It seems only appropriate that
the first "Trails" article should cover trails in a
park that many of the BAEN Message Board faithful meet at a few
weeks back for a Saturday picnic and trail ride -- the Ed R.
Levin County Park located in Santa Clara County in the hills
Come summer, resident grazing
cows take the grasses down to carpet velvet
and by summer's end the grasses turn the hills to golden brown.
Levin County Park was first
dedicated in 1969. It was named after County Supervisor Ed R.
Levin who led a campaign to buy the property from the State. It
had been purchased by the State of California with the hopes of
building a reservoir but after studies the land was determined
to be 'unsuitable' so the reservoir idea was abandoned. As time
went on various other pieces of property such as the Minnis
Ranch were added to the overall Park boundary bringing the total
acreage to over 1,500 acres. Today the closest thing to a
reservoir is the Sandy Wool Lake located in the northern portion
of the park off Downing Road (which is stocked regularily for
Spring Valley Trail Head at
the equestrian staging area offers picnic tables,
barbeques, and a sand arena.
Levin himself raised Hack Ponies
and the house just beyond the main park entrance Ranger Station
was once his home. A small track used to circle the Spring
Valley area but today is covered by the Spring Valley Pond and
other grass, picnic and building areas. The red barn located
over in the maintenance yard used to sit next to where the
equestrian arena and picnic area are now located and in fact,
the cement parking lot on the same side used to serve as parking
when a rent string ran out of the red barn and rental horses
used to trek around the park trails.
There's plenty of room for
rigs. A water trough is located a couple hundred feet
from the trailer parking.
Today there are no rental horses
but the equestrian arena, picnic and staging areas are ideal
locations for the first time rider who wants a first haul to an
easy park or the dedicated endurance rider looking for some
challenging trails to the top of the hills spread along the east
side of the Bay Area. The staging area has easy access and lots
of parking room plus the arena has a sand base which provides an
excellent area to turn horses into for a roll after a ride while
owners enjoy lunch at one of the picnic tables located along the
side of the arena.
A lot of the equestrian
facilities in the park were built and are maintained by local
horsemen and clubs such as the Ohlone Riders Unit of the
Backcountry Horsemen of California, Friends of Ed Levin Park and
Calaveras Trail Blazers. The newest trail in the park along Old
Calaveras Road was built about five years ago by horseowners
providing a vital link to an existing trail section and opened a
part of the Park which previously had been closed to trail
Ideally located, the picnic
area affords "eye contact" with towing rigs and horses
in the staging area from salad through desserts.
Trails in Levin range from wide
and flat, to steep and medium. From the staging area at Spring
Valley one can ride up to the Los Conches Ridge Trail where on a
clear day, one can see the skyscrapers in San Francisco. Or take
an easy route from Spring Valley along the Spring Valley Trail,
cross Calaveras to the Airpoint Trail, cross Downing and then up
the Calaveras Ridge Trail loop.
If one doesn't want to climb the
Calaveras Ridge Trail, follow the stream along Downing and head
over to Sandy Wool Lake. Meander along the trail around the lake
onto Tularcitos trail, through the private property of Chaparral
Ranch and along the frontage trail around Spring Valley Golf
Course. (The trail along the frontage road is dirt so one does
not have to ride on pavement.) Around the Golf Course one will
enter back into the Spring Valley Staging Area again along the
Airpoint Trail and along the edge of the Luguna Cemetery with
its graves dating back to 1860.
For those that want a full day of
riding and climbing, from Sandy Wool Lake one can take the Agua
Caliente Trail off Tularcitos. This trail climbs up switchbacks,
across ridges and higher elevations to its intersection with the
Calera Creek Trail. Here one can come back down into the main
Park or continue up Agua Calente to the Alameda/Santa Clara
County line and enter into East Bay Regional Parks.
In the spring, wild grasses
and flowers along trails
hide the trail treads.
During summer months the Park can
get hot. Especially in the equestrian area as the trees are
still growing! So early mornings or late evenings are the best
times to hit the trails. If riding over to Mission Peak through
East Bay Regional Parks, bring water. Plus remember sunscreen
and a breast collar and shoes for your trail partner. And in the
winter time or when the rains begin to fall, trails are often
closed to users (hikers and horsemen with a couple trails open
to mountain bikes) so always call ahead if it rains. Park
information can be obtained at the website www.parkhere.org.
map (pdf file).
Along the trails one may
encounter many types of wildlife. Even though there are 'beware
of rattlesnake' signs at the staging area, I've only seen one or
two and they wanted to get away from me as much as I wanted to
leave them alone! Hawks, quail, songbirds, birds of many species
and even eagles will soar over head. One may see fox, bobcat,
coyotes, opossum, herds of deer off in the grasses or dozing
under trees plus the occasional whisp of a skunk in some areas.
And a couple years ago, old momma cougar trotted along the hill
side above one trail returning to her den over on San Francisco
Water District Property.
In the late evening at certain
times of the year, tarantulas will be wandering down the trails
looking for a mate but like snakes, they are scared of you to.
So just ride on by or wait until they get off the trail and then
go on your way. And when back at the trailer, check for ticks
because they're always looking for a free ride and a healthy
To get to the trails of Levin
Park take the Calaveras Road exit off 680 or 880 in Milpitas.
Follow Calaveras Road east up into the foothills. The road is
paved but watch the speed limit. Milpitas police department is
often out there writing tickets for speeders.
Keep to the left on Calaveras
Road at the Downing Road intersection. Up Calaveras Road one
will see the main Ranger Station on the right. (There's a
dedicated right turn lane to use.) Go into the Park, pay fee of
$4 and then turn left. Follow park frontage road around to
equestrian arena. Unload, saddle up and then ride the many
trails of Ed R. Levin Park.....