hikers in Bear Creek Redwoods

Preserve Info

Hiking
Equestrian
Wheelchair accessible
Restrooms
Good for Kids

Overview

Located three miles south of Los Gatos, this 1,432-acre preserve features an easy-access interpretive trail around Upper Lake and six miles of hiking and equestrian trails. The trails pass through shaded redwood and fir forests, along cool perennial creeks and offer spectacular views of the Sierra Azul Range.

Please note:

  • On-site parking has been filling up quickly on weekends at this newly opened preserve. Consider carpooling or visiting on a weekday. There is no off-site parking nearby or along the two-lane, winding Bear Creek Road.
  • Be aware that a bat carrying rabies was found at this preserve. Do not touch bats. If you come in contact with one, seek immediate medical attention. For more information, please visit our Wildlife Safety page.

Its expansive views and cool, shaded forests made Bear Creek Redwoods a desirable South Bay property that was once slated to become a golf course and luxury estates. Formed by earthquakes and forest streams, and inhabited by Native Americans, loggers, wealthy estate owners, and even a religious institution, the property has been shaped by many forces and many hands throughout its history. Its beautiful and biologically rich ecosystem is home to hundreds of acres of redwoods, providing the perfect habitat for many protected species.

Thanks to your support of Measure AA, Midpen has completed the first of several phased public access projects in a 20-year plan to restore Bear Creek Redwoods’ natural environment, providing a unique opportunity for you to connect with nature and discover local history. The Alma College site and an additional 15 miles of trail, including the new multi-use regional trail connection, will be phased in over the next fifteen years. For more information visit the Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve Plan page.

Work in Progress

When Midpen acquired this land, it was far from pristine. Over 100 years of development and logging altered the original redwood and foothill habitats. Some of the physical changes are important to keep to tell the land’s story. Others, like the introduction of invasive species, are problems that Midpen has already started to resolve. And some — like fire-resistant, old-growth redwoods being replaced by more combustible brush and grasses — will take generations of active resource management to undo. Midpen is working to bring back the native landscape and biodiversity that once thrived on this land.

Gallery

Features

  • The easy-access Upper Lake Loop Trail features habitat restoration sites and historical artifacts such as Ohlone mortars. Information for a self-guided interpretive tour is included in the brochure map available at the preserve entrance. The trail is an accessible pathway and can easily accommodate mobility devices, strollers, and users of all ages and abilities. Download intepretive tour map
     
  • One of Santa Clara County’s best preserved, second-growth redwood forests, as well as extensive areas of Douglas fir forest and oak woodland. Several old-growth redwoods remain and are accessible from the trails.
     
  • Remnants of a rich cultural history: a close-knit equestrian community at century-old Bear Creek Stables, millponds, magnificent estates and Alma College, the first Jesuit school of theology on the West Coast. The Alma College area is currently closed but will be opened in the future once safety improvements have been completed.
     
  • Proximity to the San Andreas fault results in unique geology and landscape.
     
  • Home to mountain lions, black-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, song sparrows, mallard ducks, bullfrogs, western pond turtles, Townsend’s big-eared bats, California myotis bats, Mexican free-tailed bats, Steller’s jays, Santa Cruz black salamanders, California giant salamanders, red-shouldered hawks, belted kingfishers, many migratory bird species and even sightings of bald eagles overhead!

Directions

PLEASE NOTE: On-site parking has been filling up quickly on weekends at this newly opened preserve. Consider carpooling or visiting on a weekday. There is no off-site parking nearby or along the two-lane, winding Bear Creek Road. (updated 6/17/19)

Take Hwy. 17 to Bear Creek Road, opposite Lexington Reservoir.

  • Going south (toward the ocean): go under the overpass, the road curves right onto Bear Creek Road. Turn left at the stop sign.
  • Going north (toward Los Gatos): take the overpass.

From the stop sign, drive 1 mile. The parking lot is on the left.

Get directions to main lot:

 

Equestrian Parking Information
Permits are available for limited equestrian parking at Bear Creek Stables. Apply for an equestrian parking permit.

Trails

Upper Lake Loop Trail

Beginning at the parking lot, the easy-access Upper Lake Loop Trail features habitat restoration sites and historical artifacts such as Ohlone mortars. Information for a self-guided interpretive tour is included in the brochure map available at the preserve entrance. The trail is an accessible pathway and can easily accommodate mobility devices, strollers, and users of all ages and abilities. Download interpretive tour map

Alma Trail

The Alma (the Spanish word for soul) Trail is a 2.5-mile trail located west of Bear Creek Road and is accessible using the new pedestrian crossing. This trail traverses into densely wooded fir and redwood forests, through bay and oak woodlands, eventually linking to the Madrone Knoll Trail. Be prepared: These trails climb from the parking area located at 1,000 feet in elevation to Madrone Knoll, the highest point, at 2,400 feet.

