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Black Mountain

Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

Rancho San Antonio Links:

May 8th, 1999

9.6 miles
2530 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:23

Rating: 6/10

Directions:   View Driving Map

Kane, Lan and I hiked in Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve.

We started our hike at 10:20 in the morning. The sky was perfectly clear, a typical spring day in the Bay Area -- temperatures in the 70's. Perfect hiking weather.

The path starts out in shade over a gravelly surface before shortly turning to dirt. It's well-packed however -- suitable for running, as Lan would say. The first mile is a fire trail which starts climbing almost immediately.

Bloom along the Black Mountain Trail (taken a week after this hike)

After about a mile there's a fork in the road where you can go left to join the Chamise Trail and take it toward the main Rancho San Antonio area, where you'll meet hordes of people. Instead, we took the right fork and continued along the Black Mountain Trail.


The singletrack trail dashes in and out of sunlight as it curves around on a slight uphill. Along the way is a beautiful shaded, fern garden. As we climb higher and out in the open, we have nice views of the Santa Clara Valley below.

Somewhere along the way the trail becomes a fire trail again. And from then on, there's little shade. The trail continues up, up, up. There are short pitches which approach 20% grade, though there are periodic flatter sections to rest on. This is not the most wild of trails, as we pass by electric towers and we get a wonderful view of a quarry being mined below.

The trail has a fair amount of traffic. But it's mostly hikers; bikes are not allowed, and we only saw a handful of runners. And the traffic is nothing compared with the main Rancho San Antonio area.

When we reached a gate at the top, there was a bunch of satellite dishes and towers behind a locked fence to greet us. We reached the gate in an unexpectedly blazing-fast time of 1 hour, 33 minutes. We were about to be very disappointed with the top and head down, but two hikers came by and told us there was a great view just a little further on.

We continued down the trail, made a right onto Montebello Road, and were soon (less than two-tenths of a mile) greeted with a great picnic area nestled among rocks, with a view of rolling green hills to the west. A USGS metal stamp marked the top of the mountain. We stopped and relaxed for a while here, eating and taking pictures of lizards jumping around the rocks. Mountain bikers coming up Montebello Road stopped by for a few minutes to soak in the view.

Lan standing on the summit

There's also a campsite less than half a mile away; we saw a couple of backpackers (at least they had big packs on and were headed in that direction). I believe the campsite (which requires reservations) is the only one in the vast Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

After lunch we headed back the way we came. Along the way we enjoyed the view more; going uphill we had had our heads down concentrating on the uphill (and the view was at our backs). We also stopped to appreciate the wildflowers more.

Lan(d) of the Ferns

About 1.5 miles before the bottom there are two trails to the left for "Hidden Villa". We're guessing the two trails form a loop, but we didn't have time to investigate. One of the signs tells us that Hidden Villa is private property open to the public for hiking. But it is not open during the summer, when they have camps there. Perhaps we will have to investigate the trail sometime in the future.

Near the very end of our hike Lan spotted a couple of gray squirrels humping on a tree. Alas, we were too slow with our cameras and that image will not grace my website.

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