Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve
The South Bay's most popular hiking destination
Rancho San Antonio is one of the Bay Area's most popular parks. This suburban park gets about 500,000 visitors a year — more than Redwood National Park. Although it's not quite as crowded as, say, Muir Woods, on a nice summer day the main road to Deer Hollow Farm is a continuous stream of people, and even on the challenging 8-mile PG&E Trail you can expect to meet a group of hikers or joggers every 1 or 2 minutes. It's often said that the park is overcrowded, but the crowds (along with the wide, well-maintained trails) also help to make the park feel safer and more family-oriented than other nearby parks.
It's easy to see why the park is so popular: it's just a few minutes' drive from most of Silicon Valley and it's quite scenic, with a mixture of woodland, open grassland, and some very nice panoramic views of the Bay Area.The park is large and well isolated from the nearby suburban neighborhoods, so it offers a real escape from the city without the hassle of a long drive. It's also free. To be sure, there are parks on the other side of Skyline Ridge such as Purisima Creek, Portola Redwoods, or Big Basin that have even better scenery, but they all require about an hour of driving each way and most of them (except Purisima Creek) charge $8 per car.
Even though it's partly wooded, Rancho San Antonio, like most area parks, can get really hot and unpleasant in the summer. I avoid the park whenever the forecast high for the day is above 85 degrees and instead head to the coast.
* The Black Mountain Trail (9.2 miles, 2420 ft)
* The PG&E Trail (8.8 miles, 1600 ft)
© 2010 David Baselt