At the bottom of the Almaden Valley, the hiking trails of Calero County Park crisscross the slopes above the park’s namesake reservoir. If you have recently traveled McKean Road, you may have noticed some construction hubbub a half mile below the reservoir dam. Work at the new Rancho San Vicente entrance, which adds new hiking trails over new terrain, is done and the entrance is open…sort of.
I say “sort of” because on my early April visit, it was clear that there is still work to do: porta-potties stand in for unfinished toilets, no trail maps are available at the trailhead, some 4-by-4 trail posts have no signs attached, and the trail map I downloaded from the web didn’t include trails I encountered on my hike. But I am glad to overlook undone punch list items by an agency that makes such lovely open space available for us to roam.
As you lace up your boots in the Rancho San Vicente parking lot, look up at the broad tower-topped hill on your left. The newly opened trails cut a number of routes up, over, and around this hill, revealing fresh views and delivering a lovely day out.
On an earlier swing-in visit to the parking area, I noticed that there were no trail maps, so I looked online and was surprised to see one there. With that in hand, I crossed two cattle gates and set out on the Lisa Killough Trail that leads over a shoulder to the back side of the hill. About a mile along the way, the trail split; one fork was a continuation of the Lisa Killough Trail, the other was a named trail not on my map.
I was more interested in going up the hill rather than maintaining a low course around it, so I turned left and largely ignored my map for the next two miles. I knew that if I continued a counter clockwise course around the hill, I would eventually drop down to the Cottle Trail by the reservoir.
As I climbed across the backside of the hill, I enjoyed special views over New Almaden toward Loma Prieta and Mount Umunhum. At the top, I looked back toward home. Calero Reservoir, the Almaden Valley, and the Diablo Range spread out beneath me. Terrific.
While there we no stunning wildflower displays, I saw an amazing variety: poppies, cream cups, checkerbloom, bird’s-eye gilia, California gilia, Johnny-jump ups, woodland star, lupine, and mule’s ears to name but a few.
My course around the mountain finally dropped me down to Cottle Trail and the edge of Calero Reservoir. From there, it was a lovely, mostly shaded three-mile traverse back to the parking lot.
If you don’t have the “sense of direction” chip, take note. Download a map and stick to the Lisa Killough/Cottle Trail route, an eight-mile loop that circles the entire newly opened property. Short of that, venture a mile or two to the back of the hill for great views and a real sense of solitude.