Los Altos Hills
Hidden Villa is an outdoor education center tucked into a wonderfully rural valley at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The main attraction is the small working farm with its various farm animals and crops, but there are also a few miles of trails that explore the wooded hills around the farm. Scenery-wise most of the trails, with the notable exception of the Creek Trail, aren't anything special, but they are very well built and maintained.
The villa is privately owned but is open to the public for a $5 parking fee. The farm is popular with families and can get quite busy on weekends, when the sound of screaming kids fills the little canyon.
Hidden Villa resembles Rancho San Antonio, which is right next door, in that both have small farms and trail systems. Hidden Villa's farm more enjoyable to visit, since it's bigger, not nearly as crowded, and lets you get closer to the animals. On the other hand, Rancho San Antonio's trails are more enjoyable, with more variety and better views.
Hidden Villa is closed to the public from June through August each year and is also closed Mondays.
Click here to see the trailhead location in Google Maps.
This loop climbs out of the canyon to a ridgetop with some scenic views, then descends back to the farm by way of the remarkably lush Creek Trail.
Start at the main parking lot and walk up the dirt road toward the farm. Look for the singletrack Hostel Trail, which starts next to the hostel and switchbacks up into the woods. The woods are dominated by bay laurel; the groundcover includes ferns.
The trail climbs to a ridge where the forest gives way to chaparral, allowing some low-elevation views over Silicon Valley. If you want to shorten the hike, take the Grapevine Trail back to the canyon; this route is a mile shorter than the full hike but includes all the best scenery of the longer route. For the full hike, continue along the ridgetop on the Hostel Trail, which continues to climb as it enters Rancho San Antonio OSP, briefly joining the Black Mountain Trail.
Turn onto the Ewing Hill Trail, which descends back into the canyon. As the trail descends the chaparral soon changes back to forest. The trail levels out when it reaches the canyon bottom.
The densely-wooded canyon is at first fairly ordinary, but it gets a lot more scenic after the intersection with the Grapevine Trail. At this point the canyon becomes much more lush; the woods are more open, the trees covered with moss. This is by far the best section of trail at Hidden Villa.
The lush woods end when the canyon widens at the intersection with the Bunny Loop Trail. From here it's just a few steps up a dirt road to the farm. Depending on the season the larger animals may or may not be out, but just up the road to the left a gate leads to a pasture where there are always some free-range chickens along with a henhouse and a coop full of softly chirping baby chicks.
© 2012 David Baselt