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Bay Area Hiking: Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Updated on July 5, 2013

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve
Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve

This is a 17,000 acre reserve located in South San Jose and Los Gatos, California. One of the largest in the Bay Area, it provides a variety of terrain near the Santa Cruz mountains. It includes woodlands and grassland areas, steep hills and deep ravines. It offers some of the most incredibly beautiful hiking. It includes the romantic overlook near Mount Umunhum, and a crest trail that stretches from the reserve entrance on Hicks road to Kennedy hill, the infamous 4 mile vertical hill that many bikers and hikers enjoy ascending from Los Gatos.

show route and directions
A markerKennedy road & kennedy trail, los gatos ca -
Kennedy Road & Kennedy Trail, Los Gatos, CA 95032, USA
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The Kennedy trail is popular for biking and hiking. It is a 4.5 mile trail that ascends straight up. Great training hill for fitness and bikers.

B markerbald mountain trail san jose ca -
Bald Mountain Trail, San Jose, CA 95120, USA
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C markerMount Umunhum road and Hicks road, san jose ca -
Hicks Road & Mount Umunhum Road, Almaden, CA 95032, USA
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A 12 mile strenuous hike from this location to Kennedy Trail takes you across a crest trail with stunning scenes of beauty.

D markerPriest Rock Trail san jose ca -
Priest Rock Trail, Los Gatos, CA, USA
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This is a 5 mile hike with an 800 foot ascent.

E markerLexington Reservoir county park, los gatos ca -
Lexington Reservoir Park, 17770 Alma Bridge Road, Los Gatos, CA 95033, USA
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Kennedy Trail to Lexington Reservoir is a popular route for bikers.

Top 5 Trails in Sierra Azul Open Space Reserve

A.) Kennedy Trail - This is one of the most popular trails in the Sierra Azul Reserve. The trailhead starts in Los Gatos. It has a 2000 feet elevation gain.

B.) Woods Trail (starts near Mount Umunhum) to Kennedy Road. This is a 12 mile strenuous hike. It is especially difficult if you start it ascending kennedy road. It is a more manageable for average to mid level fitness hikers if you start and Woods Trail and descend the Kennedy Trail. This is a beautiful trail that gives you a mountain ridge view of the Bay Area. It is work it for the beauty alone.

C.) Lookout near Mount Umunhum. This is a romantic picnic spot that overlooks the whole Bay Area and is only about 0.4 of a mile from the parking area. To get there, drive up Mount Umunhum as far as you can to where the road is barricaded. Parking is allowed here. Take the trail on the left that is meandering away from Mount Umunhum road.

D.) Priest Rock Trail. This is also a popular hike. It has an 800 foot elevation gain and is about 5 miles long.

E.) Kennedy Trail to Lexington Reservoir - This is a popular route for bikers.

Sierra Azul Wildlife

The Sierra Azul Open Space Reserve is teeming with wildlife. The habitat is friendly to Mountain Lions who are regular residents of this wilderness. Be cautious and responsible when encountering a mountain Lion. Other wildlife include deer, squirrels, wild boar, bobcat, coyote, rabbits, and many other small animals.

Pets, such as dogs, are allowed within the Reserve within a limited capacity. Make sure to read the expectations of the trails you are going to use before bringing your pets along. The last thing you want on a relaxing hike is a Ranger to give you a ticket.

What Poison Oak Looks Like!

Poison Oak
Poison Oak | Source

Plants to Watch Out For

Poison Oak grows throughout the Sierra Azul Open Space Reserve and throughout California. Identified by its leaves of 3 combined with green and red colors, it is a plant to avoid. Poison Oak has oils on its leaves that cause a rash when coming into contact with human skin. It can become terribly itchy. If inhaled through smoke, it can make you incredibly sick as it becomes systemic in your body.

Sometimes, Poison Oak is confused with Blackberry bushes which also have leaves of 3. Poison oak leaves are shaped different and Blackberry bushes have thorns on their stems that poison oak does not have. See the picture to get a good idea of what poison oak looks like and be sure to look out for it on your next hike.

Watch Out for Ticks

This is one of the most beautiful hiking areas in the bay area. I highly recommend you take the time to explore the trails and views in the reserve. While you are doing so, be sure to watch out for certain insects like ticks. They can be easily dealt with by checking for them and flicking them off or killing them before they burrow into your skin.

If you can only get to one place in the open space reserve, take the time to see the lookout from Mount Umunhum. It overlooks the whole bay area. It is romantic and beautiful.

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