Hike by Rob Lehman, originally published in the October 2008 issue of Bay Nature magazine
This 3,000-acre park in the foothills west of Morgan Hill recently absorbed 858-acre Blair Ranch and now provides even more protection for the Uvas and Llagas creek watersheds, tributaries of the Pajaro River, which the nonprofit organization American Rivers has called one of the nation’s most threatened watersheds. The park has 8.5 miles of trails, including the half-mile Llagos Creek Trail, which is fully wheelchair accessible and starts from a new parking area. New trail segments throughout the preserve provide connections from old ranch roads to form two major loops, which also connect with Calero County Park.
Hiking the preserve is strenuous but rewarding: Massive sycamores along Baldy Ryan Creek lead upward to blue and coast live oaks and serpentine rock outcroppings along bald ridgetops. There are spectacular views of Mount Hamilton and the Diablo Range, Coyote Valley, and Gilroy to the north and east; and of Mount Umunhum, Los Gatos, and Silicon Valley to the west. Resident species include the endangered bay checkerspot butterfly, mountain lion, coyote, gray fox, and black-tailed deer. Fifty species of birds, including golden eagles, have been seen here.
Getting there From 101, take Bailey Avenue west to McKean. Turn left on McKean, then right on Casa Loma, and right to the staging area. From San Jose, take Almaden Expressway to Harry Road. Go southeast on McKean, left on Casa Loma, right to the staging area.