Calero County Park

Hiking, horseback riding and boating at sunny Calero County Park, just outside San Jose.

Calero County Park is a haven for humans, horses and dogs alike. Nestled in the southernmost section of Silicon Valley, this 4,455-acre park comprises 18.6 miles of wide-open trails that carve up and down rolling grassland hills and through intermittent oak woodland patches. The park boasts horse-friendly features like staging areas and water troughs, and many of the trails are open for (leashed) dogs. The most distinguishing feature, a large reservoir, completes the package that makes this park appealing to both lakegoers and landlubbers. The best part? There’s no charge at the gate; this baby is as free as sunshine (and there’s plenty of it out there).

The reservoir, which is open year-round from 8am to sunset, welcomes both power and sailboats. Though the humming of boat motors travels up to the highest-reaching trails, it isn’t bothersome. The big, blue body of water paints a scenic view each time you reach a hilltop, making it entirely worth the commotion. Fishing is fine, but swimming with and eating your catch is not. High mercury levels mandate a strictly catch-and-release policy, so bring your own comestibles to grill on the lakeside barbecues.

Calero is gorgeous in spring. Wildflowers of all kinds pepper the hills, making this the perfect place for amateur botanists to practice identifying their favorite flowers. Walk the Serpentine Loop or Los Cerritos Trail and you’ll find two ponds, each with an oak-shaded picnic area, where you can hitch your horse and watch turtles sunbathing and dragonflies buzzing about. Dogs are welcome on all trails north of Bald Peaks, which includes the larger half of the park.

Though Calero is home to many Californian creatures, you probably won’t see much of one familiar animal: people. For whatever reason, Calero is free of large crowds and tourists. View that as an opportunity to sit peacefully in the shade of an old oak, watch red-tailed hawks stalk ground squirrels, and relax.

NO ONE STAYS HOME: Many features make this park friendly toward the four-footed (both hoofed and pawed) and easygoing. Though most of the trails entail uphill spurts, Figueroa Trail will please folks who prefer shady ambling to sunny hiking.

...EXCEPT FOR MOUNTAIN BIKERS: Those seeking two-wheeled fun should look elsewhere; Calero doesn't allow mountain bikes.

YOUR MOM WOULD TELL YOU TO: Watch your step. There’s horse crap everywhere. Bring sun protection and water containers. There’s a spigot next to the park office.

—Brendan Bane

23205 McKean Rd, San Jose. 408.268.3883. Learn more at the official Calero County Park website. View a map to Calero County Park.

To find Calero County Park from US Highway 101, exit Bailey Avenue between Morgan Hill and San Jose and turn west, toward the Santa Cruz Mountains. Your next turn will be at McKean Road. Turn left for the (free) parking and back country trails. Turn right for the (not free) reservoir access and horse staging area.

Figueroa Trail and Serpentine Loop
3.5–6.7 miles; easy to moderate
An easy, mostly shaded walk can be turned into a more challenging hike by taking an adjoining loop.