Urban recreation meets wilderness
Ed R. Levin Park

Neil Wiley

Ed R. Levin Park is a happy hybrid. It has the facilities you would expect in an urban parkópicnic tables, play areas, lake and pond, golf course, and off-leash dog park. On the wild side, however, it offers equestrian facilities, hang gliding, and 19 miles of trails over rolling grassland and oak woodlands that take you through 1,539 acres of open space. You can walk around a little lake, across manicured lawns, or up a rugged four-mile trail to the 2594-foot Monument Peak.

Large picnicking areas serve families and large groups. Children can enjoy the playground, fly kites, and play Frisbee on one of the three large lawn areas. The 18-hole Spring Valley Golf Course is located in the park. Ed R. Levin Park is dog-friendly, allowing dogs in picnic areas, parking lots, on all trails north of Calaveras Road, and of course, in the expansive off-leash dog park.

Powerboats arenít allowed on the quiet Sandy Wool Lake, which makes for more pleasant fishing, paddling, and resting. The lake is stocked with fish from November through May. Children from ages 5 through 12 have their own special fishing spotóSpring Valley Pond.

You may not want to hang glide, but you can watch the gliders and paragliders take off and, if the wind is right, soar right over your head. The park is home of the Wings of Rogallo hang-gliding club.

If you and your children like to ride horses, visit Shawn Mottís Bay Area Equestrian Connection any Sunday in the Spring Valley area of the park. Shawn has a string of horses there you can rent. You can ride around the large corral or sign up for a trail ride. A 30-minute ride is $25; an hour is $40. Believe me, itís a lot less expensive than buying a horse. For more information, call 925-484-0209.

The trails offer a wide range of topography and difficulty. The Spring Valley and Coches Ridge trails have a few steep sections but are relatively easy going for horses and walkers. The trip up to Monument Peak looks far more challenging. In general, the park trails wander through open meadowland, which is pleasant on a winter day but could be less comfortable in summer. The only trail open to cyclists is the Mission-to-Monument Peak Trail section of the Bay Area Ridge Trail.

 

My hike

My day began with a walk around Sandy Wool Lake. I could see the entire lake, many fisherpersons, several flocks of ducks, and nearby mountains, including Monument Peak. It was a nice, easy walk, with many stops for photography. I could also see how you could spend hours here, sort of fishing, sort of relaxing, sort of doing nothing.

I got back in my car and drove as far as possible into the park. I parked between the dog park and the hang-gliding area. Several hang gliders were perched up on the side of the hill. One by one, they glided down to the landing area. At the same time, two para-gliders took off. Their parachutes filled with air, and they lifted up, then back down for a landing. Although the wind was too light for longer flights, these fragile kites and chutes were beautiful. It was fun to watch them defeat gravity, if only for a few minutes.

I then drove out of the park, and turned left on Calaveras Road. I passed one closed parking lot, and then drove into the next lot on the right, the main entrance to the Spring Valley section of Ed R. Levin Park. This area was much wetter, greener, and shadier than the main park. I walked across a giant lawn to the Spring Valley Pond, where a giant egret posed for a few photographs.

I walked up a slight hill past the equestrian staging area to find the trailhead for the Spring Valley Trail. I took it southwest past a big house and down a steep hill, over Vista Ridge Drive to the connector for the Los Coches Ridge Trail. The trail went uphill through forest, and then it made a sweeping loop through large open meadows. The trail offered nice views of San Francisco Bay and nearby mountains to the north and east. On a winter day, the sun felt wonderful.

Completing the loop, I went back across Vista Ridge Drive, but instead of going back up the hill, I turned left at Spring Valley Trail. It was an easy, relatively flat walk down to the Oak Knoll Group Area, where I turned right to take the shady Nature Trail back to the ranger station and my car.  It was a pleasant and interesting four-mile walk.

Directions

Ed R. Levin Park is easier to reach than you might think. Itís only 1.7 miles east of I-680 and Milpitas. Take I-880 or I-680 north to Milpitas. Turn east toward the foothills on Calaveras Road. Turn left on Downing to visit the main Sandy Wool section. If you are visiting the Spring Valley section, continue on Calaveras Road past Downing. Turn right into the Spring Valley parking lot. Parking is $6.00 a day.

For more information, call 408-355-2200, or visit the Santa Clara Parks website: www.parkhere.org.

 

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