Hours of Operation for Rancho San Antonio

Just an update on my blog on Rancho San Antonio about hours that the park is open.  Because the park is so heavily used, and rangers want to keep people from parking in the neighborhoods (Cristo Rey Drive and Hammond Way, Cupertino, CA ), the park usually opens around 5:30 a.m.  and closes after 8 p.m.   Only one gate is closed so people can still drive out even if the entrance gate is closed.  This park is very crowded on weekends so it is difficult to find parking on weekend mornings, especially around 8-9 a.m.  If you can’t find parking in the three available lots, you can park about a mile back down the main road and walk up the Hammond Synder Loop Trail which opened in 2006 but is not on the Santa Clara County’s park map.

Rancho San Antonio — Hours of Operation

I have been hitting the trail pretty early these days on the PG&E Trail at Rancho San Antonio. One day the gate was locked at 7 am even though the hours said from dawn to dusk. Inside the park the hours are posted from 8am to 5pm. So what are the true hours of the park? I asked a park ranger the other day and he told me he wasn’t quite sure because the gates are on an automatic timer, but he thought it opened by 6am or 6:30am at the latest.   One day there was a malfunction so it did not open until 7:30 am although people could get around because the exit no longer had the metal prongs that stick up to slash tires.   Apparently, the dawn to dusk rules doesn’t apply during winter when users of the park still come in during their usual hours. I assume it also stays open past dark.

Rhus Ridge to Black Mountain

Description:  9.6 miles, 2400 feet of climbing, 4.5 hours.  Topo map of hike. 

Tuesday I took off work to hike Black Mountain in Rancho San Antonio Open Space expecting to start from Hidden Villa.  Little did I know that they close the park to hikers during the summer for kids’ camps.  So I turned around and headed to Rhus Ridge Road.  There are 8 ways to hike up Black Mountain according to one website.  I had heard about this entrance but have never hiked from it.  The parking lot is small so I assume it would be difficult parking on weekends.   Directions to the trailhead are easy to follow.  This hike started out climbing and reminded me of Almaden Quicksilver’s Hacienda Entrance.  

It was a hot day (90) and even in the shade it was a tough .9 miles to Black Mountain Trail.  Once on the top the trail climbs gradually for three miles before climbing sharply for the last 1.5 miles.  It took me 2.5 hours to get to the top, stopping for rests and food breaks.   At the top the view is great but there is no shade for a rest stop.  a dead end trail to the left takes you to some tree but not really a great place to rest. This hike is best done in spring when it is green and cool and you can hang out on the rocks at the top.  I have also done this hike in winter when it is so wet and cold you can”t see 50 feet in front of you.

Returning was easy, except for some slippery steep downhill.  Return trip took less than 2  hours.  This is a good hike if you are looking for some serious exercise that is an easy drive from the south bay.  The Bay Area Hiker website has a good write up on this hike but there are slight differences in distances and elevation gain.