 feet at the preserve's eastern section, but you'll have to climb back to Rhus Ridge Trail before you can drop down to the trailhead.

Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails and fire roads.

Hiking time:
3 hours.

Nice year round but extra pretty in early spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit #16 El Monte/Moody Road and drive west on El Monte. Go straight through the stoplight, pass Foothill College, and at the stop sign, turn left onto Moody Road. Continue on Moody (at the next junction bear left to stay on Moody) and turn left onto Rhus Ridge Road (it's about 1 mile from 280). Drive about 0.2 mile on this narrow road, then turn right into the parking lot. The main entrance to Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve is through Rancho San Antonio County Park: exit Interstate 280 at Foothill Boulevard. Make the first right onto Cristo Rey Drive, then turn drive about 1 mile, and turn left into the parking lot. 

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead
Latitude 37.352176"
(* based on Google Earth data)

Gas, food, and lodging
There are no facilities in the immediate area -- gas, stores, restaurants, and pay phones a few miles to the north or south off 280.

Trailhead details:
The Duveneck Windmill Trailhead has parking for about 10 cars (if everyone parks accordingly); no parking on Rhus Ridge Road. No entrance or parking fees. No toilet facilities or drinking water. No designated handicapped parking, and trails are poorly suited to wheelchairs. Maps available at information signboard. There is no direct public transportation to this trailhead, but Santa Clara County's VTA buses service Foothill College, about 1 mile from the Duveneck Windmill trailhead: visit the Transit Info website for details. At the main trailhead, there is no entrance fee, lots of parking (fills up on weekends), restrooms and maps.

Most trails are designated hiking and equestrian only. A few are open to hikers and cyclists only. There are a handful of hiking only trails. Dogs are not permitted.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Rancho page.
MROSD field office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
Map from MROSD (download the Rancho San Antonio pdf).
Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has an overview of the preserve, descriptions of hikes, and simple maps.
Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from Amazon.com) has a great map and descriptions of a Rancho hike.
• The Trail Center's Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula includes Rancho San Antonio and surrounding preserves.
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a map and preserve description (order this book from Amazon.com).
Peninsula Trails, by Jean Rusmore, has a simple map and trail descriptions (order this book from Amazon.com).

View 33 photos from the featured hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

Duveneck Windmill Trailhead is the backdoor into Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve.Trailhead If you've ever been to Rancho (especially on a weekend) you've probably noticed that it gets really crowded. It certainly must be the most heavily used of MROSD's preserves. Sometimes it feels like Central Park on a hot summer day.  Thankfully, although I am a dog lover, the preserve does not permit entry to canines. I think if dogs were permitted here the preserve would become a free-for-all.
     Rancho San Antonio's trump card is its size. This is a large preserve with lots of trails and loop possibilities. By hiking from the Duveneck Windmill Trailhead you can partially escape the throngs and experience the preserve in a whole new light, but be warned:  no matter how you enter Ranch San Antonio, it's not a good choice if you're searching for solitude. Consider using the preserve for two things: exercise, and activities for babies and rather sedimentary folks who like nature. View from Chamise Trail
        For a gentle family-oriented outdoor experience, visit Deer Hollow Farm, a level mile hike from the County Park trailhead. The working farm (operated by the City of Mountain View, open Tuesday-Sunday) has pigs, chickens, goats, and other fun farm stuff.
        If you're looking for a stiff cardio workout, there are trails at Rancho San Antonio to get your blood pumping. A challenging 7 mile loop starts at the County Park trailhead and combines Coyote Trail, High Meadow Trail, Wildcat Loop Trail, Upper High Meadow Trail, and the PG&E Trail. This hike climbs from 400 to 1300 feet, and visits most of the preserve's special features, traveling along a cool, shaded canyon, through grassy meadows, and dry chaparral-lined slopes, with views of the south bay from a vista point. Many hikers relate that they experience peak wildlife encounters along Upper High Meadow Trail.
      The most challenging hike at Rancho is the trek up Black Mountain. Starting at the Duveneck Windmill Trailhead, Rhus Ridge Trail starts at just over 500 feet, and climbs up to the summit (2800 feet) of Black Mountain, a 9.4 mile round trip. The hike would be easier if not for the steep upper portions of the Black Mountain Trail. It you do it, take plenty of water, and shoot for a cool day. For easier access to Black Mountain, visit from the Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, where you can hike to the summit on a less than 6 mile round trip, with an elevation gain of about 700 feet.Rhus Ridge Trail
        For this featured hike, start from the Duveneck Windmill Trailhead and begin walking up Rhus Ridge Trail, which is open to hikers and equestrians only (no dogs or bikes). The trail initially crosses under huge California bay trees in a small canyon, passes the caretaker's residence and after a gate, begins climbing. Angling along the side of the hill, the wide dirt trail runs through buckeye and California bay trees, with poison oak, common snowberry, and blackberry bushes in the understory. Expect to see deer, especially on the upslope of the hill. About halfway up, a belvedere on the right side of the trail is a nice spot to stop and catch your breath, with vistas to the north and east of San Francisco, Mount Tam, and the east bay hills. Rhus Ridge Trail climbs relentlessly, gaining 600 feet in less than a mile. To add insult to injury (at least as far as your legs go), the last bit of trail before the crest seems to be the steepest. It's always a welcome site to reach the flat junction at 0.9 mile. A huge oak tree guards the intersection, with a gentle sweeping meadow at which to rest (unfortunately the grass is infested with yellow star thistle) and a great view up to Black Mountain. The trail to the right climbs to Black Mountain, while the remaining three trails (although only two are shown on the map; all three rejoin shortly) travel to the east. Take the trail straight ahead, signed "to historic windmill site".Chamise Trail
        The trail descends slightly, then leaves the grassland to meander among California bay and oak trees, and some chaparral. At about 1.2 miles, you'll reach the historic windmill site, which really is just an interpretive display explaining that a windmill once stood in this meadow and that the Duvenecks gave this property to the district in 1977.  Continue on the trail past the site, back into grassland and then to an unsigned junction. You'll take the trail on the left on the return leg of this hike, but for now continue straight (or right) on the main path. The Chamise Trail passes through oak and California bay trees, before settling on chaparral as its main plant community. In the winter, the bright orange-red berries of the toyon stand out among the rusty-colored leaves of the chamise and the fuzzy white seedpods of the coyote brush. At some spots on the east side of the trail the foliage clears and views to the valley and further east are great. The wooded slopes of the mountains to the west strike a dramatic counterpoint. You may see rabbits, and even bobcats along the trail.Trail through grassland
        At about 2 miles, Chamise Trail makes a sharp turn to the south (right) at a signed junction with a dead-end trail. As you continue downhill on Chamise, look for olive trees along the sides of the trail. The predominant plant remains chamise. Some deer paths and dead-end trails cross the main trail. Chamise Trail steadily descends, and runs parallel to a thin ridge to the west. This is the quietest part of the featured hike. Some large deluxe-looking houses are visible to the east, just beyond the preserve's boundary. Soon the shaded canyon floor, and Rogue Valley Trail come into view, quite a contrast to the dry sunny Chamise Trail. At 3 miles, and 600 feet, you'll come to a signed junction. If you want to extend this hike, continue straight on the ridge, or turn right to visit the canyon. For this featured hike, this is the turnaround point. Retrace your steps, taking the middle trail through the grassland back near the Windmill site.

Total distance: 6 miles
Last hiked: Friday, December 3, 1999