Home > Hike, Peninsula and South Bay, Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) > Rancho San Antonio Trails to Black Mountain Peak

Rancho San Antonio Trails to Black Mountain Peak

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

Black Mountain Trail -- by Jen English

This challenging hike uses the Rhus Ridge and Black Mountain trails in Rancho San Antonio to reach the 2810-foot peak of Black Mountain just across the border in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. The route from Foothill College also provides a small sampling of the extensive Los Altos Hills town path system.

Places visited: Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, Monte Bello Open Space Preserve (small portion), Los Altos Hills paths
Approximate Length: 11.75 miles (see notes for shorter option)
Hiking Time: 5-6 hours
Map: Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, Foothill College campus map
Terrain: Steep and very steep trails in Rancho San Antonio; flat paved streets and paths to and from the trailhead
Transit Schedule: VTA Route 40
Start and end point: VTA Route 40, Foothill College stop

Getting to the start point:

  • From San Francisco, take Caltrain south to the San Antonio stop. Walk out to the street in front of the Caltrain, which is Showers Drive. Cross at the crosswalk (Pacchetti/Showers) and turn left on Showers. Stay on Showers as it veers right. Cross California and continue on Showers to the VTA bus stop (make sure you are at the one marked with line 40) on your right. (The walk from Caltrain to the VTA stop takes approximately 10 minutes.) Take VTA route 40 to Foothill College, getting off at the first stop (Campus Center) after the bus enters the campus.
  • From the Peninsula, take Caltrain to the San Antonio stop. Walk out to the street in front of the Caltrain, which is Showers Drive. Cross at the crosswalk (Pacchetti/Showers) and turn left on Showers. Stay on Showers as it veers right. Cross California and continue on Showers to the VTA bus stop (make sure you are at the one marked with line 40) on your right. (The walk from Caltrain to the VTA stop takes approximately 10 minutes.) Take VTA route 40 to Foothill College, getting off at the first stop (Campus Center) after the bus enters the campus. Mountain View and Los Altos residents should check the map to see if they can pick up VTA Route 40 elsewhere along its route.
  • From the East Bay, Take BART to its final stop in Millbrae. Walk to the southbound Caltrain platform, and take Caltrain to San Antonio station. Walk out to the street in front of the Caltrain, which is Showers Drive. Cross at the crosswalk (Pacchetti/Showers) and turn left on Showers. Stay on Showers as it veers right. Cross California and continue on Showers to the VTA bus stop (make sure you are at the one marked with line 40) on your right. (The walk from Caltrain to the VTA stop takes approximately 10 minutes.) Take VTA route 40 to Foothill College, getting off at the first stop (Campus Center) after the bus enters the campus.
  • From the North Bay, take Golden Gate Transit Route 70/80 or 10 to San Francisco. Get off at Howard and Fourth Street, and walk south on Fourth Street to the Caltrain station at Fourth and King streets. (Note that on the way back you will pick up the Golden Gate Transit bus on Folsom rather than Howard. Take Caltrain south to the San Antonio stop. Walk out to the street in front of the Caltrain, which is Showers Drive. Cross at the crosswalk (Pacchetti/Showers) and turn left on Showers. Stay on Showers as it veers right. Cross California and continue on Showers to the VTA bus stop (make sure you are at the one marked with line 40) on your right. (The walk from Caltrain to the VTA stop takes approximately 10 minutes.) Take VTA route 40 to Foothill College, getting off at the first stop (Campus Center) after the bus enters the campus.

Notes:

  • This is a strenuous hike, with especially steep sections near the top of the peak. Bring plenty of water, even in cool weather. If you have not been hiking in some time, you may want to work up to the full hike gradually by going part of the way up and coming back down again. You will still get plenty of exercise and enjoy good views along the way!
  • Please note that this trip as described can be done on weekdays and Saturdays, but not on Sundays. On Sundays, the VTA route does not run all of the way up to Foothill College. Although you could find an interesting route from bus route’s Sunday endpoint (San Antonio and Lyell) using more of the Los Alto Hills paths, it would add more distance and elevation to an already challenging hike. Therefore, I have not included an option from the Sunday endpoint for this particular hike. I will include a link here to any future hikes posted here that describe the route from the Sunday endpoint. On Saturdays, the last bus leaves Foothill College at 6:23 pm. Weeknights the last bus leaves at 10 p.m., making this is a potential evening hike during daylight savings time.
  • This hike’s starting point is most easily reached from the Peninsula/South Bay and San Francisco. It is a long transit ride requiring three modes of transportation for East Bay and North Bay residents. If you are interested in visiting the Bay Area’s highest peaks, it’s definitely worth the trip!
  • If you are not familiar with Foothill College, I recommend printing and bringing along the campus map. Note on the map that Foothill has three bus stops. Although you can get on and off at any of these stops for this hike, I recommend exiting at the first campus stop (campus center) at the beginning of the hike. There should be plenty of students getting off at this stop, but you can always ask the bus driver if you are uncertain. This gives you a chance to visit the restrooms (none at the trailhead), apply sunscreen, etc. On the way back from the hike, you can wait at the third of the three bus stops (at the edge of campus in Lot 8), which is a shorter walk.
  • You will notice some additional paths on your route back to Foothill College. Feel free to explore these paths if you have the energy, or you could make a separate trip to wander and explore the Los Altos Hills paths. The path map is not available online, but you can pick up a printed copy at Los Altos Hills town hall.  The entrance to a Los Altos Hills path is generally indicated with a wooden post engraved with “PATH”.  Avoid wandering down other unmarked paths as they will very likely take you onto private property.
  • Pack a lunch for this hike. Food vendors at Foothill College are closed on the weekend. Near the VTA bus stop at Showers and California there are plenty of options for food before or after your hike: Trader Joe’s, Safeway, the Milk Pail Market, Whole Foods Market (all of these indicated on the Google Maps map of the area) and several takeout chain restaurants. If you are connecting with Caltrain on the way back, you can eat your food on the train.

