Picchetti Ranch Open Space Preserve: Cupertino’s Silicon Valley Oasis
By Kathy Chin Leong
A seasonal reflection pond. Peacocks. Waterfalls. Not the stuff you think of when picturing Cupertino, the epicenter of Silicon Valley and the birthplace of the Apple iPod. But its only here in Cupertino that you’ll find Pichetti Ranch, a 308-acre unspoiled forest, rife with natural surprises.
Lush with ferns, violet potato vines, bleeding heart flowers and irises, Picchetti Ranch (prounced pick-etti) under the auspices of the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, represents a low-tech oasis perched majestically on a hill off of Montebello Road near Stevens Creek Canyon.
There are many photo opportunites here, such as a waterfall off of the Bear Meadow Trail, wildflowers on the Zinfandel Trail, and views of the Stevens Creek Reservoir observed form the Orchard Loop. Visitors are advised to bring both water and cameras.
You cannot miss the wooden sign on the left side of the road, for it shares the turnoff with the fully operational Pichetti Winery, a handsome brick complex listed on the National Register of Historic places. The hiking trails start adjacent to the winery, giving visitors a strong motivation to return to the site and picnic there after a good walk. More natural resources abound as a rushing creek flows next to the grove of picnic tables on the winery premises. Peacocks greet hikers with their caws and wide spanning plumage. At the winery, tasting fees for five wines cost only $5.
Pancake flat in some areas, and somewhat hilly in others, the hikes are relatively mild with pockets of shade created by towering manzanitas and other foliage. The three trails, Bear Mountain, Orchard Loop, and Zinfandel, are all less than 1.2 miles in one direction.
With so much bushy greenery, at a distance, the park resembles broccoli heads clustered in mounds. Hikes such as the Bear Meadow Trail feature short rushing waterfalls, wildflowers in hues of yellow and purple, and a few sheer drops. While these paths are easy to tackle, the trekker must be observant. In the fall, oaks produce their acorns and many a scrub jay and stellar jay will come and pluck the acorns for food.
As far as rules go, only hikers are allowed. No dogs or bicycles, warn the posted signs. The place opens at sunrise and closes half an hour after sunset. Trail maps, water fountain, telephones, and restrooms are available at the entrance.
And since you are in the wild, beware of rattlesnakes and mountain lions as well as poison oak throughout the park. When approaching a snake, give it room to retreat as much as possible and back away, says Kristi Altieri, public affaris specialist at MROSD. "Don’t step over it, but observe what it is doing," says Altieri. "Wait until it moves away."
When it comes to mountain lions, your best offensive plan is to talk loudly and make plenty of noise during your hike. Altieri warns, "Don’t run or it will trigger its chase instinct. Make yourself as large as possible and without bending over and keep children on shoulder. Wave your hands above your head.They are scared of us as much as we are of them.
WHEN YOU GO, BE SURE TO NOTE:
Directions: From San Jose, take 280N to Foothill Expressway and turn left towards the mountains. It eventually becomes Stevens Canyon Road. Turn right on Montebello Road and drive for 6/10ths of a mile. Turn left at Picchetti Ranch/Picchetti Winery, 13100; 408/741-1310 (winery) or 650/691-1200 (Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District) See www.openspace.org.
Trails: Zinfindel Trail – 1.1 mi.; Orchard Loop .4 mi.; Bear Meadow .9 mi.
Level of difficulty: Easy to moderate
Shade rating (from 1 to 5 being most shady) : 4
Terrain: Ferns, flowers, dense trees, running creeks, medium to narrow-width dirt trails. Steepest at the end of the Zinfandel Trail near the Steven Creek County Park region.
Special features: Pichetti Winery open to the public for $5 tastings on the premises, picturesque reflection pond with ducks, views of Stevens Creek Reservoir, free parking.
Kathy Chin Leong recently hiked here and has already found it one of her favorites!