Local = Better
Lately, I’ve been thinking about local travel. It’s easier than long-distance travel, what with COVID restrictions, weather-relatecd issues, flight cancellations, and unexpected itinerary changes. Sometimes vacationing locally is less stressful and this = better!
If you are located in the Bay Area, Morgan Hill, California, is a wonderful place to explore and spend some time. It can be a 36-hour vacation or a weekend visit.
Last spring I visited Morgan Hill during a tour hosted by Visit Morgan Hill. The town straddles two worlds — urban and rural, offering a unique opportunity to explore locally.
On workdays, the town bustles with commuter traffic traveling north to high tech jobs in Silicon Valley. Away from the downtown in almost every direction are quiet country roads that weave in and out of housing developments, orchards, and vineyards.
The trip is an easy bike ride along the rolling foothills from San José. If you don’t want to brave the roads, the Coyote Creek Trail runs between the two cities for 18 car-free miles. There are several access points in San José. From the trail’s end at Anderson County Park, it’s a short bike ride along Main Ave. into Morgan Hill’s charming downtown.
The downtown also has a Caltrain station — for a weekend jaunt, take your bike on the train during one of the three Morgan Hill stops on a Friday afternoon, then on Monday morning, take the train back up the peninsula. Note: Caltrain service is limited to three trains heading south to Morgan Hill in the afternoon and three trains heading north in the morning. There is no weekend service.
By car, Morgan Hill is easily accessible from Highway 101.
Bike & Hike
The area around Morgan Hill has flat paved trails and off-road singletrack for mountain biking or hiking. It’s near Henry Coe State Park and several Santa Clara County parks. Spring time is a really great time to visit — the temperatures are comfortable and the hillsides are green and covered in wildflowers.
Coyote Creek Trail: This paved path located in the Diablo Mountain Range east of Morgan Hill is referenced on the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) list of paved trails for Rainy Day Walks in the Bay Area.
Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve: Located approximately 11 miles from Morgan Hill, this park has multi-use trails for bikers, hikers, and equestrians. The Llagas Creek loop is an easy .5 mile trail to Mayfair Ranch — perfect for newly minted mountain bikers or families with young children. A more difficult ride is the Serpentine Loop Trail, a 7.8 mile ride that takes you up to some spectacular vistas.
Uvas Canyon County Park: Trails that lead to waterfalls are a highlight of this park — after this year’s rains, the falls are spectacular! Located in upper Uvas Canyon, the park has camping and a picnic area. There is a 1-mile Waterfall Loop that follows Swanson Creek — an easy grand tour of the park’s waterfalls.
For the latest updates on trail conditions check out openspaceauthority.org
The area around Morgan Hill hosts annual organized rides, two of which are coming up this spring.
On April 22, the Tierra Bella Bike Tour takes off from Morgan Hill's neighboring city, Gilroy. Organized by the Almaden Cycle Tour Club, the routes take in the scenic country roads of the area. The rides range from a 33-mile short route, two with more mileage (55 miles and 77 miles) and a more challenging 100-miler with optional climbing for those mountain goats. Learn more at Almaden Cycle Touring Club
On May 13, the I Care Classic Bike Tour takes off from Morgan Hill for a family-friendly 10-mile, 50-kilometer, 100-kilometer, and 100-mile routes. The wildflowers should be out on the hillsides by this date. Enjoy the riding, the famous home-baked cookies, great SAG for those unexpected issues. Your entry fee supports the Almaden Lions' programs to provide glasses for needy children and families. Find the deets at icareclassic.org
U-Pick Orchards: Morgan Hill’s agricultural present offers experiences you can do in very few places in the Bay Area. There are several you-pick orchards, which is just as it sounds — you bring a bucket and fill it with fruit that you pay for and take away.
Andy’s Orchard: Located between the Coyote Creek Trail and downtown, Andy’s is a fruit stand within a working orchard.
Terra Amico Farms: During the summer, Terra Amico fills a cart with heirloom tomatoes for sale. Choose the tomatoes you want and put your payment in the box (or, for the high-tech option, you can Venmo the money). Learn when the cart is out at terraamicofarms.com.
Sustain Your Activities
After a day of activities, you will need sustenance. Morgan Hill has a diverse food scene — find anything from tapas to truffle fries, tzatziki to poke tacos.
To go: Want to grab something for that picnic at Uvas Canyon? Palmerino’s Italian Deli has panini meals — you’ll need a hike after tucking into their Paisano Porchetta or Mikey Muffuletta! Find Palmerino’s at 35 E. Main Ave.
Sit down with veg: Craft Roots Vegan Bar & Grill is a casual, honest-to-goodness vegan restaurant! In 2021 Craft Roots made Gotham Magazine’s “19 of the Best Vegan Restaurants in America” list. 17230 Monterey Rd.
Fine dining: Odeum Restaurant offers an extensive menu of Greek/Mediterrean dishes and a plethera of signature cocktails that change seasonally. 11500 Depot St., #180
Bubbly & shareable edibles: MOHI Social has all the ingredients for a party: French champagne or local sparkling wines, tapas-style food, and an indoor/outdoor venue, perfect for those hot summer nights. Or, enjoy a lazy Saturday or Sunday brunch with a menu that includes Tres Leches French Toast or a breakfast burger. 17440 Monterey Rd.
Ice Cream: Kids of all ages will shout out for La Playa Ice Cream Shop’s sweet and icy treats. 17415 Monterey Highway, Ste.B
A/R Workshop Morgan Hill: This DIY shop has classes, workshops, youth camps, of a crafty nature for all ages. Find the deets at 16375 Monterey St., Ste N. or arworkshop.com/morganhill/
Got a yen for better travel locally? Learn more about Morgan Hill at visitmorganhill.org