Natural diversity. Lovely lake and mountain
landscapes. Interesting wildlife.
Calero County Park
Our local Summit Riders group recently enjoyed
the Almaden NATRC ride at Calero County Park. I can see why they
liked this equestrian paradise. Excellent facilities. Lots of
trailer loading room. And over 22 miles of hillside trails through
3,476 acres of large open meadows with light forest of oaks. But
horses and riders shouldn’t have all the fun. Calero has much to
offer to hikers, bird watchers, photographers, boaters, and casual
Hikers will find the relatively easy, short
uphills worth the climb. They may appreciate the natural diversity
and the excellent views of the Santa Cruz Mountains, including Loma
Prieta and Mount Umunhum, the Calero Reservoir, Mount Hamilton, and
southern Santa Clara County. They will also get closer views of
small mountain streams, little ponds, and lots of wildlife.
According to a Calero brochure, over 184 bird species have been
identified in the park. I saw many migratory birds (egrets, geese,
and many varieties of ducks), giant hawks, not-so-wild turkeys,
deer, ground squirrels, and what may have been a coyote (or a tired
dog). And of course, you’ll see lots of horses, both on and
alongside the trails, especially at the lower elevations. It pays to
watch your step.
Although hikes above the reservoir are
interesting, seasoned hikers looking for more solitude can walk
deeper into the park and the adjoining Rancho Canada de Oro open
space area. I especially like the Bald Peaks, Longwall Canyon, and
Serpentine Loop trails. (For more information, visit our website
click on "Hikes and other explorations," then click on "Rancho
Canada del Oro.")
Boaters, using power, sail, paddles, or oars, can
enjoy the reservoir year-round. Launching reservations are not
required on weekdays. For other times, call 408-355-2201. Current
boat registration is necessary for all power boats and sail boats
over eight feet long.
You can catch and release fish from the large
naturalized populations of bass, sunfish, and crappies, but they are
unsafe to eat because of mercury contamination from the nearby
quicksilver (mercury) mines.
I like this route because it offers a range of
environments within a relatively short distance—under six miles. It
begins with a short walk from the parking area to the Los Cerritos
Trail and Pond. Walking slowly around the pond helped me adjust to
the quiet and slower pace of hiking. A covered observation deck made
it easy to relax and check my gear. I had just mounted a telephoto
lens on my camera when, right on cue, a giant egret flew down to the
pond. It posed for many pictures, and then hid in the tall pond
I continued on Los Cerritos Trail past an
intersection with Pena Trail and the stable area. I saw many horses
and a large flock of turkeys. The horses showed little interest, but
the turkeys attempted to escape by moving toward me, thus again
proving that turkeys aren’t too smart. The trail continued down near
the shoreline, providing closer views of the migrating sea birds,
paddlers, and fishermen. I also found a large brush-covered
serpentine rock that was home to many ground squirrels and crows.
The trail went uphill through a light forest of
oaks, and looped back southeast at a higher elevation. I then turned
right on Pena Trail. I could see west to Almaden Quicksilver County
Park, Loma Prieta, and Mount Umunhum. It was quieter here. A large
hawk flew overhead, and a family of deer crossed in front of me.
A steep downhill took me to an old wooden corral
and the intersection with Figueroa Trail. I followed Figueroa along
the bottom of a shady canyon next to a sometime stream, and then
turned left on narrow Vallecito Trail back to Pena Trail, completing
the loop. From there, it was a short retracing of steps back by the
pond and to my car.
It was a fine way to spend a day.
Directions and more information
Drive south on Highway 85 or Blossom Hill to
Almaden Expressway, turn right at the end of Almaden Expressway on
Harry, turn left at McKean Road, go past the first Calero Reservoir
entrance (boat ramp) to the second entrance. (It’s past the stables,
and you’ll think you missed it.)
For general information, call 408-355-2200. For
boating reservations, call 408-355-2201. To learn more about guided
trail rides, riding lessons, and horse boarding, call 408-268-2567
or visit www.caleroranch.com. Maps are usually available at the
trail head, but to be safe, get a map at www.sccgov.org/portal/site/parks/,
click on "Find a park," and then Calero.