Rancho San Vicente Loop showcases some of the best of the South Bay countryside, as it is preserved in Calero County Park. This loop hike winds through grass and wooded hills, as it goes deep into the backcountry of the park. Here it finds Cherry Canyon Creek and follows it downstream to Calero Reservoir.
Continuing along the shoreline of Calero Reservoir, the trail arrives at Calero Dam. Then after a mile or so on a thinly wooded sunlit hillside, one returns to the trailhead and parking area.
The golden grass hills of summer and autumn turn a brilliant bright green in winter and spring, exploding in vibrant wildflowers by March and April. Geese, ducks, wild turkeys, hawks, and a variety of other birds, along with deer are attracted to the creeks, reservoir, and quiet countryside.
Rancho San Vicente Loop starts and ends at the parking area of Calero County Park's Rancho San Vicente entrance on McKean Road in the northwest corner of the park. This loop begins on Lisa Killough Trail
that has its trailhead at this parking area.
From the trailhead, Rancho San Vicente Loop heads into the grass hills, climbing gently. To the right in the distant wooded hills, are a few widely scattered homes. To the left, rise the grass hills of Calero County Park. A few trail junctions are passed—North Ridge Trail
at the 0.2 and 0.4-mile marks, and then the start of Cottle Trail
at the 0.6-mile mark. About 1.1 miles from the trailhead, Vista del Oro Trail
is finally passed on the left.
Shortly after passing Vista del Oro Trail
, Rancho San Vicente Loop veers left (southeast) to head into the interior of the park, leaving all signs of civilization behind. A high, grassy ridge rises to the left of the trail. To the right of the trail is a wooded creek valley. Across the creek valley, one can see the wooded hills of the park and the Santa Cruz Mountains in the distance. The trail now goes through sunlit wooded sections as it levels off briefly before resuming its gradual climb.
At the 2.9-mile mark, there is a short 0.1-mile spur to Lisa's Lookout, above the trail's highpoint. This lookout has picnic tables and a great view of the hills and Santa Cruz Mountains. Lisa Killough, the Lisa Killough Trail
and lookout's namesake, had a dedicated 25-year career with Santa Clara County Parks, enthusiastically promoting Santa Clara County Parks' growth and preservation.
Just after passing Lisa's Lookout, Rancho San Vicente Loop reaches its high point and begins to gradually descend. Continuing to wind through grass hills and thin woods, the trail passes the end of Vista del Oro Trail
on the left at the 3.5-mile mark. From here, the trail heads east to one giant switchback where it does a U-turn to head west down into the Cherry Canyon Creek Valley and Cottle Trail
Rancho San Vicente Loop reaches Cottle Trail
after 5.0 miles at Cottle Trail
's 2.9-mile mark, deep in the interior of Calero County Park. Turn left here onto Cottle Trail
, to continue hiking the Ranch San Vicente Loop.
After passing the Cottle Trail
junction, Rancho San Vicente Loop runs along Cherry Canyon Creek in its broad grassy creek valley. Calero Reservoir comes into view and after about 0.3 miles along the creek, the reservoir is reached. Cherry Canyon Creek empties into the reservoir here at the reservoir's marshy end of Cherry Cove. From here, the trail goes through wooded and grass sections as it follows the reservoir's western shoreline for the next 1.3 miles. To the right of the trail, the reservoir can be seen below, nestled among the grass and wooded hills of Calero County Park. The trail reaches the end of the reservoir on a hillside above the reservoir dam.
Leaving the reservoir behind, Rancho San Vicente Loop meanders through the grass of a thinly wooded hillside for its next 1.3 miles. The trail is fairly flat here and shaded by oak trees. A trail junction with Lisa Killough Trail
is then reached. Turn right here, onto Lisa Killough Trail
, for the final 0.6 miles of the Rancho San Vicente Loop, through grass hills. Rancho San Vicente Loop ends at the parking area where it started.
Oaks, buckeye trees, and manzanita woods can be found here. Ferns and other dense vegetation grows along the creek. Grass hills are abundant, often with deer, ducks, geese, hawks, wild turkeys, and other birds in the area.
The northwest area of Calero County Park, that this hike circles through, was part of the 4,438-acre Rancho San Vicente, a Mexican land grant ranch established in the mid 1800's. Almost 1,000 acres of the original Rancho San Vicente were preserved as Rancho San Vicente Open Space Preserve that became part of the Santa Clara County Park system in 2009. Santa Clara County Parks has built trails, a parking area, picnic tables, and restrooms in this area, completing them in early 2018, and subsequently opening this gorgeous land to the public.