Guided hikes at Bear Creek Redwoods will begin this summer. Visit the Docent-led Activities page for details.

Trail Conditions

No trail conditions to report.

History

At one time, the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains were covered with old-growth redwood forests with trees several hundred years old. Between 1850 and 1900, the rapid growth of San Francisco and San Jose fueled a high demand for lumber, and most of the old-growth trees in the region were felled. When the timber industry was replaced by a private estate, a number of orchards and vineyards were established throughout the property.  However, Timber harvest continued on some areas well into the mid 1900s.  In 1934, the majority of what is now Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve was sold to the Jesuits, who established a theological college, the first of its kind on the west coast.

The college closed in 1969, and the property was slated to be developed into a golf course and luxury estates. Instead of expansive homes and putting greens, local conservationists saw room to breathe, for plants, wildlife and people. With support from the Committee for Green Foothills, advocates sent letters, made phone calls and spoke at public meetings, voicing their concerns about environmental damage from the proposed development. Meanwhile, Midpen and POST worked together to buy the property so it could be protected in perpetuity. In 1999, thanks to state grants and generous private donations, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve was created at last.

Learn more about Bear Creek Redwood’s fascinating history through our interactive online experience, including blast-from-the-past photos.

Regulations

  • Hours: Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
  • Bicyclists: Bikes are NOT allowed in this Preserve. For information on preserves open to bikes visit the Bicycle Access page.
  • Equestrians: Horses are allowed on designated trails in this Preserve. Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For more information visit the Equestrian Access page.
  • Groups: For safety reasons, permits are required for all groups of 20 or more people.
  • Permits: A use permit is required for any activity or event which: may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR is advertised or noticed in any publication, poster, electronic posting or flyer; OR requests/requires a fee be paid for participation. Visit the Permit page for more information.
     
  • Fires: Fires are prohibited on preserves.
     
  • Smoking: Smoking is prohibited on preserves.
     
  • Weapons: Weapons of any kind are prohibited on preserves. 
     
  • Plants and Animals: Please leave plants and animals undisturbed. This not only preserves the natural environment, but is also a safety precaution. 
     
  • Water Areas: Swimming wading, or engaging in any water-contact activity in any water areas of the District is prohibited.

Download District Regulations and Ordinances

Overview

Located three miles south of Los Gatos, this 1,432-acre preserve features an easy-access interpretive trail around Upper Lake and six miles of hiking and equestrian trails. The trails pass through shaded redwood and fir forests, along cool perennial creeks and offer spectacular views of the Sierra Azul Range.

Please note:

  • On-site parking has been filling up quickly on weekends at this newly opened preserve. Consider carpooling or visiting on a weekday. There is no off-site parking nearby or along the two-lane, winding Bear Creek Road.
  • Be aware that a bat carrying rabies was found at this preserve. Do not touch bats. If you come in contact with one, seek immediate medical attention. For more information, please visit our Wildlife Safety page.

Its expansive views and cool, shaded forests made Bear Creek Redwoods a desirable South Bay property that was once slated to become a golf course and luxury estates. Formed by earthquakes and forest streams, and inhabited by Native Americans, loggers, wealthy estate owners, and even a religious institution, the property has been shaped by many forces and many hands throughout its history. Its beautiful and biologically rich ecosystem is home to hundreds of acres of redwoods, providing the perfect habitat for many protected species.

Thanks to your support of Measure AA, Midpen has completed the first of several phased public access projects in a 20-year plan to restore Bear Creek Redwoods’ natural environment, providing a unique opportunity for you to connect with nature and discover local history. The Alma College site and an additional 15 miles of trail, including the new multi-use regional trail connection, will be phased in over the next fifteen years. For more information visit the Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve Plan page.

Work in Progress

When Midpen acquired this land, it was far from pristine. Over 100 years of development and logging altered the original redwood and foothill habitats. Some of the physical changes are important to keep to tell the land’s story. Others, like the introduction of invasive species, are problems that Midpen has already started to resolve. And some — like fire-resistant, old-growth redwoods being replaced by more combustible brush and grasses — will take generations of active resource management to undo. Midpen is working to bring back the native landscape and biodiversity that once thrived on this land.

Features

  • The easy-access Upper Lake Loop Trail features habitat restoration sites and historical artifacts such as Ohlone mortars. Information for a self-guided interpretive tour is included in the brochure map available at the preserve entrance. The trail is an accessible pathway and can easily accommodate mobility devices, strollers, and users of all ages and abilities. Download intepretive tour map
     
  • One of Santa Clara County’s best preserved, second-growth redwood forests, as well as extensive areas of Douglas fir forest and oak woodland. Several old-growth redwoods remain and are accessible from the trails.
     
