PG&E and Quarry Trails at Rancho San Antonio

A challenging 12-mile hike up to the high country of Rancho San Antonio climbs almost 2500 feet and offers astounding views of Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area.

11.7 miles; 2450 ft climbing; strenuous
PG&E Trail —> Quarry Trail —> Upper High Meadow —> Upper Wildcat Canyon —> Wildcat Loop Trail —> PG&E Trail

Starting at the main parking lot near the restrooms, take Rancho San Antonio Service Road to Permanente Trail and the PG&E Trailhead.

The generous width and smoothness of the PG&E Trail doesn’t make it any easier to climb. Ducking into shaded drainages and wrapping out around sunny chaparral-crusted mountain ridges, the trail elevation rises and falls with a cadence that makes for excellent exercise. Stunning views of Silicon Valley abound, shifting perspective slightly as the trail climbs its way to Vista Point. The power lines buzzing above and the towers that hold them aloft clearly mark the trail. They mar the landscape less than they contextualize it, helping to make sense of the tangled beauty of the trail rising above the uniformly constructed valley below.

The challenging hike lessens the crowds a bit. Take in the wealth of languages while navigating the fast and slow lanes of head-down, hill-climbing joggers, families trailing a long line up the hill, meandering wanders and purposeful trekkers. The company lessens with the climb.

The upper portion of the trail traces the southern boundary of the park and provides a good overview of the entire open space. Keep an eye out for monkeyflower and buckeye among the oaks and coyote brush.

At Vista Point, turn left onto the Quarry Trail*. Climbing 800 feet in just 1.1 mile, this track ascends from Vista Point to Black Mountain Trail, switchbacking out of the trees to reach a chamise-covered ridge (a particular kind of chaparral known as chamissal) and beautiful views. When the chamise blooms in the spring the trail is a tunnel of sun-brighted white flowers. Butterflies and bees will abound. As the trail climbs the views expand, with folding green mountainsides falling away in stages to the cityscape below. Towards the top of the climb the namesake rock quarry is visible, reminding us of where, exactly, we source all those landscaping rocks.

The climb is steady but, towards the end, is rewarded with consistently stunning views and the satisfaction of a significant climb. Watch for soaring birds and, if the season is right, those sturdily drifting butterflies. At the junction with Black Mountain Trail, turn around and retrace your steps (unless you're pressing on up toward Black Mountain Camp or making a truly heroic journey around the park's perimeter).

Back down at the Vista Point, take Upper High Meadow Trail. Running the sun-drenched ridge from Vista Point to the Wildcat Canyon Trail, Upper High Meadow offers a surreal view of mystical, shire-like beauty winding down towards Silicon Valley’s sprawling urban mass below. Alternating though chamissal and grassy, flower-strewn knolls, this trail is best experienced when hiking downhill, because the best view is off the trail itself. The mellow grade and meandering nature of this trail is inherently relaxing, if its sun-exposed position is a bit taxing on warmer days. If you’re in the mood for a longer trek to gain some perspective on the city below, this is an excellent place to go.

At the next junction, some 1.3 miles later, take a hairpin right onto Upper Wildcat Canyon Trail and drop into the valley between the neighboring sun-exposed ridges. Views are slowly obscured by elevation loss and vegetation gain as chaparral shifts to California bays, maples and madrones, arcing a canopy over the narrowing trail. As the trail descends, it offers a lovely overview of the stream below.
Ferns line the cool valley floor, a welcome respite on a warm day. Wetlands created by the meandering creek keep the air humid and the sounds, softened by the moss-draped branches, soothing. Be sure to look for deer along this trail.

Follow Upper Wildcat Canyon Trail 1.6 miles to the junction with PG&E Trail and retrace your steps to the parking lot.

* You can save 2.2 miles and a considerable climb by skipping Quarry Trail and taking Upper High Meadow at the end of PG&E Trail.

—Words and photos by L. Clark Tate
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