Bay Area Hiker: Rancho San Antonio

Choose from two Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve trailheads and three hikes

Photo from Chamise Trail, down into a canyonHike One: An out-and-back hike through the preserve's quiet western parcel
A tiny parking lot in Los Altos Hills serves as trailhead for a 6 mile out-and-back hike through the western part of Rancho. Once you've climbed to a grassy ridge, Chamise Trail, open to hikers and equestrians only, descends through oak and chaparral. At Chamise Trail's end, you retrace you steps back uphill, and then downhill, to the trailhead.

High points: This trailhead is the best foothill/valley access to Black Mountain. The western section of Rancho is the preserve's quietest area.

Low points: No options for loops; just two longish out-and-back hikes. Rhus Ridge Trail is a steep climb from the trailhead.

View photos from this hike.

Photo of path to crest along Hidden Meadow TrailHike Two: A partial loop past Deer Hollow Farm, on trails favored by runners
Beginning at the preserve's popular eastern trailhead, this approximately 5.5 mile hike is a Rancho tour-de-force. A flat path takes you as far as Deer Hollow Farm, and then a series of quiet trails wander up and down hills and canyons, visiting grassland, oaks, chaparral, and California bay. This hike can easily be shortened or lengthened.

High points: Trails are well-maintained and signed, especially wondrous considering Rancho's high usage. The trails are fantastic tours through Bay Area plant communities. Lots of loop possibilities for shorter or longer hikes. For families with kids, Deer Hollow Farm makes a great excursion.

Low points: Don't expect quiet and solitude. The parking lots fill up early on weekends and in summer.

View photos from this hike.

Black Mountain TrailHike Three: A long out-and-back climb to Black Mountain
This 9.4 mile hike starts out at the Duveneck Windmill trailhead and is initially easy, but 3.3 miles up the mountain the trail shifts from moderate footpath to steep fire road. With virtually no shade, the 1.2 mile stretch to the summit is grueling.

High points: Since you start in the foothills and reach the summit of Black Mountain, this hike really feels like an achievement. Nice variety of plants and great views along the way.

Low points: There's little shade on the fire road segment, and it's a tough slog.

View photos from this hike.

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