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Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve: Day Hike (8.5 miles)
My goal is to hike once every week, and on Saturday, May 30th, I visited Sierra Vista Open Space Preserve and hiked their longest trail, which is 8.5 miles.
Stephen has worked for Santa Clara Open Space Authority for over 1.5 years and worked at Sierra Vista for one year; therefore, it’s time to visit.
The Open Space Authority has various goals, which can be found on their website. One thing that stood out to me is: “the Authority strives to provide opportunities for nature-based recreation and education for all residents.” That includes working “with deep engagement communities with limited access to nature”. Additionally, to “enhance the Urban Open Space program to provide greater access to safe and well-managed open spaces closer to home”.
Note: since it is a preserve, you should always check what it offers. Sierra Vista does not provide restrooms, water, food, or snacks to purchase. It exists to protect and preserve the land. Therefore, please come prepared and bring everything you need.
“This preserve in the Eastern foothills of Santa Clara County offers sweeping views of the Valley and the opportunity to stroll through diverse landscapes including oak woodlands, rolling grassland, and chaparral communities. Perched above Alum Rock Park, the area provides watershed protection for Penitencia Creek and is home to a number of protected wildlife species including the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, American badger, and Western burrowing owl and other species such as golden eagle, mountain lion, bobcat, and gray fox.”
The preserve offers multi-use trails open to hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians. It offers 1,611 acres, 3 levels of hikes, 25 minutes from downtown San Jose, and it’s free to visit.
If you are still unsure where it’s located: it’s neighbors 680 , Alum Rock, and Berryessa. If you look at a map it’s south of Milpitas.
The night before our hike, I downloaded the map to my phone, and planned it on my desk top. I want to go on the longest hike, which is the Lower Calaveras Fault Trail to the Vista Point per the brochure.
Since I had planned to be there the entire time of Stephen’s shift, I knew I would go for a second hike, therefore I packed to be outside for 13ish miles from 7am-2:30pm. Therefore lots of snacks, sandwich, and water. I brought 2.5 Liters total, but this post is about is what I’d recommend for this exact hike.
Lots of Elevation
1.5+ Liters Total
2x 20oz water bottle
RX Protein Bar
60’s and drizzle
Small Parking Lot
Can fit approximately 30 cars
Cars cannot park on side of road since people live with the surrounding area.
Water for Hiking Mileage Ratio
5 miles = 1 liter minimal
2 hours = 1 liter minimal
Goal Hike: 14 Miles, lots of elevation, 7+ hours
2+ Liters of Water
Hot Hikes: Water to Hiking Mileage Ratio:
5 miles = 1 Liter of Regular Water;
1 Liter of Water with Electrolytes,
preferably Nuun Endurance maybe with Caffeine for a mid-hike energy boost.
The 8.5 mile trail is notorious to be a challenging hike because you start off going downhill all the way to the road, which is about 2 miles. Then you go uphill for 2 miles straight, and it’s steep. Returning it’s 2 miles downhill and the last 2 miles is uphill. That’s a strenuous hike especially since there is a lack of shade at Sierra Vista.
The pro of the lack of shade it is the consistent incredible views.
The Borrcado loop was my second trail, which is four miles from the parking lot (part 2 post). I added going to the Vista Point and then go on the loop, which made it approximately 5 miles. That was challenging because of the downhill for the beginning and then with the 1 mile steep uphill.
Plan accordingly to arrive first thing at 7am if you want to do the 8.5-mile hike since there is little shade and you will hike into the valley and out.
If you cannot arrive early, plan accordingly to the weather. Go on rainy or cloudy day in order to make the most of your hike.
Regardless, plan to hike down and then hike up for your last half for all hikes unless you are doing the aquila loop (1 mile).
I love visiting open spaces and preserves. Since their job is to preserve the land, usually, it is more maintained, clearly marked, and easier to stay on the trail.
Additionally, I felt safe. Partially, I think it’s because I know it is patrolled frequently, so I know it is considered a safe space for a women and to hike 8.5 miles solo.
