A hidden jewel
Hidden Villa

Neil Wiley

It is privately owned but serves more people than many public parks. It is an organic farm, a rustic hostel, a romantic retreat, the oldest multicultural summer camp in Santa Clara County, a wedding facility, and best of all, at least for me, a great place to hike. Deep in the Los Altos Hills, this non-profit farm and wilderness preserve serves 50,000 visitors a year through environmental education, a multicultural camp that served 1100 campers last summer,  a hostel, community-supported agriculture, day-use hiking, and farm tours.

For most of us, Hidden Villa is simply a nice place to visit for a few hours. It’s a good site for a family outing. You can hike, tour the gardens, visit the historic buildings, see the farm animals, do some bird watching, enjoy a picnic, or all of the above. There is lots of space—1600 acres of it and it’s all natural and real.

Hidden Villa is nestled in a large valley. Hikes take you up to surrounding hills on the east and west, along riparian corridors, over sunny open meadows, and through dark, shady forests. You can walk with your children along the gentle grades of the Creek Trail, climb up the switchbacks of the more challenging Hostel or Toyon trails to the top of 1200-foot Elephant Mountain, or climb up 2280 feet on the Black Mountain trek to the biggest peak in the northern Santa Cruz Mountains.


My hike

I began my hike at the first parking area located just past the entry kiosk in front of a small building used for meetings called the Dana Center. I followed a path to the left of the building, and then followed the west branch of the trail around a large meadow. I photographed some chickens that were enjoying the sun, then looked behind a colorful wall/blind to find flocks of wild birds at several feeders. I continued on past a rather unusual facility for a farm, a nice-sized swimming pool used for summer camps. I saw the large Mediterranean-style building named Duveneck House for the original owners, the Education Center, several barns, some farm animals, and a large organic garden open to the public.

Just past the oldest operating hostel in the United States, I found the trailhead for the Hostel Trail that would take me on the 2.3-mile Elephant Mountain Loop.

I was climbing the switchbacks of the single-track Hostel Trail up to Elephant Mountain when I encountered my first wildlife—a four-year-old male human in the midst of a tearful tantrum. His mother was attempting to explain why he couldn’t take toyon berries, flowers, and other plant material home. I slid past mother and child without comment, but even after reaching the summit, I could still hear his cries.

I turned left at the intersection with Toyon Trail, then right at the 1200-foot summit. Through the fog and haze (faze?) I could see most of Santa Clara Valley. I was turning right on Grapevine Trail when I met a solitary hiker. I could tell he was a serious trekker. He used two walking sticks, wore a desert hat with a long bill covering his neck, and had the squint of someone who has spent a lifetime outdoors. At first we shared our experiences of local hikes, but soon he was talking of treks in Nepal, Tanzania, and Chile. In fact, in 2009, he is leading treks to Mt. Kalish near Lhasa (Nepal/Tibet) and 21,300-foot Mera Peak in Nepal (the tallest walkup peak). In 2010, he is planning a climb up 19,340-foot Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. While these are not technical climbs requiring ropes and axes, they pose a challenge for any hiker. One little detail: Warren Storkman is 81 years old.

It was an honor to follow Warren down Grapevine to Creek Trail. He turned left, I turned right back to the main building of Hidden Villa. Perhaps we will meet again in Nepal, Tanzania, or a local open-space park. No matter, he left me with the hope that even at an advanced age, I can hike for many years.



Take Highway 17 to Highway 85 north. Exit on Highway 280 north. Exit on El Monte’/Moody Road. Go west to El Monte Road and Foothill College. Drive past the college entrance. At the first stop sign, go left on Moody Road. Continue for 1.7 miles. Watch for the Hidden Villa sign on the left.



The farm is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to dusk. The parking fee is five dollars. For more information, visit www.hiddenvilla.org, or call 650-949-8650. For more about Warren’s private treks, email dstorkman@aol.com, or call 650-493-8959.


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