Trails below; trails above
Return to Bear Creek

Neil Wiley

For this month’s hike, I returned to Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve. Last month, I confined my walk to the lower portions of the preserve, walking past the abandoned buildings of Alma College, then following the old Alma College Road east, then north along Highway 17. The lower section is crisscrossed with several easy-walking trails that loop though light forest and large meadows. It is almost impossible to get lost. One of my favorites follows a stream, complete with small dams and waterfalls.

Entering and exiting this area via Alma College Road helps you avoid the restricted stable area. (You could frighten the horses, and they could frighten you.)

But there is much more to explore. Uphill from the college campus is a larger, more remote 900-acre area of quiet trails extending west to Bear Creek Road and south to Summit Road. Other areas, now closed, expand the park across Bear Creek Road.

Climbing up the ridge

From the designated parking area at Gate BC 04, take the main road past the duck pond and around to the right of the Alma College campus. After you’ve passed the buildings, take the trail to the right. Then take the next road to the right. As you climb the hill, the road narrows and is almost blocked by tall weeds. When you reach a small plateau, go up through an abandoned vineyard, now overwhelmed by manzanita and broom. As you climb the rutted trail, look back frequently to enjoy the view. You can see St. Joseph’s Hill, Soda Springs Road, and the mountains beyond. At the top, several large rocks and an old cart provide a good spot for a picnic. A short distance beyond this clearing, you’ll see an old road to the left that will take you to Bear Creek Road where it intersects with Presentation Center. Now, simply turn around and retrace your steps down the hill through the abandoned vineyard. Enjoy the view on the way back down.

A quiet back way to Alma College

You’ll find a less ambitious but equally interesting trail starting to the left of the Gate BC 04 parking area. It is a pleasant, quiet, and shady walk that takes you below the college. As you look up the hill to the right, you’ll glimpse mysterious ghost buildings through the trees. A little further along the path, you can look up to see a giant concrete arch and high brick walls covered with green moss. The unusual construction and patina of age produce a structure reminiscent of fantasy, middle earth, and trolls.

The trail continues on to rejoin the main road through the campus. Turn right on the main road to go back to the parking area. Turn left to continue on to other trails.

And so much more

Although many areas of the park are still closed, there are many more miles of trails open for exploration. I hope to walk them all. Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space has the potential to become our favorite mountain park with improvements in trails, signage, and buildings. But Bear Creek’s biggest gift is already here—a place where we can enjoy natural beauty and solitude.

If you are interested in being involved in Bear Creek’s master plan development, visit, email, or call 650-691-1200. To obtain a permit for hiking or trailering horses, call Kathleen Hart, 650-691-1200. For information about horse boarding, call Glenda Smith, 408-354-1787. To talk about forming a Bear Creek support group, call me at MNN, 408-353-1901.


(c) 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 mountain network news All rights reserved.