More than a walk with a view
The Boccardo Loop in Sierra Vista
It begins with a walk through the old Alum Rock Park, a city park founded in 1872. It ends with the Boccardo Loop Trail, a three-miler opened in 2002 that takes you up 1100 feet and back down in a loop to where you started.
It isn’t easy. To reach the loop, you first must walk out of the Rustic Lands area in the bottom of Alum Rock Park. You walk up the North Rim Trail, then left and up again on the Todd Quick Trail. After a mile or so uphill, you reach the trailhead of the Boccardo Loop.
If at this point you are tired, out of breath, or out of water, retrace your steps back to the canyon floor. If you want more challenge, pass through the gate to Santa Clara County Open Space Authority’s Sierra Vista Preserve. You are ready to begin.
You continue uphill to an intersection. The trail to the right takes you up a series of switchbacks 1.6 miles to the top. The trail to the left takes you to the same place, but with far fewer switchbacks over a much steeper path for 1.1 miles.
In this case, the shortest distance between two points is not the best option. Whether you bike or walk, the extra half-mile up switchbacks is far less strenuous.
Being a prudent lad, I took the long way. About half way along the switchbacks, I found a dead tree that offered a little shade and enough room to enjoy some ham and cheese out of my pack. While eating my lunch while flat on my back, I had a National Geographic moment, watching a pair of small birds build a nest over my head.
My nature study was interrupted by a fellow hiker. He told me that he was rebelling against his doctor’s advice and his wife’s complaints. He was hiking in spite of several heart operations, including a recent triple-bypass. He had a good sense of humor, and we laughed a lot, but in the back of my mind, I was reviewing my long-forgotten CPR.
I wondered if I would ever see him again, but sure enough, he was waiting for me at the summit. The view extended from Gilroy on the south to San Francisco on the north. Although I usually prefer solitude, I was honored to share the view with a man who lived without fear and loved life so much.
I took the shorter but steeper trail back down to the trailhead where I found a table and shade. It looked good to a young biker who stopped for a talk. He had ridden up the same hill as a little side trip on his way to Grant Ranch. Although he looked like the San Francisco Giants’ Kung Fu Panda, he rode hundreds of miles each week. He complained that when his buddies had families, they didn’t want to ride so long or so far. Everything was different about us, but we shared this love of the outdoors. It was enough, especially on a beautiful sunny day in open space.
There is something about a hill that encourages climbing. It’s more than the view, more than walking along a ridge next to hawks and vultures, more than the challenge. For me, it’s the feeling of being in the moment, totally alive. I hope that you have experiences like this.
Directions and details
To reach Sierra Vista Open Space, take Highway 280 to Highway 680, take the McKee exit east, turn left on Toyon Road, right on Penitencia Creek Road, then left into Alum Park on Alum Rock Falls Road. If the entrance kiosk is open, pay $6.00. If not, entrance is free. Park in the Rustic Lands parking area.
The park is closed on Mondays. Hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are permitted on designated trails. I recommend getting maps for both Alum Rock Park and Sierra Vista. You can download Alum Rock Park maps at sjparks.org. Boccardo Loop Trail/Sierra Vista maps are available at openspaceauthority.org.