Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rancho San Antonio and Deer Hollow Farm

The open lands of Rancho San Antonio surrounding Deer Hollow Farm, are so well known to the locals that I have delayed writing a blog about it. But I think visitors from out of town should know about this beautiful preserve.

Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve

The preserve is located in Santa Clara County and is home to a number of diverse plant and animal habitats. It has 24 miles of trails where people can hike, run, bike or ride horseback. Most of the trails are reserved just for pedestrians, including parents with strollers or joggers.

 A Nice Wide Path
Located about a mile into the park is the real attraction for families with young children - Deer Hollow Farm. This is an educational, working farm; you are not allowed to pet or feed the livestock (and they do refer to the animals as livestock), but this doesn't stop children from loving the place. I can't tell you how many times over the years I have visited Deer Hollow Farm - with and without my children. The whole experience, which includes walking the one mile trail through the valley to the farm, is wonderful every time.

View of the main parking lot (often full), taken from 1 of 2 upper parking lots.

Next to the upper parking lot is a field reserved for flying model airplanes!

The path down from the upper parking lots has a great view.

There are clean bathrooms and a water fountain in the lower (main) parking lot. There are also stretching bars for the many runners who frequent this place.

Picnic grounds located across the little bridge leading from the main parking lot.

Beautiful view of the meadow from the main trail (to the farm).

Upper view of the meadow

Good signage along the trail

It is common to see wildlife during your mile walk through the valley to the farm. The animals are used to human activity so you often see squirrels, deer, rabbits, quail, wild turkey, hawks, kites. Once I saw a coyote and even some bobcat kittens! I've also seen rattlesnakes, but not very often. Still, it's good to watch your step, especially near the grass.

Now, for Deer Hollow Farm, the reward at the end of the main trail. Deer Hollow Farm calls itself a teaching farm that is visited by about 5000 students from 50 Bay Area elementary schools. It is also visited by countless numbers of families with children. Children can peer through and over enclosures to see chickens, geese, rabbits, cows, goats, sheep and even pigs. In the Spring there are often babies. There is also a well planned vegetable garden on view.

Just beyond the animal enclosures and vegetable garden there is a huge old barn. There are picnic tables inside and even a small stage. This is a great place to picnic and rest. Your young children will  love to dance around the stage. And just beyond the barn is a large, clean outhouse (2 stalls) with soap dispensers. There is also another water fountain on the trail just outside the barn.

If you go: Deer Hollow Farm is open daily from 8 am to 4 pm but is closed on Mondays and Wednesday afternoons. The surrounding trails of Rancho San Antonio however, are open daily from sunrise to sunset.

Directions: From Hwy 280, north or south, take the Foothill Boulevard exit, go south, and turn right immediately onto Cristo Rey Drive. Continue about 1 mile and veer right around the traffic circle, staying on Cristo Rey Drive. Turn left into the County Park entrance.
A note about the runners: The trails within Rancho are very popular with runners. In fact, if you come here on the weekend, the parking lots will often by full by 7 or 8 am! I've often been frustrated - trying to listen to birdsong and the breeze - only to hear pounding feet, panting and conversation from passing runners! So I channeled my frustration into an amusing vignette told from a rabbit's point of view. I actually experienced a rabbit attack like the one described, but it was from a "domesticated" rabbit in my own backyard.

 Alternative Parking:  If you are arriving after 8AM on a weekend, plan on parking near Kent Drive and St. Joseph Ave in Los Altos. From these residential streets, walk down St. Joseph to where it dead-ends under the 280 overpass. Then take the trail just past that on the right. It will meet up with the main trail from the Rancho parking lot after about 1/3 mile. You will emerge near the old tennis courts in the preserve. Turn right and walk toward the large sign that showcases a map of all the trails. You will see signs pointing toward Deer Hollow Farm.

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