Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve

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The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority recently had a grand opening ceremony for a new open space: Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve, located in Morgan Hill in southern Santa Clara County. It was a great opportunity to hike a brand new 4-mile loop trail, the Arrowhead Loop Trail, as soon as it was officially open. The grand opening festivities incorporated several displays, including one which had wild birds hosted by the Open Space Authority. The birds included several owls (e.g. pygmy, barn, great horned) and birds of prey. I think my favorite was Owlivia. Her eyes are amazing!

image of Owlivia the owl

Owlivia the owl

At 348 acres, Coyote Valley OSP is compact. It is located on the west side of the Coyote Valley, going up into some foothills that, farther west, lead into the southern Santa Cruz Mountains. In fact, if you could fly parallel to Palm Ave, the access road, Loma Prieta is located just 7 miles from the park entrance.

The trail system consists of the Arrowhead Loop Trail, along with Heart’s Delight Trail. The loop is 4 miles and includes two scenic overlooks, a picnic area, and two other benches placed along the trail at interesting view locations. On the GPS track, the orange dot denotes the parking area at the trailhead.

GPS track

GPS track

I decided to hike around the loop in the counterclockwise direction. The highest point on the loop is about 600 feet higher than the parking area.

Elevation profile

Elevation profile

The first 0.4 mile along Heart’s Delight Trail and into the Arrowhead Loop Trail has just a slight incline. From this part of the trail I had a pretty view into the hills ahead. The day of the opening there were scattered clouds that made interesting patterns in the sky.

picture of preview of the Arrowhead Loop Trail

Preview of the Arrowhead Loop Trail

The trail begins to climb with a comfortable grade and a few minor rolls as it winds into the hills. Bridges cross seasonal streams, dry at this time. About 1.1 mile from the trailhead there is a short spur trail to a picnic area with three picnic tables near some trees. Although the view is partially obstructed at the picnic area, it opens up just past the spur trail. To the northeast there is a wonderful view of Lick Observatory atop Mt Hamilton. I’m not positive but I think the rounded peak toward the right may be Mt Isabel.

photo of Lick Observatory’s white buildings on Mt Hamilton

Lick Observatory’s white buildings are on Mt Hamilton

To the northwest the towers on Coyote Peak, in nearby Santa Teresa County Park, are visible.

image of view across the hills toward Coyote Peak

View across the hills toward Coyote Peak

And there are great views directly across the Coyote Valley. In this picture the skinny grey rectangle just above the tree in the center foreground is the special event parking for the grand opening. The regular parking is just to the right, almost behind the edge of a hill. For reference, the elevation is about 700 feet.

picture of view across Coyote Valley

View across Coyote Valley

Earlier in the spring there are more numerous wildflowers in the area than I found; clearly the 2015 wildflower season in the Bay Area is just about complete. I did find a few California everlasting (Pseudognaphalium californicum) and some sticky monkey flowers (Mimulus auranciacus).

photo of sticky monkey flower

Sticky monkey flower

About 1.8 miles from the trailhead, near 800 feet elevation, there is a bench which is a nice place to pause to enjoy the views. The trail climbs another 50 feet or so before beginning the descent, gently for the first ¼ mile.

At the southern point on the loop the trail turns left. Approaching this junction (where a “not a trail” continues straight) Loma Prieta is briefly visible. Also, there is another nice view of the hills with scattered oak trees.

image of hills with scattered oak trees

Hills with scattered oak trees

Just before the descent becomes steeper I found a few elegant clarkia (Clarkia unguiculata) and some ruby chalice clarkia (Clarkia rubicunda). If you magnify this picture you can see pollen grains and all of the flower’s reproductive parts.

picture of ruby chalice clarkia

Ruby chalice clarkia

As the trail descends there is a junction with a short spur trail that leads to a bench on a scenic overlook. The bench faces essentially directly toward Mission Peak, which rises almost 25 miles away, above everything else in the line of sight. Although it’s not apparent in this picture, the Alum Rock area of east San Jose is also in the line of sight, between the folds of hills.

photo of Mission Peak, 25 miles northwest

Mission Peak, 25 miles northwest

During the remainder of the descent there is another bench and scenic overlook, and the trail winds through the hills to keep the grade pleasant. The trail briefly passes close to an intermittent stream, in the summer surprisingly marked by a few patches of ferns next to the trail.

At the time of the grand opening the hills were in their typical summer golden hues. I expect they are even more stunning in winter-time green hues. There are areas in the preserve with serpentine rock and soil, which host special plant and insect communities. I look forward to visit another time in a different season.

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