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
Some shade, but mostly exposed.
Dirt fire roads.
Late winter and spring are pleasant; avoid the
preserve during heat waves.
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
Get driving or public transit
directions from Transit and Trails:
GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
(* based on Google Earth
data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)
Gas, food, and lodging:
Available back near Camden. No camping.
Small parking lot, with vault toilets, but no water. No fee.
Trail is multi-use. Dogs are permitted on some preserve trails, but not
The Official Story:
MROSD's field office 650-691-1200
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).
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
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. 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. 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 Peak. 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. There 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