Mildly Beautiful
Monte Bello

Neil Wiley

This Midpen open space preserve is not “knock your socks off spectacular.” It is simply, quietly beautiful. And you don’t have to be a mountain goat to enjoy the scenery. A short, easy walk from the Page Mill Road parking lot of less than five hundred feet takes you down a gentle slope to an excellent vista point. From here you can look down over Stevens Creek Canyon, and beyond to our Mt. Umunhum and Loma Prieta. A nice bench provides a restful stopover before heading back to the parking lot, or down the canyon.

I continued on a three-mile loop down Canyon Trail, across the Skid Road Trail, and back up to my starting point via the Stevens Creek Nature Trail. Although for the first mile, the trail passes through large open grasslands and old orchards, it is soon shaded by a growing number of oaks and bays. A sag pond on the left is overgrown with cattails, some flattened as if nests for giant animals.

As I neared the intersection with Bella Vista Trail, I saw a bicyclist coming up the trail. He appeared quite excited. When I asked him if he was enjoying the great weather, he answered in a heavy French accent. Mon Dieu, he said. “I have been attacked by your giant turkeys. A big speckled one flopped his wings and jumped at my bicycle.”

“Were you hurt?” I asked.

“No, one of the giant birds tried to get behind me, but I kept my bicycle between us. Then, by luck, I scraped the bicycle’s tire in the dirt, and the noise frightened all of them down the trail.”

He told me that this was not his first encounter with American wildlife. A few weeks earlier, he was riding through Fremont Older Open Space when a startled deer jumped over him.

I explained that this was not anti-French sentiment, but rather the vestiges of our wild west. I told him of our local muralist John Pugh, who was recently riding his bike when his collar bone was broken by a leaping deer.

Although my friendly Frenchman appeared somewhat reassured as he bicycled up the trail, he looked back occasionally, perhaps watching for rambunctious turkeys and deer. I looked forward to seeing this wildlife along Canyon Trail, but neither deer nor turkeys appeared, perhaps frightened by my camera and the possibility of unfavorable publicity.

At the bottom of the canyon, I encountered only Stevens Creek and its tributaries. The trail passed over several small bridges and one ford impassable during heavy rains. It was a beautiful example of riparian forest. Cool, wet, and green. A right on Skid Road Trail took me to the foot of Stevens Creek Nature Trail. Although it was a thousand-foot climb, the easy grades, shade, and soft footing of the single track trail provided pleasant hiking. Interpretive signs along the way provided interesting information while giving me an excuse for frequent stops.
I was soon back at the Vista Point. Total hiking time: a little over two hours.

Other hikes.
Although my Canyon/Stevens Creek Nature Trail hike is a satisfying morning jaunt, you can extend your trip. For example, you can take Canyon Trail to Bella Vista Trail, then turn right on Old Ranch Trail. You can turn left on Indian Creek Road to visit Black Mountain and Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, or right on Indian Creek Trail, then up Canyon Trail, with the option of completing your loop by connecting with Skid Road Trail and on to Stevens Creek Nature Trail, or by continuing on Canyon. Either way will take you back to Vista Point and the Page Mill Road parking lot. If you want still more hiking, you can cross over Page Mill Road to Los Trancos Open Space, a popular park with lots of short single-track loops.


Getting to Monte Bello is easy. Drive northwest on Skyline (Highway 35), then turn right on Page Mill Road. Watch for the Monte Bello sign on the right at about 1.4 miles.

Although Canyon Trail and Bella Vista Trail are popular with bicyclists, Stevens Creek Nature Trail is closed to bicycles or horses.

Monte Bello maps and descriptions are available from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. Call 650-691-1200, email, or visit their website: For more comprehensive information about Midpen preserves and trails, get David Weintraub’s new book, Peninsula Tales & Trails. It’s available at local bookstores and


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