About two miles with 600 feet of up and down, just enough up and down to feel like a real hike. The trail goes through open grasslands with nice views along the headwaters of Stevens Creek.
There are a couple of options, taking the trail or the road. They are about the same distance and elevation gain/loss, so let the Scouts choose the route.
Why Go Here?
Lovely hike and a nice, roomy group camp area, what’s not to like? If the fog doesn’t roll in, you’ll see some stars. You can also get a nice view of the Santa Clara Valley. Hike up near the actual summit of Black Mountain (past the radio installation), then take the use trail east, towards the valley. At the edge of the meadow you can stand on some rocks and get a peek at the valley all lit up below. Camping is the only way to get that view, because the park closes at sunset.
There is a split hike option for older, stronger Scouts to take a more difficult route to the same camp site. Drop off the crew at Hidden Villa in Los Altos HIlls. They’ll walk through the farm, then start on the Creek Trail and hike up into Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. This is a 9 mile hike with 2400 feet of climbing, so much more of a challenge.
You can add a second challenging day by continuing from the trail camp up to Skyline Boulevard. Take the Indian Creek Trail down into Stevens Creek Canyon, then the Canyon Trail downstream, then the Grizzly Flat Trail up to Skyline. Arrange to have your ride meet you there. That hike is another 2500 feet of climbing. The two days together are a “half traverse” of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Hike the Skyline to the Sea Trail to complete the traverse.
Reservations and Planning
Reserve the group camp with a web request on the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District site. You will need the vehicle descriptions and license plates to register, so plan your rides early. The fee is $2 per camper per night.
For the split hike option, Hidden Villa is closed to the public in July and August. It is probably too hot to do that hike in full summer anyway.
If a storm comes through, the wind seems to be funneled through the group camp meadow. Make sure your tent is staked down.
Links and Resources
- Black Mountain Trail Camp reservations: Camping | Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
- Monte Bello Open Space: Monte Bello Preserve | Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
- Monte Bello GeoPDF map: Trail Maps & Apps | Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
- Direct link to map: https://www.openspace.org/sites/default/files/map_MB.pdf
- Hidden Villa hiking trails: Hiking Trails | Hidden Villa
- Photos from a half traverse hike: Black Mountain, May 2010 | Flickr
- Photos from a cold April campout when a storm blew through: Black Mountain, April 22, 2007 | Flickr