Saint Joseph’s Open Space Preserve is a picturesque playground frequented by hikers, cyclists, runners and equestrians. Set on 270 acres in the southern hills of Los Gatos, Saint Joe’s as its known to locals, offers an easily accessible respite from the buzz of the Silicon Valley while offering all of the amenities one would want post-trek along Main Street in Los Gatos.
Purchased in 1982 as joint endeavor between the District and Town of Los Gatos, Saint Joseph’s Open Space Preserve has trails that wend through grassy meadows, chaparral, Manzanita and copses of oak trees. From various points, the trails provide views of Lexington Reservoir, highway 17 and the Santa Cruz Mountains while the 1,253 foot peak affords sweeping, panoramic vistas of the entire Santa Clara Valley, El Sereno mountain and the Sierra Azul mountain range.
Saint Joe’s has a number of pathways, many of which have fairly steep grades intermingled with flat straightaways, some of which seem to hover on the edge of the mountain. If you enter from Alma Bridge Road, there are two pathways from which to choose: Saint Joseph’s Hill, a steep grade that heads upward toward those stunning views and the flatter Los Gatos Creek trail that parallels highway 17. Dogs are allowed on leash in most areas and many enjoy a dip in the water along the Los Gatos Creek trail. Jones and Flume Trails are also popular paths in Saint Joe’s, both of which also down to Lexington Reservoir.
After heading up Saint Joseph’s Hill, a right on Novitiate Trail then another right onto Manzanita Trail will lead you to the summit. It is worth taking a moment to soak in the stunning views of the mountains and valleys. Hikers and mountain bikers from all around the Silicon Valley share these dirt paths, rewarding themselves afterwards with a cup of coffee from one of the local eateries or coffee shops scattered along Main Street.
Saint Joseph’s Preserve can be accessed from Alma Bridge Road off highway 17, from the Los Gatos Creek trailhead on Main Street or at the trailhead tucked back in the neighborhood off College Boulevard. Open daily from 11am to 5pm, Testerossa, the Bay Area’s oldest continuously operating winery, is also nestled back in this same area, another wonderful way to reward oneself after an arduous hike or mountain bike ride.
The hills of Saint Joe’s are filed with history. Portions of the Jones Trail follow the historic Jones Road, at one time the primary link between the town of Los Gatos and the long-since abandoned towns of Alma and Lexington, whose remnants are hidden beneath the waters of the reservoir. It is believed native Ohlone people may have used this same route to reach the ocean while California mission builders undertook the first chronicled voyage through the area in 1791. For over one hundred years, stagecoaches, wagons and pack teams traversed this precipitous, curving road to reach the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond.
Free 2 hour parking is available along Main Street as well as a designated lot on Alma Road, which costs $4 for the day. Many park up closer to the trailhead for free but be aware of permit parking on some streets. Also, it is important to note that not all trails are open to bikes and horses and it is advised to check the map and trail signage.
Saint Joseph’s Open Space Preserve is open year-round from dawn until 30 minutes after sunset.