Great views of the
Santa Cruz Mountains
Some of the best experiences in life (and hiking) come from the
unexpected. I didnít have high hopes for El Sereno Open Space Preserve.
After all, itís too easy to get toójust a short three-mile drive up
Montevina Road. I had never heard much about it. And, when I looked at the
map, all I saw was one entrance, very limited parking and one long trail,
with no loops. (Like most hikers, I donít like backtracking over the same
Now it can be told. I was wrong again. El Sereno is another secret place
in the Santa Cruz Mountains, an interesting open space preserve with the
best panoramic views that Iíve seen in our areaómore interesting, more
varied, more exhilarating scenery than Sierra Azul, Mt. Umunhum or Castle
Even before you hike, the drive up Montevina is interesting. As you go up
the mountain, the road is wider, the homes larger, the gates higher and
the views more spacious.
By the time I got to the end of the road, I was anxious to get out of the
car and see more. Unfortunately, what Midpen Open Space calls roadside
parking is only slightly wider than the road itself. I didnít actually
park; I simply abandoned my old Corvette near the gate.
But not to worry. As I walked along the ridgeline at about 2600 feet, I
first viewed Lyndon Canyon and the Black Road area, then looked down to
see the large estates along Montevina Road. Walking a little farther, my
view opened to the east, revealing the southern Santa Cruz Mountain
rangeóSt. Josephís Hill, El Sombroso, Mount Thayer, Mount Umunhum and Loma
Prietaólooming large over wave after wave of smaller mountains in various
shades of misty blue-gray. Itís a big, wide, beautiful view that alone is
worth the walk.
But thereís more. As the trail curves around the mountain, your view
changes again. Now you can see all of Silicon Valley, southeast to Mount
Hamilton, and northeast to East Bay and Mount Diablo. I like the view even
more than from Skyline.
In spite of the great vistas, El Sereno doesnít seem as steep as most
mountains. Although the four-mile trail to the east drops from 2400 to
1200 feet, the trail follows many turns and switchbacks down a relatively
mild slope, with many flat terraces. It is almost garden-like, except the
plants are chaparral and toyon.
They arenít kidding when they call El Sereno open space. I saw only one
person all day. Most of the preserve has a feeling of high desert
emptiness but with more exciting views. And when all this openness is too
much, a few groves of trees provide welcome shade.
As the trail turned north, the toy town of Los Gatos got bigger and
bigger. By the time I reached gate ES02, it seemed easier to walk down
Sheldon to Overlook and finally down West Main Street to the park. Then I
reached into my pack for this hikerís favorite tool, my cell phone, and
called my wife for a shuttle back to my car on Montevina.
There are other El Sereno trails Iíd like to try. You can hike through the
1083-acre preserve to Bohlman Road or Linda Vista Avenue. Unfortunately,
there is no parking at any gate, except for the laughably small roadside
space on Montevina.
But if you like your scenery big, you can hike, bike or ride your horse
through El Sereno. But donít tell anybody. This is another secret place in
the Santa Cruz Mountains.