A local hidden treasure
Los Gatos Open Space
When you consider a hike, you often begin with a long drive up to Skyline, down to Big Sur, or over to the East Bay, but here is a shorter trip to good hiking, scenic views, and solitude. It’s so close, you can almost coast there. It’s downhill all the way to Los Gatos, then a short drive east on Blossom Hill Road. Turn right on Belgatos, past the Mulberry School, and drive a few city blocks to the end of the road.
There is no sign for Belgatos Park, but you see some playground equipment, a green field, and a few small buildings. Is this all there is? Fortunately, there is more.
To the left of the playground, a small posted sign announces the Ridge Trail. The first tenth of a mile is a relatively steep uphill climb, but the trail becomes more pleasant (flatter) as it continues up the ridge. Across the valley on the right, you see a series of switchbacks winding up a steeper, unshaded hill. (Fortunately, you don’t have to climb this dead-end trail designed for masochists.) On the left are nice views of Santa Clara Valley and the hills of East Bay.
The trail appears to come to an end in just three-tenths of a mile, but a small sign promises trails in both directions. A few steps to the left take you up to Harwood Road, where a few large upscale suburban houses are perched. You go up the street until you reach a gate at the cul de sac. A sign proclaims Santa Rosa Open Space, but the fence appears impenetrable until you see a small opening and a sign that says Shannon Valley Open Space. It is, indeed, open, a wide open space of tall grass that slopes down to the valley of Shannon Road.
The walk down is eased by switchbacks and views of beautiful homes framed by green mountains, marred only by the distant silhouettes of garbage trucks on the ridge above Guadalupe Mines Road. They are miles away, but you can hear the giant trucks roar as they make their way to the top.
Near the bottom of the hill, a trail to the right warns “no outlet,” but it is an interesting half-mile trek around the hillside until you must retrace your steps back up the hill and down Harwood Road to the Ridge Trail entrance.
A few steps off Harwood bring you down to “Fire Road,” a road closed to cars that is now a paved trail up a rather steep grade to a gate on Madera Court. Back in another upscale neighborhood, you walk along Madera to Santa Rosa Drive, then to the intersection of Santa Rosa and Sierra Azul where a small sign and dusty trail invite you down the Santa Rosa Trail through Santa Rosa Open Space. It’s an easy walk down hill, and in three-tenths of a mile, you reach an intersection.
The trail to the left takes you to another network of trails in Heintz Open Space. On a clear day, the Heintz Valley View Trail promises views of the valley, San Francisco, and Oakland.
A right turn delivers you to Belgatos Park in four-tenths of a mile, completing a loop hike of about two miles, not including side trips to Shannon Valley or Heintz Open-Space preserves. It’s a good walk, doable in a matter of hours, with plenty of stops for viewing the scenery.
There are lots of scenic trails in our area, but the open-space areas of Los Gatos are a hidden treasure.
For rough but useful maps of Belgato Park trails, visit www.losgatosca.gov, and click on Santa Rosa Space Trail Map (pdf) and Heintz Open Space Trail Map (pdf). Note: Although several articles and maps refer to “Heinz” rather than “Heintz,” the open space area is named for the previous owners, Ralph and Sophie Heintz.