“Spectacular views of Silicon Valley to the Pacific Ocean with a fun descent through a wooded canyon.
— Bob Gardner
Most of the climbing up Monte Bello "Beautiful Mountain" is on a narrow paved road, with light traffic, that transitions to a fire road for the last couple miles of the 7-mile climb to Black Mountain. After taking in the 360-degree ridge-top views, it's mostly downhill through Stevens Creek Canyon over narrow doubletrack devolving to singletrack before connecting to another paved road to complete the loop.
Posted 15 mph speed limits are strictly enforced and rangers are known to use radar guns.
Need to Know
There is no parking available on Montebello Road and only in designated areas on Stevens Canyon Road.
The Ridge Vineyards is open weekends with picnic tables and wine tasting.
This ride crosses Stevens Creek on the Canyon Trail
which should be avoided after heavy rains. A wet-weather option is an out-and-back ride to Black Mountain.
The ride starts at the Lakeshore Picnic Area of Stevens Creek County Park near the junction with Montebello Road. Montebello Road is a narrow paved road that starts climbing immediately as it winds its way up the ridge through a shaded canyon. A couple miles up just past Monte Bello School, the climb eases a bit and views open up over Silicon Valley. Don't be surprised to hear what sounds like a mini-war going on. There's a shooting range near the rock quarry directly below. The road narrows to one lane eventually breaking out of the trees into chaparral and vineyards with more views out over the South Bay.
Just past the Ridge Vineyards is the trailhead for Waterwheel Creek Trail
on the left. This old ranch road follows the contours of the ridge through old orchards and vineyards then reconnects with the dirt section of Monte Bello Road
farther up. Use this as an alternate route when the trails are dry.
A mile past the Ridge Vineyards the paved road ends at a gate where you enter Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. The fire road starts as broken pavement up to a microwave installation turning into a smooth dirt road for the last couple miles to the top of 2,800-ft Black Mountain, another communication tower site. Enjoy the top-of-the-world views to the east over Santa Clara Valley to Mount Hamilton, south to Mt. Umunhum, and southwest down into Stevens Creek Canyon with Long Ridge and glimpses of the Pacific Ocean beyond.
Continue on Monte Bello Road
a short distance turning left at the first junction on Indian Creek Trail
which is a smooth fire road that drops steeply into Stevens Creek to connect with the Canyon Trail
Another slightly longer ride option is to take the first right off of Indian Creek to Old Ranch Trail which runs parallel to Monte Bello Road
then left on Bella Vista Trail down to the Canyon Trail
Head down the Canyon Trail
which starts as smooth doubletrack winding and rolling through the trees along Stevens Creek. The trail gets narrower and rougher as it progresses until the second trail junction with the Table Mountain Trail
where it becomes singletrack for the last 1-1/2 miles. Just past this junction the trail crosses the creek then continues on the opposite bank to the junction with paved Stevens Canyon Road. Light traffic and mostly downhill, it's a fast ride back to the start.
History & Background
Riding down Stevens Creek on the Canyon Trail
, you are directly atop the San Andreas Fault which caused the Great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and the devastating Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989. The epicenter of the Loma Prieta Earthquake was just 20 miles away in the hills above Santa Cruz.