Well-known to local campers and fishermen but largely undiscovered by hikers and wildflower enthusiasts, Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park is a great southern Santa Clara County destination to see spring blooms. Located on the Calaveras Fault, the 4,500-acre park is home to both Coyote Lake Reservoir and a modest expanse of serpentine that features colorful displays in a good year.
Spring is the best time to visit, before temperatures get too hot on the largely unshaded trails. Several interconnected loop trails can be accessed from each of the park's three entrances. Our favorite trips depart along the road out to Coyote Dam at the park's northern end. Plan your hike to include the southern end of the Calaveras Trail, which will take you past fields of flowers that have evolved to thrive in the nutrient-poor serpentine soil. One favorite loop hike of just over five miles passes many of the park's attractions. Enter at Coyote Lake and park by the dam. Head uphill on Harvey Bear Trail. At the ridgetop are expansive views of the Coyote Valley to the west. Go left on the Coyote Ridge Trail, a fairly level route with views to the south, and take the Calaveras Trail back to the trailhead.
Getting there: From 101 in Gilroy, take Leavesley Road. Go east on Leavesley, left onto New Avenue, then a half mile to Roop Road. Go east on Roop 3.5 miles. Turn left at the Coyote Lake entrance. Facilities: portable toilet at the dam; flush toilets at the boat launch. Lake entrance fee $6; other entrances free.