Hiking Happiness: Bear Creek Redwoods
Look deeper into nature, you’ll understand everything better ~ Albert Einstein
Originally published July, 2019
So I have a friend who is visiting family back east and she left me with a couple of challenges before she went and one of them was to do a new hike. So, always up for a challenge, I had remembered reading recently about a new trail that had recently opened up just outside of San Jose near Los Gatos. The trail is called Bear Creek Redwoods and it was the formal site of a Jesuit Theological College and its grounds. The site is over 1400 acres of secondary growth redwood and fir forest. Recently the site has been bought and set up as a reserve, trail work has been done as well as some site renovation. There’s a new parking lot, bathrooms and trails. There will be more trails in the future but right now the primary trail is a nearly 7 mile hike that leads from the parking area up 1400 feet to Madronne Knoll.
Down at the parking area is a lovely little pond called Upper Lake, sorry it’s just not big enough for me to refer to it as a lake.
You cross the rode to the Alma Trail and immediately start going up. The initial tenth of a mile is steep then it settles into a more gradual climb. There were some beautiful trees early on in the hike.
A little further up the trail I heard a red tailed hawk calling and here’s a link to that sound, it’s one of my favorite bird calls.
After the initial steep climb the trail settles into about a 400 foot per mile climb. You do a mile before the first junction to a trail that creates a loop with the Alma trail. I’ll talk more about the Redwood Springs Trail a little later on.
Heading past the first trail junction, you climb another mile up to the second junction point with the Redwood Springs Trail. At the same point you hit the junction point for the Madronne Knoll trail. at this point you are at around 1800 feet with 600 feet to climb to the knoll over the next 0.9 miles.
The last kick up to Madronne Knoll is good workout. The knoll is not the most exciting spot, at this point at least for me, I’d hiked up into the fog. So there was no view off of the Knoll and just a little loop road that runs around it for 0.2 miles. Perhaps if you catch a day without the fog you might get a view. However, without the fog and the cool wind that comes with it, the hike might get a bit toasty.
I returned to the parking lot via the Redwood Springs Trail and I have a little warning for you. At first, as you expect, you start heading down, but then, after you have descended a few hundred feet you hit a spot where you switchback up about 100 over about two tenths of a mile. Not a terrible climb but when you are mentally prepared to be descending, to suddenly have to climb hits you mentally, so fair warning. The trail then runs the 1800 foot contour of the mountain until a quick drop down back to the Alma Trail.
It was really wonderful to be on a brand new trail. The trail was perfectly groomed, no roots, no rocks, no trees across the trail. packed dirt and blue stone logging road for the most part. It turns to a more traditional trail up near the top, but again a trail that hasn’t been beaten on by feet, wind and water for decades. This made the walking really easy, even when it was steep. Another advantage is that with no trip hazards, it was comfortable keeping your head up and looking around far more than you normally would. You should carry water, but there are a couple of small streams that cut the Alma and Redwood Springs Trails. They were small but running in mid-July so likely spring fed and year round. Even so, I’d recommend filtering if you use them for a drinking water source.
The whole hike, including a nice 20 minute break to eat my peanut butter and honey sandwich took three and a half hours. I don’t hike fast normally and I average 3 miles an hour coming down so, I was only doing about a mile and a half an hour going up. That did however include stopping to take pictures and investigate some of the more interesting spots like a fence line and old chimney off the side of the trail.
As any hike in the Bay Area, there are more people on the trail than I normally like to see, even on a Friday morning. But it wasn’t horribly crowded, I’m someone who prefers to walk solo, slow and quiet. That approach gets me more wildlife viewing but even today I saw a red-shouldered hawk, heard a red-tailed hawk, saw a few squirrels and lizards. The area is said to contain a lot of wildlife (black-tail dear, bobcats, mountain lions etc…) unfortunately didn’t see any of them today.
It was a calm and happy day my friends, hope yours was the same. ~ Rev Kane