Hidden Villa is an outdoor education center tucked into an isolated little 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 aren’t anything special, with the notable exception of the Creek Trail.
The villa is privately owned but is open to the public for a $10 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.
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 trail is somewhat narrow. The woods are dominated by bay laurel, while 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. To shorten the hike by a mile, take the Grapevine Trail back to the canyon; this route 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 after the intersection with the Grapevine Trail, the canyon becomes remarkably lush and attractive; the woods are more open, the trees are moss-encrusted, and the hillside is covered with ferns. 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 goats, cows, and sheep may or may not be out, but just up the road to the left a gate leads to a pasture where there are usually some free-range chickens along with a henhouse. Sometimes you can go into the coop full of softly chirping baby chicks. Occasionally you can buy eggs and sausages from a volunteer next to the parking lot.
© 2012, 2017, 2022 David Baselt