High Meadow to Vista Point at Rancho San Antonio

4.4 miles; 400 ft climbing; easy to moderate
Permanente Creek Trail —> Lower Meadow Trail —> High Meadow Trail —> Wildcat Loop Trail —> Lower Meadow Trail —>

Those longing for a shorter jaunt than many of the other Rancho San Antonio offerings listed here will receive a bang for their buck on this section of the park, especially if little hikers are in tow. Starting at the main parking lot by the restroom, take Permanente Creek to the right, then take a left onto Lower Meadow Trail (or the seldom-used service road) and continue to Deer Hollow Farm. Past Deer Hollow, turn left at the hay barn and then right at your first junction onto High Meadow Trail. Amble along the wide, smooth path past the shady oak-lined banks of Permanente Creek. Mature trees at the wooden footbridge are great for climbing and spying on the creek’s denizens below, as well as comfy benches to soak in the cool serenity. Beyond the footbridge the smooth trail ascends and winds through mature oak forest whose welcoming shade nurtures California maidenhair fern and several stately California laurels. About one mile up the trail, the payoff arrives in the form of a lush meadow and spacious Vista Point. Grab a bench (or let the kids let loose their kite) and take in the panoramic views of “Mount Tamalpais to the north and Mt Hamilton to the East,” as the park brochure understandably brags, though haze can sometimes obscure the view.

From Vista Point, multiple trails present options to climb further west into the park, up toward Upper High Meadow, Quarry and Black Mountain trails respectively, and the home to the headwaters of Permanente Creek.
One can also take Upper High Meadow up for just a half mile and then duck down to Upper Wildcat Canyon. For this route, take Wildcat Loop Trail heading south, or left at the 5-way junction if you're standing with your back to the Vista Point. (Wildcat Loop also heads north here, toward Rogue Valley Trail.)

Wildcat Loop heads down mostly shaded track to the creek; go left at the T to say on Wildcat Loop Trail and follow it back to Deer Hollow Farm and on to the parking lot. On the way back keep an eye out for California quail, wild turkey, black-tailed deer and other animals that thrive on the variety of native flora preserved within Rancho San Antonio. As dogs are not permitted within the park limits—and cyclists only on paved roads up to Deer Hollow Farm—the trails are in excellent and tidy shape.

—Anna Ladas

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