Vast rolling hills, serene forest, breathtaking vistas, and hardly any people … it’s not hermit-ville, it’s hiker-ville! Monte Bello Open Space Preserve in the South Bay spans 3,436 acres. Thank the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, who obtained the area in 1975. They knew a good thing when they saw it: Monte Bello means “beautiful mountain” in Italian. Today Monte Bello is home to numerous trails, including connections to neighboring open spaces, Long Ridge and Rancho San Antonio.
A good way to get the lay of the galloping landscape and the canyon creek scenery, hike the well-marked and uncrowded 3-mile Stevens Creek Nature Trail. The trail is a loop, so you can turn either way at the trailhead sign, though we recommend starting off to the right and continuing down into a quiet wooded canyon dense with oaks, bays, and madrone trees. You’ll parallel Stevens Creek before making your way back up above the forest, returning along the San Andreas Fault and gaining sweeping vistas of the Santa Cruz Mountains, including Mount Umunhum and Loma Prieta, more commonly known as the epicenter of 1989’s earthquake.
BONUS: Stretch your hike and go long by taking the Bella Vista Trail or Indian Creek Trail to Black Mountain and connecting to Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve. Or opt for the Grizzly Flat Trail, which will take you through Upper Stevens Creek County Park and connect you to the Long Ridge Open Space Preserve. Check the map.
Monte Bello’s parking lot is on Page Mill Rd. (map). Additional parking can be found across the street at the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve parking area. Your path to the trail is easily accessed from the parking lot. No dogs.