Short and sweet
El Sereno’s Overlook Trail
Neil Wiley
Have you been looking for a pleasant trail close to home, with good views but no long, steep climbs? How about one where you can walk, bike, ride your horse, or bring your dog? How about a trailhead where you can safely park your car behind a locked gate? How about a trail that promises your own semi-private preserve?

You can find all this above Los Gatos at the north end of Midpen’s El Sereno open-space preserve. A new six-car parking lot, completed in the summer of 2008, is now open near the Overlook Trail trailhead. Drive uphill from Saratoga-Los Gatos Road over quiet, little roads to the ridge top where you park your car behind a locked gate. In a few steps, you are on Overlook Trail. You walk or ride up a gradual slope through open grassland, and then enter a lightly shaded forest.

Although you are less than two miles from Highway 9, it is blissfully quiet. When I walked the trail, the valley was filled with a cotton-candy fog, but I was warmed by a welcome winter sun. Then again, if you visit on a clear day, you will see more of the Santa Clara Valley below.

Unlike the south side of El Sereno, which has few trees, the oak forest has enough shade to make this a comfortable summer hike. It also is a far easier drive up Overlook than the longer climb up Montevina Road. Also, the southern entrance offers only limited roadside parking.

If you have more time, are willing to drive up three miles of winding roads, and walk more miles, the southern trails deliver some spectacular views, first of Lyndon Canyon, the Black Road area, and the large estates along Montevina Road. A few bends of the trail reveal the southern Santa Cruz Mountain range—St. Joseph’s Hill, El Sombroso, Mount Thayer, Mount Umunhum, and Loma Prieta. As the trail curves around the mountain, your scenic view extends to all of Silicon Valley, southeast to Mount Hamilton, and northeast to East Bay and Mount Diablo.

So whether you are looking for a pleasant walk or a longer hike with spectacular views, I invite you to visit El Sereno.

Enjoying the semi-private Overlook Trail requires some planning. You’ll need a permit and special instructions to park in the trail parking lot. (There is no parking on Overlook Road.) To obtain your permit, call Leslie Wright at Midpeninsula Open Space, 650-691-1200. No permit is required at the Montevina Road entrance.

To reach the Overlook entrance, take Saratoga-Los Gatos Road (Highway 9), turn south on Glen Una Drive and go 0.3 miles. Turn left on Cañon Drive for 1.1 miles where you turn right on Overlook Drive, and then go 0.3 miles to the El Sereno Open Space Preserve gate ES05. Maps are available at