It’s the View!
El Sereno
Montevina Road Entrance

Neil Wiley

Although I hiked El Sereno’s pleasant Overlook Trail a few months ago, I was eager to return to El Sereno’s other side. Driving three miles up to the top of Montevina is an interesting trip in itself, but at the end of the road and through the gate is a special place that looks down on the world.

To the south, you look out over Lyndon Canyon, complete with rolling hills, deep valleys, and some of the biggest houses in Northern California. The trail is wide but the view is so wide and open that you feel like you’ll fall off the edge.

In one-fifth of a mile, you come to an intersection of Montevina Ridge and Aquinas trails. Turn right and in less than a mile, you are looking out over the Lexington Basin. The reservoir looks small, but with a telephoto lens or binoculars, you can see boats on the water, and fishermen along the shore. It looks fun down there, but I like it up here. It’s open, quiet, and empty of people. Solitude is good.

As you round a bend, you’ll see an open area next to the trail. It’s the location of a California Highway survey marker. Why is it up on this mountain? I have no idea.
Another bend in the trail opens to a great vista of Santa Clara County, east to Mount Hamilton, northeast to Mount Diablo, and north to San Francisco. It’s awesome during the day, but as dark falls, it becomes magic. The shimmering lights are golden. And if you choose an evening when the full moon rises at sunset, it is a special moment.

Alas, you can’t stay long. The open space preserve closes one half-hour after sunset. And even with a moon, the trail becomes dark and spooky. Bring a flashlight, maybe two. I carry a mini-Maglite® to scare critters, a headlamp to follow the trail, and a tiny LED light for checking camera readings.

You can take longer day hikes down a series of switchbacks 3.7 miles to the end of Serenity Trail, or turn left on Loma Vista Trail to gate ES01 on the northern boundary, or the second left on Aquinas Trail to gate ES02 a bit farther east.
There is no parking at these gates. You can walk back up to your starting point on Montevina, or if you are lazy like me, you walk down to Los Gatos, and then call your wife to pick you up from your favorite restaurant.

On these longer day hikes, be sure to pack some water. Chamise, chaparral, and manzanitas give very little shade. Open views come at a price—lots of sun, sweaty uphills, and sometimes, big winds. If you like views, it’s worth the walk. (You can also ride your bike or horse, but no dogs are allowed.)

For a map, visit