Fremont Older Open Space Preserve

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This exploration of Fremont Older Open Space Preserve began as a plan to hike one loop, or possibly two, and I decided mid-hike to include an additional out-and-back section to the edge of nearby Stevens Creek County Park.  The total hike distance was 8.4 miles, with 1700 feet of elevation gain and loss.

The park entrance is at the top end of Prospect Rd in Cupertino, and I was immediately reminded of the weekend parking situation at nearby Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, which I’ve visited many times.  I think I was lucky to get the last available parking space, and it seemed that there was a constant stream of local visitors arriving and leaving the parking area, which holds about 25 cars.  On the GPS track the parking area is at the lower right, near the “Prospect” label.

GPS track

GPS track

The Bay Area air quality has been especially poor recently, but it was interesting to discover that the higher points of the park were above the worst of the haze layer, giving kind of an impression of residual fog over the San Francisco Bay and Santa Clara Valley.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

I started up the Cora Older Trail, named for the wife of San Francisco newspaper editor Fremont Older, for whom the preserve is named.  The trail passes through a shaded forest area before emerging into open grassy rolling Santa Cruz Mountain foothills.  To reach the rest of the trails, turn right at the Tee junction.  At the next junction, just 0.1 mile further, I continued straight on the Seven Springs Loop Trail, which descends and then regains 200 feet as it winds around the hillsides.

picture of hills in Fremont Older Open Space Preserve

View of hills in Fremont Older Open Space Preserve

About 1.9 miles from the start I reached the junction with Rainbow Knoll Trail and decided to take the 0.6-mile (round trip) detour out to the Knoll.  The East Bay Hills, including barely-visible Mt Diablo, were floating on a sea of haze.  After returning to the Seven Springs Loop Trail for a short distance, I turned right on the Woodhills Loop Trail in order to access Hunters Point, about 935 feet elevation.  Here is a view to the southwest showing several trails winding across the hills, with higher hills in the background, possibly Castle Rock Ridge and Long Ridge.

image of view from Hunters Point toward the Santa Cruz Mountains

View from Hunters Point toward the Santa Cruz Mountains

After visiting Hunters Point I completed the Woodhills Loop Trail and turned right on Hayfield Trail to traverse the heart of the preserve.  All of the main trails seem to fan out from Hayfield Trail.  There was a nice view of the more distant hills at the very southeast end of the Bay Area, in the general direction of Henry Coe State Park and Mt Madonna County Park.

photo of rows of hills to the southeast

Rows of hills to the southeast

After going about 0.7 miles to the end of Hayfield Trail, I turned right on Coyote Ridge Trail.  Although the first part of this trail was on a ridge, it quickly began a steady descent to the park boundary at Stevens Creek County Park, not far from the Tony Look Trail, where I turned around.  On the way down there is a clear view of the Permanente Quarry across the Permanente Creek canyon.    I also noted a couple of hawks circling above, on the lookout for a meal.  As I returned back up the ridge I noticed some fog, or low clouds, peeking over the higher ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

picture of fog over the ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains

Fog over the ridges of the Santa Cruz Mountains

After passing the Hayfield Trail I continued on Coyote Ridge Trail for about 0.3 mile to a short spur trail to Maisie’s Peak, at 1150 feet elevation the highest point in Fremont Older OSP.  Maise Garrod and her brother purchased the surrounding land in 1910, and it remained in the family until 1980, when it was purchased by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.

Here, at Maisie’s Peak, were the best views of the nearby prominent peaks.  About 15 miles away is distinctive Mt Umunhum, with Loma Prieta just to the right.

image of Mt Umunhum and Loma Prieta from Maisie’s Peak

Mt Umunhum and Loma Prieta from Maisie’s Peak

Mt Hamilton floated above the haze layer across San Jose and the heart of the Santa Clara Valley.

photo of Mt Hamilton with Cupertino and San Jose below the haze layer

Mt Hamilton with Cupertino and San Jose below the haze layer

Mission Peak, Mt Allison, and Monument Peak punctuated the skyline a bit to the north of Mt Hamilton.

picture of Mission Peak and its neighbors in the East Bay Hills

Mission Peak and its neighbors in the East Bay Hills

After enjoying the views from Maisie’s Peak I returned to Coyote Ridge Trail and continued about 0.4 mile to the southern boundary of the preserve, overlooking Garrod Farms and the Cooper-Garrod Estate Vineyards.

image of vineyard in winter

Vineyard in winter

From here my return trip began on the Bay View Trail and continued on Toyon Trail, where I saw numerous examples of the toyon bush.

photo of toyon along its namesake trail

Toyon along its namesake trail

Along the Toyon Trail I encountered a golden-crowned sparrow and spent several minutes observing it feeding in the leaves along the trail and occasionally in the trail.

picture of golden-crowned sparrow in winter plumage

Golden-crowned sparrow in winter plumage

Continuing toward the Hayfield Trail junction, I was startled to find a young snake motionless in the middle of the trail.  Unsure at the time of its identification, I approached cautiously, and even tossed a small pebble toward it, to see if it would move.  Just as other hikers approached behind me, the snake wriggled to the edge of the trail and into the brush.  One of the other hikers said “Oh, a young rattlesnake, so gentle.”  My impression is that young rattlers are actually not gentle, but in any case it was a young Pacific gopher snake.

image of young Pacific gopher snake in the trail

Young Pacific gopher snake in the trail

After reaching the Hayfield Trail I returned to the parking area, going down Creekside Trail, for hikers only, instead of Cora Older Trail.  Although I experienced much of the preserve on this initial visit, I will plan to return in the future.  The views from Hunters Point and Maisie’s Peak should be truly wonderful in clear weather!

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