Santa Teresa County Park sits on a low hill between the Almaden and Coyote valleys, offering some striking views over the two valleys.
This is the least wild of the three Almaden Valley parks; suburbs and a golf course border the park on two sides, and since it’s near a major electrical substation, several rows of electrical towers run through it. However, by starting from the more isolated Almaden Valley side of the park, it’s possible to hike a very enjoyable loop with scenery that’s really unique among area parks. This relatively easy loop starts outside the park, at the edge of San Jose’s suburbs, and ambles through surprisingly rural flatlands before climbing to the park’s highest point (which is high enough to get a bit of a workout, yet isn’t especially challenging), where there are exceptional views over the Coyote, Almaden, and Santa Clara valleys.
This hike is best in the late spring, when the Rocky Ridge and Stile Ranch trails are in bloom. In winter, the Rocky Ridge Trail is often closed to hikers due to muddy conditions, making it impossible to hike the recommended loop. In summer, the park gets unpleasantly hot since almost none of it is wooded.
Start at the southern end of the Almaden Valley suburbs. From Highway 85, take the Almaden Expressway south, turn left on Camden Ave, and keep going until the road ends at Harry Road. Park near the intersection of the two roads. To your left and across Harry Road, near the entrance to IBM Almaden, is the Calero Creek Trail, a dirt singletrack trail that heads south toward Santa Teresa County Park.
The Calero Creek Trail also extends north as a paved bike path. The trail leads all the way to Highway 85 and most of it is really nice, with its own right-of-way (not running alongside a road) along a pleasantly wooded creek. Unfortunately the last mile runs through a rather dull dirt strip alongside Camden Avenue. If this last mile were more like the rest of the trail, it would be a great addition to the hike.
Hike south on the Calero Creek Trail. To your left is an old walnut orchard, now part of the IBM Almaden campus. To your right, Calero Creek runs in a little depression shaded by trees. Soon the trail turns left and crosses a little creek. There’s no bridge here and in winter you may have to get your feet wet, but crossing the creek is usually not a problem, even after it rains. The trail turns right and widens. To your right is a strikingly green (in spring) cow pasture. The rural feeling of this area is really surprising considering that it’s just a few hundred yards from the suburbs of Silicon Valley.
The trail ends at a small collection of houses. You might be greeted by the sounds of a braying donkey or someone’s birds as you step onto the paved road. Continue along the road for a few yards until you reach a small dirt parking lot and the Santa Teresa trailhead. Turn left onto the trail, pass a few picnic tables, then turn right onto the Fortini Trail.
The trail slopes very gently upward past an old barn and some houses, then through a shallow, grassy valley. As you near the top of the trail, turn right onto the Rocky Ridge Trail. This trail climbs through another shallow valley before climbing up to a ridge which is, in fact, rocky. There are some nice views of the Almaden Valley as the trail climbs.
Turn left when the trail ends at a dirt road. As the trail climbs toward Coyote Peak there are some superb views south of the Coyote Valley which are, unfortunately, marred by a line of nearby electrical towers.
At the 4-way intersection near Coyote Peak, continue straight to walk a very short little loop around the peak, which has some nice views north of Silicon Valley. Returning to the intersection, turn right to descend the Coyote Peak Trail.
Reaching the bottom of the trail, turn left onto a dirt road that parallels one of the park’s paved access roads. You’ll reach the intersection where you turned onto the Rocky Ridge Trail. Continue straight and turn right at the next dirt road, then take the first left onto the Stile Ranch Trail.
Much of the Stile Ranch Trail winds up and down through uninteresting chaparral with no views to speak of. What makes the little detour onto this trail worthwhile is the final descent into the Almaden Valley, which features some really scenic views of the Almaden Valley’s strikingly green (in spring) cow pastures with the Sierra Azul rising up behind them.
At the bottom of the hill, continue until you reach the parking area and paved road. Turn right onto the road and return the way you came, on the Calero Creek Trail.
© 2011, 2017 David Baselt