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The Trail Companion

Fall 1999

A Short Hike with a Great View

     by Geoffrey Skinner

I biked and drove past the parking area for the Mt. Eden Trail on Mt. Eden Road countless times since first visiting Stevens Creek County Park in the mid-80s-without ever stopping. When friends and I finally did step onto the trail for the first time recently, I discovered I had missed a terrific view of Stevens Canyon and a pleasant hike.

Mt. Eden Trail
Mt. Eden Trail near Mt. Eden trailhead - click for full-sized photo
Photo by Scott Heeschen
     We began our walk about an hour and half before sunset on a partly cloudy day, so we had the added bonus of a sky show at the conclusion of our hike, but other times of day would also be fine.
     From the parking area, the trail (actually a fire road) rises sharply for a short distance before dipping into a bay-filled side canyon. One can see evidence of El Nino damage here and elsewhere along the trail in the form of washed out creek crossings (since repaired) and sections of destroyed culverts half buried under silt. After a short distance, the Mt. Eden Trail descends to the right; take the Canyon Trail (another fire road) as it forks to the left and climb to the nose of the ridge for the first great view up the canyon. On a cool day, the relatively flat area on the ridge would make a nice picnic spot.
     As you look across the north across the canyon, you are looking at the possible future route of the Stevens Creek Trail as it climbs toward Montebello. At present, no trail connects the portion of the Stevens Canyon Trail constructed by Trail Center and REI volunteers (1986-1988) with the Canyon Trail in Montebello, but the Friends of Stevens Creek, Santa Clara County Parks and the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District are working on a way to complete this upper portion of the trail. When it occurs, our trail in Stevens Creek CP will likely be renamed to reduce the confusion of Canyon Trails.
     Past the flat area, the Canyon Trail rises very steeply for a distance, with a large and rugged limestone outcrop off a small spur trail on the right about halfway to the top.
Limestone outcrop on the Canyon Trail - click for full-sized photo
Limestone outcrop on the Canyon Trail
Photo by Scott Heeschen

     Even on cool day, this pitch may be quite challenging, but it is the steepest portion of the entire loop. Take a moment to enjoy the rock before climbing the remainder for the reward of another good view spot on the ridge. From the ridge, one has an even better view of the very steeply sided Stevens Canyon to the west, as well as the rest of Stevens Creek Park and Fremont Older Open Space Preserve to the east. The rugged terrain attests to the geologically dynamic nature of this area. To the west, where Stevens Creek makes a sharp bend northward, lies the San Andreas Rift Zone; a series of parallel northwest trending faults extend east toward the Santa Clara Valley.
     From the ridge, the trail drops toward Stevens Canyon Road. Although the entire route was once a fire road, it is only maintained as such to the ridge; this stretch is not maintained as frequently and poison oak may encroach on the trail. Despite poor maintenance, the descent is not as difficult as the ascent was and the trail passes through a pleasant bay grove when it crosses another creek. The very bottom section is quite narrow-watch out for poison oak and tricky footing just before you emerge onto the road.
     Although no trail exists between the junction (unsigned) and Cooley Picnic area, traffic on Stevens Canyon Road is relatively light in this area and shouldn't be a problem as you walk down canyon toward the picnic area.

View down Stevens Canyon - click for full-sized photo
View down Stevens Canyon
Photo by Scott Heeschen
     You may wish to take a brief side trip and walk up the road roughly 100 yards to view an impressive set of limestone deposits created by a mineral-rich spring just uphill of the road. This phenomenon is common on Montebello Ridge and the surrounding area as water percolates through subsurface limestone before emerging on the surface and depositing its load of dissolved minerals around springs and in streambeds. In some places, limestone deposits quickly enough to create instant fossils of leaves, twigs, and anything else that falls in the water.
     As you walk down the road to the picnic area through a stand of towering alders, look for several bore holes in the walls of the canyon (at road level). The holes have been cemented over, but remain clearly visible.
     At the picnic area on the right, just before the intersection of Mt. Eden Road, go through the parking area and pass to the left of the restrooms. Although the restroom isn't open except when the site is occupied, water is available at all times.
     If you have time to spare, when you meet the trail, you could go left to take the Creek Trail to the junction of the Zinfandel Trail, which climbs up to the winery in Picchetti Ranch Area of Montebello Open Space Preserve (1.9 mi. one way). Otherwise, bear right to climb the Mt. Eden Trail back toward the Canyon Trail junction, and the parking area.

View down Stevens Canyon - click for full-sized photo
Mt. Eden and Canyon Trail area [larger format JPG and PDF versions available]
Excerpted from the Trail Center Trail Map
of the Southern Peninsula
© 1997 the Trail Center

Total distance (excluding side trips): 1.6 miles
Time: 1-1.5 hours
Elevation gain: 300 ft.
Maps: Trail Map of the Southern Peninsula (Trail Center), Stevens Creek County Park (Santa Clara County Parks), or Open Space Preserves of the Southern Skyline Region (MROSD)

Note: The Mt. Eden and Canyon Trails are open to hikers only.

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