Rating:
Area: San Francisco Peninsula
Distance: 6 miles
Type: Loop
Difficulty: Medium
Elevation gain: 1,300ft (from 1,750 - 2,800ft)

Rising 2,800 feet above Silicon Valley, Black Mountain is the highest peak in these parts of the Santa Cruz mountain range. Monte Bello Open Space Preserve encompasses not only the Black Mountain summit and valley vistas but also sweeping grassy plains, tree covered gulleys and peek-a-boo ocean views.

The loop trail from the Page Mill Road parking lot and trailhead begins in grassland then follows a tree-lined grove before gently ascending 1,300 feet to the mountain summit. Watch out for the sag pond alongside the Canyon Trail grove, a tell-tale sign that the San Andreas fault runs through here, the pond having been created by ground ruptures during recent quakes like the 1989 (Loma Prieta) and 1906 (San Francicso) events.

Around two thirds of this hike is through exposed open ground, so sunscreen and water supplies are highly advisable. The return journey does eventually dip under the shade of trees on the Stevens Creek Nature Trail. Geckos and garter snakes scatter as you progress along the nature trail running parallel to the creek before switch-backing upwards into open ground and a short trek back to the trailhead.

No fee for use of the park. If you have time we recommend checking out the short one-and-a-half San Andreas Fault interpretive trail on the other side of Page Mill Road, or extend it to a full three mile exploration of the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve that we've featured previously (see link below).

Route Summary:
Stevens Creek Tr > Canyon Tr > Bella Vista Tr > Old Ranch Tr > Indian Cr Tr (up) > Monte Bello Rd > Black Mtn Summit > Monte Bello Rd (return) > Indian Cr Tr (down) > Canyon Tr > Stevens Cr Nature Tr

Tangents:
- Trailspotting Images: Monte Bello OSP on Flickr
- Trailspotting Hikes: Los Trancos San Andreas Fault Trail
- Monte Bello Open Space Preserve official site

Peninsula Trails: Hiking and Biking Trails on the San Francisco Peninsula by Jean Rusmore
Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America by Ted Floyd