After work hike, Montebello Open Space Preserve

My wife and kids are out of town for a few weeks, spending time with the grandparents while I take care of some stuff at work. Sucks for me cuz I sorta like having them around so I decided to fill some of my after work hours with some hikes that I haven’t gotten to do recently. With luck I can write up reports of a number of short after-work hikes that others might find useful.

About the parkMontebello Open Space Preserve is located on Page Mill Road above Palo Alto, CA. It’s a big preserve holding a mixture of open grassland and mixed oak forests and allows hikers, mountain bikes and horses on most trails. It’s good for relatively short hikes because there are a number of loop options and if you’re into looking at Silicon Valey it’s got some pretty good views. A really nice map is available from the link above, as are driving directions to the park.


About the hike: The hike I did was just about exactly 5 miles in length and involved a good deal of climbing and descending in open grassland and in deep forest. The end of the hike was a bit buggy because it was near Stevens Creek. There is no potable water available on the hike. There is water available at the top of Black Mountain but it’s listed as non-potable. It used to be okay to drink but now it’s de-certified. In a pinch I’d still drink it over having to go without water but that’s me and I don’t recommend others follow my advice in matters of personal safety. You can expect to see lots of lizards, some deer, and if you’re really lucky you might see a rattlesnake, a bobcat or a mountain lion. I have never seen any of the latter in Montebello despite spending a lot of time in the preserve but I’m told they’re there.


Doing the hike: I parked in the main parking lot off of Page Mill Road, just across the road from Los Trancos OSP, another old favorite of mine from when it used to be open to bikes (it’s not any more, boo). Walked down the accessibility trail that I helped build down to the Canyon Trail. Followed the Canyon Trail a short distance to Bella Vista and then climbed Bella Vista up to the top of Black Mountain. This is an easy climb but can be a little long and there will usually be mountain bikers descending the trail rapidly so keep your ears open and give them room if you can.

At the top of Bella Vista I turned right and followed Old Ranch Trail that parallels the gravel road over to the backpacker camp. Took a short break for a few drinks of water from my water bottle and then continued over to Indian Creek Trail. Indian Creek is a steep fireroad that leads back down to the Canyon Trail. I once dated a woman who liked to ride her bike up Indian Creek, she was a sick, sick woman. 

I followed Indian Creek Trail down to the canyon and turned right walking through a lovely section of trail shaded by tan oak trees, back towards the parking area (but not that far). A short while later I turned left onto the Stevens Creek Nature trail. This trail leads down to the creek and is closed to bikes in the winter because it gets sloppy muddy. The nature trail has all sorts of little placards pointing out features of the preserve and the animal and plant life to be found there. I followed the Nature trail all the way across the bridges and back to the parking area that I started from. Make sure that you don’t turn onto the Skid Trail (we used to call this Skid Row in my hair band days)by accident, the trails are marked clearly but if you were day dreaming you could make a wrong turn and end up going in the wrong direction. The Nature trail intersects with the accessibility trail that you started on in a badly marked intersection. When the Nature Trail hits an intersection turn left to go back to the parking lot, it’s only 0.1 miles away.

Distance and Time: The route described above is 5.1 miles long (according to the map and signs in the preserve) and took me a smidgeon under 2 hours. That’s a pretty quick hike and you might take longer if you were stopping to smell the flowers (there aren’t many). If you needed to cut it short because it was getting dark you could skip the Nature trail and just head back to the parking area after descending Indian Creek.





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