Sunday, January 22, 2012

Table Mountain

View from the upper trail
Most of my hikes so far this winter have been rather unremarkable. There’s been so little rain this season that most of the parks and open space lands seem barren, dry, and tired. Normally this time of year there are already subtle signs of emerging regrowth, green grasses just beginning to shoot out in meadows, a few fledgling wildflowers popping out for reconnaissance, and the creeks should be beginning to pick up. Instead, everything just seems kind of dead. I don’t really want to think about what this could mean if the trend continues, so I decided to back post one of my hikes from last fall that I never got around to. Hopefully it will be a really wet spring.

Stevens Creek
One of the hikes we took to explore the fall season was this nice little loop route around Table Mountain in Upper Stevens Creek County Park (Santa Clara County). We began at the Grizzly Flat trail head along highway 35 about 3 miles north from the junction with highway 9. Regional maps are available at trail heads for free. The Grizzly Flat Trail is a winding 2.0 mile downhill from the trail head along the highway at 2274 feet descending to the creek bed at about 1293 feet at the bottom of the canyon. Along the way you will be treated to thick stands of oaks, maples, madrones, alders, and Douglas fir providing shade on sunny days, and subtle rich colors in autumn. The trail has the quality of an old dirt road until you reach the first little creek bed, and is open to bicycle traffic in both directions. This trail also makes a nice connector between Upper Stevens Creek and Long Ridge; so many different route variations are possible. You will make two creek crossings before reaching Canyon Trail at the bottom and turning back to the south. Along this trail you can spot strange little “benches” and what look like pressure ridges created by the historic seismic activity along the San Andreas fault which passes right under your feet.

BART section in Long Ridge
After crossing the creek again, we took the junction to Table Mountain Trail to begin climbing back up. There are no footbridges, so these creek crossings would probably be more difficult in rainy weather, but not bad in fall. This trail and Charcoal Road are uphill only for bicycles, so at least you don’t have to expect bikes screaming downhill. Above Table Mountain, there is a section of single track trail which is designated “hiking only”. It doesn’t have a name on the map, so assumedly it’s just an extension of the Table Mountain Trail. This single track section had lots of poison oak which is much more difficult to identify when the leaves are gone, so I recommend being careful not to inadvertently brush against any type of suspect stalks. When you reach Table Mountain there is an optional short loop trail, but don’t expect to see much. The elevation is only about 1800 feet and the ridge to the east blocks any long range view opportunities, plus there’s lots of over growth and tall trees. As you hike up higher on the single track and begin to get close to the highway again, there are some nice view opportunities from the trail. The photo at the top is from that section of trail. When you get back to Skyline, you can cross the highway and into Long Ridge to head back to the north. We followed the BART route back to the junction with Grizzly Flat Trail and back to the trail head. After enjoying the views to the west along a rolling open section, the Peter’s creek trail runs along a beautiful riparian section and a serene pond alongside a private Zen center. A nice little 10.6 mile loop, the route has about 2260 feet to total elevation gain. I have a track log and some photos uploaded to Every Trail.


Cindy said...

That's a sweet forested trail, Randy, that crosses Stevens Creek (drains to San Francisco Bay) on the east side of Skyline Boulevard (Highway 35) and Peter's Creek (drains to Pacific Ocean) on the other side of Skyline, and their tributaries. I would be interested in any reports hikers have of large numbers of newts moving in or out of the creeks in that area. We are trying to better understand their seasonal movements. With this weekend's storms, the newts are finally moving. If you see more than 12 newts moving along a short length of trail, please email me at Thanks, Cindy Roessler biologist at Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District. I enjoy your blog and I hope it encourages folks to visit the amazing local trails and natural lands.

Waypoints said...

Hi Cindy,

I'll be sure to keep an eye out for groups newts and drop you a word. I sure hope we get a lot more rain too. I have enjoyed your blog posts too. I really liked your great eclipse photos.