Directions:

  • From the VTA bus stop, walk up the stairs and across the bridge onto the Foothill College campus.
  • Continue straight to the center of campus, where there is a small plaza.
  • Make a left here and work your way through the 6000 and 8000 buildings, descending stairways along the way until you reach the parking lot below.
  • Veer right and either walk through the parking area or (safer) the path along the far edge of the parking lots. Note along here that you pass the Foothill bus stop where you will pick up the bus at the end of the hike.
  • At the edge of the campus you will be at the three way El Monte/Moody/Elena intersection. Your route continues on the left-most of the three roads. Carefully cross the street at the crosswalk, and turn left to walk along the right side of the road on the dirt path.
  • Shortly, at the point where El Monte Road makes a sharp curve to the left, look on your right for a post with a “path” marker. You will be making a right turn here to get on the path; do not take the unmarked paved road that is straight ahead of you.
  • Take the path along the road here for a short distance.
  • When the path ends, turn right at Adobe Lane.
  • At the T intersection, turn left at Tepa Way.
  • Continue straight past Willowpond Lane.
  • Make the next right at Summitwood Road.
  • At the sharp turn in the road, make a right at the unmarked, paved fire lane.
  • Very shortly the fire lane ends and you continue on Bassett Lane.
  • At the T intersection, turn right on Rhus Ridge Road.
  • Follow Rhus Ridge a short distance as it curves right and then makes a sharp curve to the left. Traffic is light here, but stay to the side of the road and watch for cars.
  • Turn left into the small parking area marked with a sign for Rancho San Antonio.
  • At the end of the parking area, start up the dirt trail, past a park residence.
  • Climb the trail past a view spot (where you may wish to stop before continuing on).
  • At the signed trail intersection, turn right towards Black Mountain.
  • Continue straight past the first of two trails that go to Hidden Villa (an environmental education center).
  • Shortly pass the second of the two trails to Hidden Villa.
  • Continue up along a pleasant section of switchbacks.
  • Continue straight past the sign indicating 1.5 miles to Black Mountain. Here is where the trail starts to get steep, so take your time and be prepared for a challenging climb.
  • Near the top you reach a gate where you step over the logs and continue a very short distance to a T junction.
  • Turn right towards Montebello Road.
  • Pass communications facilities on your right, and in a short distance you reach the peak and your turn-around point of Montebello Road.
  • Due to the communications facilities at the top of Black Mountain, this unfortunately isn’t the best place to stop for a break. You can wander a short distance down the Montebello fire road to find a good spot to sit (watch for mountain bikes), or you could go back to the log step-over to sit and have a snack before descending.
  • When you are ready, continue back down the way you came, watching your footing in the steep sections and enjoying the views along the way.
  • Pass the two Hidden Villa trail junctions on your left.
  • At the trail intersection, take the Rhus Ridge Trail and make your way back down. The viewpoint makes another good point for a break on the way down.
  • Walk through the parking lot and turn left onto Rhus Ridge Road (opposite of the way you came in). Keep an eye out for cars. Along here you pass a Los Altos Hills path, which you can explore if you have time (then return to Rhus Ridge).
  • Turn right at Moody Road, and walk along the path on the right side of the road.
  • Continue straight past a Los Altos Hills path on your left (cross carefully if you want visit it) and Tepa Way on your right.
  • At the three way intersection of El Monte/Moody/Elena, cross straight at the crosswalk and on to the Foothill campus.
  • Walk through the parking lot to the bus stop. Congratulations, you made it!
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  1. christian
    November 13, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    You might be able to make a quicker journey from SF on a weekday via one of the “Baby Bullet” trains and VTA route 52 http://www.vta.org/schedules/SC_52.html from the Mountain View Caltrain station. I don’t think the faster trains stop at San Antonio.

    How is the poison oak in fall/winter vs. summer?

  2. November 14, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Impressive hike Jen. Do you have photographs of views from the peak?

  3. November 16, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Christian – That is a good idea! I have not actually had a chance yet to ride one of the baby bullets. I had hoped Caltrain would eventually have some of the high-speed trains on the weekend as well, but it does not look like it at this point. The middle part of this hike has poison oak potential in the winter/spring, but the trail is pretty wide in most places – so probably not likely to brush up against any easily along the route.

    Georgia – I do have some other views from this hike. I hope to get some more photos from each of the hikes uploaded to Flickr in the next month or so. I’ll post when that happens!

  4. November 18, 2009 at 11:27 am

    does this not go through the Rancho San Antonio parking lot off of Grant Road? Is there a different one? Very exciting to think that there is more than one way to get to all those beautiful trails.

    • November 20, 2009 at 10:11 am

      This trailhead is on Rhus Ridge Road, which is off of Moody Road in the Los Altos Hills. There is a parking area here, but it is not indicated on the official Rancho San Antonio map — probably because it only appears to have space for several cars. This side of the park is much quieter than the main entrance on Cristo Rey, but you can access the rest of the park’s trail system from this side via the Chamise Trail!

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