  • Remnants of a rich cultural history: a close-knit equestrian community at century-old Bear Creek Stables, millponds, magnificent estates and Alma College, the first Jesuit school of theology on the West Coast. The Alma College area is currently closed but will be opened in the future once safety improvements have been completed.
     
  • Proximity to the San Andreas fault results in unique geology and landscape.
     
  • Home to mountain lions, black-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, song sparrows, mallard ducks, bullfrogs, western pond turtles, Townsend’s big-eared bats, California myotis bats, Mexican free-tailed bats, Steller’s jays, Santa Cruz black salamanders, California giant salamanders, red-shouldered hawks, belted kingfishers, many migratory bird species and even sightings of bald eagles overhead!

PLEASE NOTE: On-site parking has been filling up quickly on weekends at this newly opened preserve. Consider carpooling or visiting on a weekday. There is no off-site parking nearby or along the two-lane, winding Bear Creek Road. (updated 6/17/19)

Take Hwy. 17 to Bear Creek Road, opposite Lexington Reservoir.

  • Going south (toward the ocean): go under the overpass, the road curves right onto Bear Creek Road. Turn left at the stop sign.
  • Going north (toward Los Gatos): take the overpass.

From the stop sign, drive 1 mile. The parking lot is on the left.

Get directions to main lot:

 

Equestrian Parking Information
Permits are available for limited equestrian parking at Bear Creek Stables. Apply for an equestrian parking permit.

Trails

Upper Lake Loop Trail

Beginning at the parking lot, the easy-access Upper Lake Loop Trail features habitat restoration sites and historical artifacts such as Ohlone mortars. Information for a self-guided interpretive tour is included in the brochure map available at the preserve entrance. The trail is an accessible pathway and can easily accommodate mobility devices, strollers, and users of all ages and abilities. Download interpretive tour map

Alma Trail

The Alma (the Spanish word for soul) Trail is a 2.5-mile trail located west of Bear Creek Road and is accessible using the new pedestrian crossing. This trail traverses into densely wooded fir and redwood forests, through bay and oak woodlands, eventually linking to the Madrone Knoll Trail. Be prepared: These trails climb from the parking area located at 1,000 feet in elevation to Madrone Knoll, the highest point, at 2,400 feet.

Guided hikes at Bear Creek Redwoods will begin this summer. Visit the Docent-led Activities page for details.

Trail Conditions

No trail conditions to report.

At one time, the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains were covered with old-growth redwood forests with trees several hundred years old. Between 1850 and 1900, the rapid growth of San Francisco and San Jose fueled a high demand for lumber, and most of the old-growth trees in the region were felled. When the timber industry was replaced by a private estate, a number of orchards and vineyards were established throughout the property.  However, Timber harvest continued on some areas well into the mid 1900s.  In 1934, the majority of what is now Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve was sold to the Jesuits, who established a theological college, the first of its kind on the west coast.

The college closed in 1969, and the property was slated to be developed into a golf course and luxury estates. Instead of expansive homes and putting greens, local conservationists saw room to breathe, for plants, wildlife and people. With support from the Committee for Green Foothills, advocates sent letters, made phone calls and spoke at public meetings, voicing their concerns about environmental damage from the proposed development. Meanwhile, Midpen and POST worked together to buy the property so it could be protected in perpetuity. In 1999, thanks to state grants and generous private donations, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve was created at last.

Learn more about Bear Creek Redwood’s fascinating history through our interactive online experience, including blast-from-the-past photos.

  • Hours: Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
  • Bicyclists: Bikes are NOT allowed in this Preserve. For information on preserves open to bikes visit the Bicycle Access page.
  • Equestrians: Horses are allowed on designated trails in this Preserve. Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For more information visit the Equestrian Access page.
  • Groups: For safety reasons, permits are required for all groups of 20 or more people.
  • Permits: A use permit is required for any activity or event which: may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR is advertised or noticed in any publication, poster, electronic posting or flyer; OR requests/requires a fee be paid for participation. Visit the Permit page for more information.
     
  • Fires: Fires are prohibited on preserves.
     
  • Smoking: Smoking is prohibited on preserves.
     
  • Weapons: Weapons of any kind are prohibited on preserves. 
     
  • Plants and Animals: Please leave plants and animals undisturbed. This not only preserves the natural environment, but is also a safety precaution. 
     
  • Water Areas: Swimming wading, or engaging in any water-contact activity in any water areas of the District is prohibited.

Download District Regulations and Ordinances

Download Preserve Map

Preserve Info

Hiking
Equestrian
Wheelchair accessible
Restrooms
Good for Kids

Hours

Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.

Preserve Activities

August 10, 2019
August 14, 2019