Stile Ranch Trail,
IBM easement,

Santa Clara County
In brief:
2.6 mile loop through IBM easement and Santa Teresa County Park. Exceptional native flowers blooming throughout rocky grassland here in spring.

Exposure:
Mostly exposed.

Trail traffic:
Light.

Trail surfaces:
Dirt trails.

Hiking time:
2 hours.

Season:
Nice any time, best in spring.

Getting there:
From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, take CA 85 south, toward Gilroy (exit 12b). After about 12 miles, exit at Almaden Expressway (exit 6), stay in the ramp's right lane, make the first left, then the next right onto Almaden Expressway. Drive about 5 miles to the end of Almaden Expressway, turn right onto Harry, and almost immediately, turn left onto McKean. Drive south on McKean 1.2 miles, and turn left onto Fortini Road. Drive northeast on Fortini 0.6 mile to a T junction, then turn left onto San Vicente and continue less than 0.1 mile to the trailhead on the right.

Get driving or public transit directions from Transit and Trails:
http://www.transitandtrails.org/trailheads/109

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:
Latitude 3712'12.01"N
Longitude
12148'21.00"W
(* based on Google Earth data, shown as degrees, minutes, seconds)

Gas, food, and lodging:
Pay phones, gas, stores, and restaurants back near CA 85. No camping.

Trailhead details:
No entrance or parking fees. Parking in a small gravel lot. No toilet facilities, water, or maps. No designated handicapped parking, and the trail is not suitable to wheelchairs.

Rules:
Stile Ranch Trail is multi-use, as are most of the trails in adjacent Santa Teresa County Park. Pets on leash are permitted. No hours are posted for Stile Ranch, but Santa Teresa is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.

Distance, category, and difficulty
:
This 2.6 mile loop hike is easy, with a total elevation change of about 400 feet.

The Official Story
:
SCCP's Santa Teresa page

Map & book choices/More Info:

• Use AAA's Monterey Bay Region map to get to the park.
Map from SCCP of Santa Teresa (pdf--includes Stile Ranch Trail)
South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and trail descriptions.
• The Bay Area Ridge Trail, by Jean Rusmore (order this book from Amazon.com) has a simple map and descriptions of Stile Ranch Trail.
The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book, by Tom Taber, has a map and park description (order this book from Amazon.com).


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





Go to Bay Area Hiker Home page


Stile Ranch Trail traverses low hills on IBM's Almaden research property, adjacent to Santa Teresa County Park. TrailheadThis 1.4 mile footpath, which is also a Bay Area Ridge Trail segment, is a particular favorite with native plant enthusiasts. Rocky soil along the easement trail hosts a great variety of endemic and common western flowers which bloom throughout spring.
     Hikers can combine Stile Ranch Trail with the county park's trail network for hikes clocking in at about 5 miles; in addition to Stile Ranch Trail, folks out for flowers generally find the best displays on Rocky Ridge and Bernal Hill Loop trails. Since Stile Ranch Trail and Santa Teresa County Park are connected, you can begin hikes from the free, no-frills easement trailhead on San Vicente Road, or from the county park's main area, complete with picnic facilities and restrooms (fee required).Stile Ranch Trail
     For this featured hike, begin at the Stile Ranch trailhead, which is at the edge of a agricultural/semi-rural area. Just past a big trail sign, you'll reach a signed junction. Turn left, onto Stile Ranch Trail. The narrow, multi-use path climbs gently on switchbacks, through dense thickets of black sage, sagebrush, and occasional colonies of manzanita. In spring, look for California poppies, orange fiddlenecks, bluedicks, popcorn flower, chia, and yarrow. After 0.3 mile, the rocky trail drifts into grassland and the uphill grade slackens. Here in spring, you may see California gilia, goldenfields, bluedicks, tidytips, and jewelflower, a single-stalked plant with flowers that resemble little pink frilly-tipped pouches.Stile Ranch Trail Stile Ranch Trail passes through a gap in an old stone wall and ascends easily along the easement boundary, to the left. There are views from the trail southeast to the hills of Santa Teresa, and back to the southwest, of Mount Umunhum. After cresting at 0.7 mile, the trail begins to descend through another area with good native flower displays in spring, including more gilias, linanthus, onions, and claytonia. The IBM Almaden facility is visible on the left as the trail turns and heads down the side of a grassy gulch. A few California bay and scrub oak trees, and poison oak and California coffeeberry bushes thrive here, and the next stretch of trail leading down to a creek crossing can be very muddy following rainstorms. Stile Ranch TrailOnce across a footbridge, Stile Ranch Trail climbs back uphill to more dry ground, where on an early spring hike I saw several varieties of butterflies, including a gorgeous Acmon blue. Some boulders studding the grassland are covered with bright orange lichen, quite a color contrast to early spring's vibrant green grass. Once more the trail descends, this time for good. Stile Ranch Trail crosses another creek by a big valley oak, then follows the stream into Santa Teresa County Park. At 1.5 miles Stile Ranch Trail ends at a signed junction. Turn right onto Mine Trail.
     The wide multi-use trail climbs slightly through grassland. You may see or hear turkeys in this part of the park, gobbling back and forth to each other, or trotting along the trails. Mine Trail's ascent is brief, and soon you'll descend to a signed junction at 1.7 miles. Turn right onto Fortini Trail.Fortini Trail
     The broad trail, open to cyclists, equestrians, and hikers, drops to meander along Santa Teresa Creek. After crossing a stream feeding into the larger creek, Fortini Trail shrinks a bit. Expect more mud here in late winter and early spring. At a nearly level pace, the trail sweeps through grassland near the park boundary, to the left. Houses and horses are both occasionally visible. Black sage, sagebrush, and a massive manzanita stretch up the hillside on the right. On my March hike I saw quite a few buckeye butterflies here. Now running parallel to a private road, Fortini Trail continues to skirt a hill where jackrabbits hop about. Great clumps of tidytips and bluedicks bloom along the trail in spring. At 2.5 miles, Fortini Trail meets Stile Ranch Trail. Turn left and return to the trailhead.

Total distance: 2.6 miles
Last hiked: Thursday, March 24, 2005