Are you looking for a beautiful mountain trail to challenge yourself and your adventurous doggie friend? In fact, many regional open space preserves including Rancho San Antonio do not allow dogs even on leash, but St. Joseph’s Hill Preserve allows leashed dogs on all trails, and presents breathtaking views at the top of Lexington Reservoir after a steep uphill climb that would definitely satisfy active dogs and provide a rigorous workout for all. Located only one mile from Los Gatos downtown, St. Joseph’s Hill offers 4.2 miles of trails spanning 273-acres of open space. It is one of the 26 preserves managed by Midpeninsula Regional Open Space (Midpen), among them only 6 preserves allow dogs on all trails.
I recently hiked there with two friends and a dog. We enjoyed a beautiful hike, then a delicious brunch at Los Gatos downtown.
Parking & Access
The preserve’s website recommends visitors to park at Lexington Reservoir Parking Area (33 spaces + 1 ADA lot) with a daily fee of $6. The Jones Trailhead is located across Alma Bridge Rd.. If you prefer free parking, you may access the trailhead from Los Gatos downtown. The map shows that you can either park along Jones Rd. then take the entrance to Jones Creek Trail, or park around Main Street, and enter the Lexington Dam Loop trailhead to take Flume Trail, then connect to Jones Trail after about 1 mile.
Trailhead near the Lexington Reservoir Parking
Trailhead near Los Gatos Jones Rd.
Trailhead near Los Gatos Main Street
Trail Condition & Regulations
At the Jones Trail entrance, all regulations are posted, with a big sign to remind bicyclists to wear helmets. Mountain biking and horseback riding are allowed on designated trails. The trail is very steep at first 0.15 miles on Jones Trail, then leveled off after we reached the top and turned to Novitiate Trail. The pathway is wide, and mostly with dirt or rocks, except for the paved steep climb at the beginning. The Bay Area Hiker website post a very comprehensive article about St. Joseph’s Hill trail conditions and route directions. We hiked there during a weekday, so we encountered very few people along the way. We did see several mountain bicyclists passing by. Also we spotted deer hidden in the grass. Be sure to hold your dog with a leash 6 ft long or less to avoid disturbing wildlife. Please review their guidelines about dogs before you go.
After the hike, I came across an interesting blog about the Newt Passage Project on their website “Newt Passage Project Reach Major Milestone”.
“Why did the newt cross the road? To get to its winter breeding grounds. During the rainy season, California newts (Taricha torosa), along with other semi-aquatic species, journey from their dry season habitats in the woodlands and chaparral of Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve down to the Lexington Reservoir and creeks near the Town of Los Gatos. For the population of California newts in this location the journey can be difficult, and many newts perish trying to cross Alma Bridge Road. Midpen and our partners are working on solutions to help the newts in the Lexington Reservoir area avoid being struck by vehicles during their annual migration.”
On January 29th, a virtual meeting will be held to seek input on proposed road modifications on Alma Bridge Road to help newts cross the road. This is one of many conservation and restoration projects that Midpen is working on. If you are interested in getting involved, check out their current projects for details. They also organize public events for guided hikes, land maintenance or restoration volunteering, and community meetings.
Hope you will enjoy your hike at St Joseph’s Hill. If you have time, treat yourself to one of those local cafes at Los Gatos downtown, where outdoor seatings are provided for you and your dog. Let us know how you like the experience!