We planned and wrote this post, then the Loma fire broke out across the ridge from Santa Teresa County Park. So, now would NOT be a good time to explore Santa Teresa. However, the park is wonderful most times of the year and offers quiet trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding as well as other activities. One of the best times to visit is Spring, when the rolling hills are green and filled with wildflowers. We will update this post as time goes on.
For this latest post, we revisit using public transit to ride to an outdoor venue for a mountain bike trail ride. We started out from downtown San Jose and hopped the Santa Clara County's VTA Santa Teresa lightrail line to get to the trail to Santa Teresa County Park.
Santa Teresa County Park is located in the Santa Teresa Hills about ten miles south of downtown San Jose. This 1,673 acre park offers spectacular views of the Santa Clara Valley from its higher elevation trails. On a clear day, you can even see the spread of the San Francisco Bay from East Bay to the Peninsula, and on a sparkling, VERY clear fall day, you can even make out the skyscrapers of downtown San Francisco. It also houses a historic ranch, but more about that in a moment.
As with our recent wander from Almaden Lake Park along Alamitos Creek, we got off the lightrail train at the end of the line in Almaden. We made our way across Coleman Rd. to Almaden Lake Park, then rode through the park along the Alamitos Creek Trail to pop out the other end at Camden Ave.
We crossed Camden Ave. and at the trailhead of the Calero Creek Trail, followed it to the Stile entrance to Santa Teresa County Park. As with a lot of parks in or very near San Jose, we weren't far from a neighborhood or large development. So, there are grocery stores (for emergency provisions) and restaurants, just what mountain bikers need to fuel their ride over Santa Teresa's rolling trails. Having said that, once we got out on the trail, those 1,600 acres loomed large and we felt like we were out in the country, away from the world!
On the Trail at Santa Teresa
The property that is Santa Teresa County park is synonymous with San Jose history. The patriarch of the Bernal family, Jose Joaquin Bernal received a grant of land, about 9,200 acres, which was named Rancho de Santa Teresa.
Mountain bikes have been allowed on the trails since the 1990s. According to the website, the park has over 17 miles of trails that are multi-use, meaning that bikers share them with hikers and the occasional equestrian.
The 1.5 mile ride from Calero Creek Trail to the Stile entrance follows the creek's riparian corridor under a nice, cool tree canopy -- only to come out to some stark, dry trail at the Stile entrance.
At the Stile entrance the trail mirrors a private road as it follows the contours of a hill, then climbs to Fortini Trail. From there you can access the Mine Trail that takes you up the hill to the Pueblo Day Use area, more or less in the center of the park.
At this point you have options: Follow a short connector to Pueblo Trail and link back to the Mine Trail, then loop back down the hill to Stile Ranch Trail back to the Stile entrance and Calero Creek Trail. Or, for more trail goodness, make a right on Mine Trail to Bernal Hill Trail and follow it to Joice Trail to Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch Historic Area. Get off your bike and take a look around!
To get back to the day use area, you could go back the way you came or take Norred Trail in the opposite direction past Norred Ranch, back to your old friend, Mine Trail to Hidden Springs Trail. You see: Options!
On the Trail of History
The Santa Teresa area is home to the Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch, located in the Santa Teresa County Park Historic Area. The ranch was once the hub of life in this area, by supplying fruit, dairy products, and spring water to homes and neighborhoods all the way to downtown San Jose.
Originally part of Rancho Santa Teresa, the ranch and 20 acres of property are all that remains of a nearly 10,000-acre property granted to Jose Joaquin Bernal by the Mexican Government in 1834. While most of the original rancho has been developed into the neighborhoods surrounding Santa Teresa, the Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch was owned by the Bernal family until 1980.
The Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch site is open daily from 8am to sunset. The ranch house and barn exhibits are open to the public Friday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Other activities available at Santa Teresa:
- Golfing at Santa Teresa Golf Club
- Channeling your inner Robin Hood in the archery range run by Black Mountain Bowmen Archery Club
- Touring the historic Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch
- Picnicking in the Pueblo Day Use Area
If you're not planning to ride your mountain bike to Santa Teresa, here are some general directions for getting to the park:
From Highways 101 or 85 take Bernal Rd. Follow Bernal across Santa Teresa Blvd. The Pueblo Day Use Area is located off Bernal Rd.
Bernal-Gulnac-Joice Ranch is on Manila Dr., in the northwest corner of the park in the Santa Teresa County Park Historic Area. From Highway 85 take the Cottle Rd. exit. Turn left on Santa Teresa Blvd. and make your first right on Camino Verde. Continue on Camino Verde through a residential area and you will find the ranch on Manila Dr.
Another route to the park is through Almaden Valley via Almaden Expressway. After the expressway turns into a two-lane road and becomes Almaden Rd. again, turn right on Harry Rd. then make a left onto McKean Rd. After approximately 1.5 miles, make a left onto Fortini Rd. Where Fortini ends, turn left onto San Vicente Ave., then make a right into the small parking lot.