Hiking Project Logo

blue Rancho San Vicente Loop

  4.7 ( 3 ) Favorite

Trail

8.4 mile 13.6 kilometer loop
Intermediate

Elevation

Ascent: 672' 205 m
Descent: -672' -205 m
High: 886' 270 m
Low: 422' 129 m

Grade

Avg Grade: 3% (2°)
Max Grade: 11% (6°)

Dogs

Leashed
Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

Trail shared by Joan Pendleton

This is a beautiful day-hike through grass and wooded hills with views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Calero Reservoir.

Joan Pendleton

Features Birding · Lake · River/Creek · Views · Wildflowers

The park is open from 8 a.m. to sunset. There is no fee when parking in the trailhead parking area.

Overview

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.

Description

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.

Flora & Fauna

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.

History & Background

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.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Need to Know

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow hikers know what's here.

Contacts

Land Manager: Santa Clara County Parks

Rate This Featured Hike

Rate Quality


   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Hike

Check In

Check-Ins

Sep 21, 2018
Scott W
Made a wrong turn at the beginning and added extra half mile. 9.1mi
May 27, 2018
Qian Pietila
Mar 28, 2018
Joan Pendleton

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 3 votes

#1674

Overall
  4.7 from 3 votes
5 Star
67%
4 Star
33%
3 Star
0%
2 Star
0%
1 Star
0%
Featured Hike Rankings

#234

in California

#1,674

Overall
158 Views Last Month
2,850 Since Apr 5, 2018
Intermediate Intermediate

0%
50%
50%
0%
0%
0%

0 Comments

Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking