Woods Trail, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve,
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District,
Santa Clara County
In brief:
This 5.4 mile out and back hike is a great introduction to Sierra Azul's varied landscapes.

Distance, category, and difficulty:
5.4 mile out and back hike is moderately easy, with about 1100 feet in elevation change.

Some shade, but mostly exposed.

Trail traffic:

Trail surface:
Dirt fire roads.

Hiking time:
2.5 hours.

Late winter and spring are pleasant; avoid the preserve during heat waves.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit #12b onto CA 85 south. After 10 miles, exit #8 at Camden Avenue. Stay in either of the two left lanes, and at the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Camden. Drive 2 miles, then turn right onto Hicks Road. Drive 6 miles, and at a stop sign, turn right onto (frequently unsigned) Mount Umunhum Road (if you get to Almaden Road, you've gone too far). Almost immediately, turn right into the preserve parking lot.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3710'31.75"N
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Available back near Camden. No camping.

Trailhead details
Small parking lot, with vault toilets, but no water. No fee.

Trail is multi-use. Dogs are permitted on some preserve trails, but not this one.

The Official Story:
MROSD's Sierra Azul page
MROSD's field office 650-691-1200

Map Choices:
Map from MROSD (download the pdf)
• This hike is described and mapped in 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: San Francisco, by Jane Huber (yup, that's me, the creator of this website). Order this book from Amazon.com.
.• 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.
South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and a few suggested hikes.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber, has a map and park description (order this book from Amazon.com).
The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order this book from Amazon.com) has a good map and descriptions of Sierra Azul's Ridge Trail segment.

Woods Trail in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page

With over 17,300 acres, Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve sprawls over the flanks of Mount Umunhum, in its namesake mountain range just southwest of San Jose.Trailhead  Sierra Azul rivals some of the largest state parks in the Bay Area for sheer size and diversity, with chaparral, redwood groves, mixed woodlands, headwaters, and grassy slopes, all just a short drive from San Jose.
     Start from the parking lot on the wide fire road, Woods Trail (gate SA06). This trail is used by cyclists and equestrians, so stay alert for traffic throughout your hike. Mount Umunhum's summit, marked by a large six-story concrete building, is visible uphill in the distance as the trail makes its way at a nearly level pace into a lightly wooded area. You may hear chickadees chirping from the coast live oak, madrone, and California bay trees, and see Oregon juncos picking through leaf litter along the trail. In late spring, checkerspot, fritillary, and California sister butterflies flutter above poison oak, sticky monkeyflower, coyote brush, and creambush shrubs in the understory. Woods Trail descends gently and crosses a creek at about the 1/2 mile mark. Woods Trail Bigleaf maples and California buckeyes mix through the other trees here. In the shaded slope on the left side of the trail, look for Chinese houses, fairy lanterns, ribbon clarkia, and pale lemon-colored Ferdinand's irises in spring. On a May hike I saw a little ringneck snake basking in a pool of sunlight in the middle of the trail. As the trail continues to descend, the sound of rushing water gets ever louder until you reach Guadalupe Creek, at just past 1 mile. Woods Trail crosses the waterway then begins to climb somewhat steeply, passing a few eucalyptus trees. A large Douglas fir marks its territory along the trail with scattered cones. As the trail ascends into a grassy area dotted with coyote brush, scan the sides of the trail for spring flowers, including purple ookow, ivory mariposa lilies, blue-eyed grass, white yarrow, golden yarrow, and pink clarkia. Where Woods Trail bends left, expansive views unfold from the right side of the trail, stretching past Almaden Quicksilver County Park and the city of San Jose to Mount Hamilton and Mission PeakWoods Trail If it's not too hot, the pocket of nearly level grassland here is a great stop for a picnic. Woods Trail passes under power lines, levels out a bit, and reenters partially shaded woods, home to California bay, madrone, live oaks, toyon, poison oak, buckeye, chaparral pea, and manzanita. A sunny open stretch hosts a collection of chaparral plants including yerba santa, chamise, pitcher sage, mountain mahogany, and sticky monkeyflower. Swallowtail butterflies are commonly spotted along the trail in late spring -- these large cream-yellow and black butterflies flap and glide more like a bird than a typical butterfly's flutter. Anise swallowtails are the most common Bay Area swallowtail, but on a May hike here I saw pale swallowtails, no doubt drawn to host plants coffeeberry and creambush, both found in abundance on the slopes of Mount Umunhum. The two swallowtails have similar yellow and black colors, but anise swallowtails have a stronger yellow hue, and large patches of black on the middle tops (shoulders) of both wings. ReturningThere are more great views uphill to the summit, before Woods Trail reenters shaded woodland again, where a rare oak hybrid called Oracle or Shreve oak graces the right side of the trail. This deciduous oak, a cross between a black oak and an interior live oak, is most conspicuous in autumn, when the leaves turn a beautiful orange color. In this final shaded segment where wild rose, columbine, and western hearts ease (tiny white violets) bloom in spring, the trail ascends slightly to a signed junction with Barlow Road at 2.7 miles. Woods Road continues uphill straight ahead, and Barlow Road climbs to Mount Umunhum Road to the left. Retrace your steps back to the parking lot.

Total distance: 5.4 miles
Last hiked: May 28, 2006