New trail. Better access.
Sierra Vista
Neil Wiley

Far above San Jose’s Alum Rock Park, the Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve offers exhilarating views of Santa Clara County. You feel like you are on top of the world.
Although the preserve opened in 2002, few hikers wanted to climb the dusty, shadeless switchbacks to the top. The climb up Alum Rock’s North Rim and Todd Quick trails to the Boccardo Loop was a steep, heart-pounding challenge.

Now it’s easier to get to the top. Instead of parking in Alum Rock Park, paying $6, and braving a long climb, you can drive up Sierra Road, park in a ridge-top lot, and immediately begin enjoying the scenery.

To make it even more interesting, Santa Clara County’s Open Space Authority has added a brand-new trail. Walking the Aquila Loop is easy, the perfect introduction to mountain hiking for beginners, children, and seniors. It’s only a little over a mile around the loop. There are ups and downs, but the grades are relatively gentle. The stroll through grasslands, dotted with rock outcroppings and a few oaks, is interesting. Two benches provide an excuse to stop and enjoy the views.

If you need more views and more challenge, you can walk the Kestrel Trail down from the parking lot to the Sierra Vista Trail, then along the Upper Calaveras Fault Trail. The views are stunning. On a clear day, you can see the Diablo Range and virtually all of Santa Clara County. This 4.25-mile loop is considered moderate.

Want something more challenging? Take the Kestrel Trail to the Sierra Vista Trail northeast, then south to the Lower Calaveras Fault Trail to Vista Point. You’ll see great views of Alum Rock Canyon and Alum Rock Park. It’s an 8.4-mile round trip with some steep ups and downs. Enjoy up to ten miles of trails in Sierra Vista, and many more with the connections to Alum Rock Park.

Sierra Vista is long on views but short on creature comforts. There is no drinking water nor restrooms available at the trailhead, parking lot, or anywhere on the trails. There isn’t much shade either, so be sure to bring a hat, sunblock, and if you are like me, some snacks.

Although this sounds a bit forbidding, Sierra Vista gives you the exhilaration of high-altitude views, lots of open space, and wonderful solitude. It’s well worth a short, half-hour drive to the East Hills.

You can reach Sierra Vista via Alum Rock Park, but the easy way is to take I-680 to the Berryessa Road east exit, turn left on Piedmont Road, and then right on Sierra Road. Watch for the free public parking area and equestrian corrals on the right.

Space costs money
Open space is well worth your financial investment. Absentee ballots will be out in October carrying Measure Q. A yes vote on this $24 annual parcel tax will help Santa Clara County’s Open Space Authority protect watersheds, preserve natural habitats, and give us more opportunities to enjoy nature. For more information, visit