Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve is a rugged and steep park on the edge of Santa Cruz mountains. The trail system is mostly old fire roads which were not designed for hikers and are persistently steep, but partly it comes with the terrain.
The trail system is actually pretty extensive, especially now that the trail to Mount Umunhum has opened, but you have to be a glutton for hill climbing to do any very long hikes.
Kennedy Trail starts at the base of the mountains near Los Gatos and follows a fire road as it climbs up to reach Mount El Sombroso. It’s mostly surrounded by people height brush, but due to its steep dry slopes there aren’t many tall trees so views over the valley open up.
The lack of overgrowth also means limited shade, and in the summer the trail is hot. So hot that, along with the usual mountain lions, ticks, and rattlesnakes, the trail signage has warnings about signs of dog dehydration for dog walkers.
The trail is popular with dog walkers, mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers alike, and is despite its heat and steep slopes, or maybe because of those steep slopes, on a weekend you’ll likely to see all of the above.
When I arrived at the trail junction, my turn around point for a total hike of just under 8 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation change, I was greeted with the fog rolling in from the Pacific and burning off as it hugged the crest of the Santa Cruz mountains. I guess that’s why this end of range is so hot and dry and the other side of the range is lush redwood groves.