Rising 2,800 feet over the Peninsula’s Monte Bello Open Space Preserve, Black Mountain—the inspiration behind Mountain View’s name—quietly stands watch over the South Bay. The 2-mile (one-way) exposed trail that climbs gradually to Black Mountain’s summit is a feast for the eyes: dense yellow grass blankets rolling hills and blows in the wind like a lion’s mane. At the top, scattered boulders (pictured) provide the best place for your first picnic of 2009. This lofty route rewards hikers with 360-degree views across the South Bay, from the Santa Clara Valley all the way to the Mount Hamilton range and the Santa Cruz Mountains.
TIP: If you want to add an extra 2 miles to the hike, descend Indian Creek Trail and loop back up Canyon and Stevens Creek Nature Trail; this loop includes a long and relatively steep descent into a canopy of trees, with a few bridge crossings along the way.
From I-280 in Palo Alto, exit Page Mill Rd. going west and climb 7 curvy miles up to Monte Bello Open Space. Pick up a map at the kiosk. Take the main trail from the parking lot, Stevens Creek Nature Trail. Take the left fork heading toward the Canyon Trail. Follow the Canyon Trail .25 mile, then take Bella Vista Trail up. Stay on this for a mile before turning right onto Old Ranch Trail. Go past the Backpack Camp and continue another .25 mile to summit of Black Mountain. Continue a couple of hundred feet on the wide road past the radio towers to find the large rocks. Return the way you came or follow the TIP above to make it a loop hike. No dogs.