Serenity at Sunrise

Sunrise Hike in the South Bay at El Sereno Preserve

Man hiking the Aquinas Trail near sunrise in the South Bay at El Sereno Preserve

Mount El Sereno, “the serene one” in El Sereno Preserve, rises high above the Lexington Reservoir and Santa Clara Valley, with majestic views spanning the Diablo Range, Santa Cruz Mountains, and Santa Lucia Mountains. Soak it all in with a sunrise hike to the brand-new California State Senator Jim Beall (pronounced “Bell”) bench on the Aquinas Trail.

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Start at the entrance gate on the Montevina Ridge Trail and then turn right onto the Aquinas Trail. The wide and sunny fire road climbs gently, then descends northeast. It’s surprisingly green with tall thickets of chamise and manzanita. Peaks in Sierra Azul Preserve and the Diablo Range peek over the chaparral. 

Man hiking the Aquinas Trail at sunrise in the South Bay at El Sereno Preserve

At three-quarters of a mile, reach the Senator Beall commemorative bench, facing a 180-degree panorama of Mount Hamilton, the Santa Clara Valley, Mount Umunhum, Lexington Reservoir, and the Santa Lucia Mountains. After the bench, the Aquinas Trail descends just over 3 miles (one-way), losing 1,400 feet elevation to Sheldon Road. Continue as little or as long as you like before turning around and returning to the trailhead.

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Senator Beall served in the California State Senate from 2012 to 2020, and prior to that held positions in the California State Assembly, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors, and San Jose City Council. His grandparents lived on Montevina Road, and he grew up in San Jose, hiking the Santa Cruz Mountains. He is a champion for land preservation, wildlife protection, and outdoor recreation and has secured millions in funding towards those endeavors throughout his career. Bravo, Senator Beall, and thank you.

Take the Bear Creek Rd. exit off Hwy. 17. At the end of the exit ramp, follow signs onto Montevina Rd. and drive 4.0 miles to a dirt parking area on your right, 200 feet before the entrance gate. The parking area is a dirt shoulder big enough for 4 or 5 cars. The Preserve is open a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after sunset. Leashed dogs allowed. Biking and equestrian use allowed.

{Covid-19 Update, January 2021}: Please download a map on the park’s webpage before you go; paper maps are not available. Please practice social distancing and wear a face covering when you’re not able to maintain 6 feet of distance.

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