Rancho Canada del Oro Trails

I ran some trails for the first time today in the South Bay that were so great, any avid trail runner would love the place.  I’ve been meaning to try these trails for a full year when my tri training partner and I discovered while on a long ride.  Today I went with another training partner from my running club. 

rancho-canada-del-oroPhotos courtesy of Santa Clara County Open Space Authority

It’s called Rancho Canada del Oro Open Space Preserve, a still relatively new 4000-acre preserve in the eastern Santa Cruz Mountain foothills.  Once part of the Pueblo lands of San Jose, it opened to the public in 2004.  The county web site describes the landscape as “native grasslands, live and valley oak woodlands, sage-chaparral scrub, and creekside habitats.”  Views of Mt. Umunhum,  Mt. Hamilton, the Diablo mountain range, and Calero Reservoir add to the visual cornucopia. Sounds inviting, doesn’t it? 

rancho-canada-del-oro-21We found the most accessible Mayfair Ranch Trail closed due to poor conditions so we started at the Serpentine Loop trail.  True to its name, this section of the trail is single-track and winds uphill for two miles.  At the Canada del Oro cutoff, it’s a mile descent down a fire road and more single track.  Then we picked up the Figueroa Trail for another good one-mile climb.  We reached the Javelina Loop, presumably named after the looped course of the Javelina Jundred.  The Cottle Trail and Chisnantuck Trail on the back side had some of the steepest climbs.  Just seven miles into the run, we realized we had already climbed over 2000 feet.  This course is probably steeper than the Quicksilver trails just a short distance from this location.  The last two miles opened up to breathtaking views of the south valley.  The hills were a lush green as the sun tried to break through the fog and low clouds.  We completed the 9-mile loop in a little under two hours.  The temp remained almost a constant 48 – 50 degrees, just perfect for trail running.

The single and double track and fire roads didn’t look like they get much foot traffic.  Maybe the recent rain had something to do with it.   The trails are open to bicycles and horses but but we didn’t see a single person or horse in two hours.  I wouldn’t want to tackle this kind of vertical on a bike even though it’s not technical.  We returned to a nearly full parking but it sure felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

This area has some fascinating historical significance.  In nearby Almaden, mercury was discovered during the California gold rush.  Mercury (“quicksilver”) is used to recover gold.  If mercury had not been found in these hills, some have speculated we would have continued to get our mercury from Almaden, Spain, and much of the California gold would have ended up in Spain.  I’ve also seen the old “hanging tree” in Almaden where mining communities used to hang the men they caught chasing prostitutes from neighboring mining communities.

I’ve been trail running in the South Bay for several years and can’t believe I’m still uncovering new trails.  I think the many trails in the South Bay are the best kept secret in Bay Area trail running.  The views rival those of the Marin Headlands, Angel Island, or any of the popular Pacific Coast Trail runs.

From Highway 101 or Highway 85. Turn west onto Bailey Avenue. At the intersection with McKean Road turn left. Where McKean Road becomes Uvas Road turn right onto Casa Loma Road. Rancho Cañada del Oro Open Space Preserve is at the end of the public access portion of the road.


5 Responses

  1. Do you mind if I link to this on the “Running in Morgan Hill” section of my blog?

  2. great blog. i hope you don’t mind if i throw a few links your way as well!

    • Hi, Jason! Thanks for the note. I like your “Running of the blogs” approach. I also recently picked up the Nathan HPL 020 hydration pack you’re sporting in your living room. Stay in touch!

  3. Glad you mentioned about your hydration pack. I’ve been looking. I just got Nathan Intensity Women’s Hydration Race Vest. I haven’t tried it yet, but it looks perfect for my next 30K!

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