I had never visited the park. One thing I had noticed is the beautiful city view.
Therefore all the trails (except one) start going downhill and into the valley, which means all those trails require to go uphill to finish. Lastly, beautiful views equate a lack of shade. All are important to notice when starting the hike.
If you are not prepared, remember it will always be there. You can do what came prepared, or hike as far as you can, and walk back. Then remember you can visit again to do what you always wanted when brought everything you need.
Off downhill, I go on the Kestral trail for .27 miles. Luckily I studied the map and knew I was supposed to take a left at the junction and went on the Sierra Vista Trail for .74 miles.
There were several cows ahead of me, and I had got stuck behind a family. Thankfully, they allowed me to pass through.
I had hit a junction, and I felt a bit confused. Luckily Stephen texted me to go right, which seemed confusing on the wording of the junction. What it meant, if I wanted to take the longer route, I could go left. But I wanted to get straight to my destination before the sun makes the day hotter.
I took a right and continued to go downhill on the Sierra Vista Trail for .65 miles.
I passed by the Furtado Barn and House, where there was an old house with a picnic bench nearby. I spotted out where I could take a lunch break on my way back! Woot woot!
I came across another junction and took a right to the Calaveras Fault Trail for .3 miles.
It leads to the Alum Rock Falls Road, which I must walk on for .40 miles. At that point, I realized I am in the valley, and I must go the same route back at the end of my hike.
Additionally, I am only halfway to my destination point, which is only 1/4 of the trail, which is all uphill. Here we go! If you are not feeling it, it’s ok to turn around and try again. Since I thru-hiked the PCT, and backpacked 25 miles a day, and used to run 10-15 miles once a week for over ten years, this didn’t bother me.
I saw the trail again, and it is about two miles all uphill.
It is steep, as it says in the brochure. Thankfully I was aware the reasoning Stephen encouraged me to bring trekking poles. It made a huge positive difference.
It was challenging for the first mile, but it became more manageable along the way. I enjoyed seeing all the views.
As soon as I made it to my destination, it was beautiful seeing a bench with a view. I sat for a while and was in awe with the view. A frequent cyclist appeared, and we chatted for a few minutes. It was glorious to be there, watching the city.
One thing Stephen said to notice is the reduced noise pollution. You can hear the birds, sky, and critters. You don’t hear cars, honks, or airplanes.
Quite beautiful. I ate my protein bar and drank Nuun Endurance with Caffeine, which was bliss.
On my way back, it was pleasant knowing I finished halfway, and it’s downhill for the next two miles. Woohoo! The one con from this hike was the lack of privacy to go pee. It’s wide open. It helped that I was there early because there are fewer hikers than in the later hours. I can dash to pop-a-squat before someone passes.
Other than that one cyclist, I only saw another couple who were making a mad dash back.
On the way down, that was more challenging, and my trekking poles saved me from eating dirt with the steep downhills. Make sure to take your time; otherwise, you will trip and eat dirt.
I was back on the road, and it was soon time for my two-mile uphills since I was now in the valley.
Luckily I came across the barn, and that is when I decided to eat lunch. It’s only 1.5 miles uphill from there.
After I refueled, I decided to take the same route back and not take the extra miles. There were a lot more people at the Parks. Several families and I loved seeing many POC outside because it brings me joy to see the actual representation of the city on the trail. That’s how it should be every day, and all should feel welcomed.
I made my way back, and the trekking poles saved the day for all that uphill. Now I understand how Stephen mentions how there is usually a handful of people who attempt that hike every day.
It can be rough, especially if it is a hot day since there is no shade. That particular day it was raining here or there. Therefore, I was consistently taking my jacket off or putting it on. You can never win, but I finished the hike, so that is a win in my book!
Since this post is long, I’ll write about the Borrcado Loop on a separate page.
REMINDER: LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND
Lastly, please remember to leave LEAVE NO TRACE BEHIND and leave it better than you found it. Pack your trash. You brought it in, and you can take it out and properly dispose of it.