Black Mountain from Rhus Ridge

I was in the mood for a climb, this out and back hike is just shy of 8 miles and climbs to the peak of Black Mountain from the bottom of the foothills, ascending 2,100 feet. Expansive views over the green ridges of the preserve and Silicon Valley below reward the climb.

Rancho San Antonio is a very popular park and the main entrance has multiple parking lots, but there’s a smaller “back” entrance at Rhus Ridge Trailhead, a smallish parking lot that also filled up quickly on the weekend I went.

Nestled at the base of the hills the trail follows a dirt road, immediately climbing quite steeply. The steepness, though, rewards with views over Silicon Valley. At first, the dish, perched on top of the Stanford foothills, is visible in the distance, and the vista continues to widen to present the peninsula from Palo Alto to Mountain View.

As Rhus Ridge Trail tops out at the top of, well, what I assume is Rhus Ridge, the views behind vanish and the park opens up in front, the rolling green ridges and valleys, Black Mountain shrouded in mist in the distance, as the clouds start to open up to blue skies overhead. From here Black Mountain Trail continues the climb.

Black Mountain Trail is a single track trail that gently slopes, contouring the ridges, switchbacking up and up. Views open up across the park and over towards Cupertino. I’ve never actually seen Apple’s spaceship campus, and at first I couldn’t figure out what the giant circle next to highway 280 was.

Switchbacks along Black Mountain Trail climbing up the ridge.

Black Mountain Trail meanders through wooded oak, eventually opening out to the gentle humming of a power transmission tower, and turns into a dirt track, presumably built to service the power lines (a short way up the trail branches to a the recently renamed to Stephen E. Abbors Trail, previously called the PG&E Trail).

The track climbs the final span to the edge of the preserve, just short of Black Mountain, more steeply now. Both times I’ve been to Black Mountain from Rancho San Antonio the peak disappears into the mist, the heat from the sun replaced by a cold wet wind blowing over the ridgeline. It’s not always so, I visited from the Monte Bello side under blue skies.

Rancho San Antonio ends at a radio tower installation, and shortly past is the flat peak of Black Mountain in Monte Bello Open Space Preserve. I walked up to the summit, but the wind was blowing, my hair was wet, and nothing was visible through the thick mist. I didn’t linger long before turning around and retracing my steps. Before long the mist is gone again and the clouds have parted to the blue skies of California.