Italian for “Beautiful Mountain,” Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is a place of rolling grasslands, dense creekside forests and spectacular vistas. The preserve encompasses the upper Stevens Creek watershed from Monte Bello Ridge to Skyline Ridge. The 3,436-acre preserve is one of Midpen's richest in wildlife and ecosystem diversity.
Monte Bello Preserve is surrounded by other open space preserves and parks, which makes trip options nearly limitless. Black Mountain offers visitors incredible views of Santa Clara Valley and over to Mt. Hamilton.
The spine of the Monte Bello Preserve trail system is a popular route among bicyclists. From here, several trails connect to the top of the ridges. This old road descends 400 feet from Page Mill Road through cool forests into the Stevens Creek Canyon.
This self-guided 3-mile loop takes about three hours at a leisurely pace. The first segment, beginning from the main parking area, can accommodate a wide array of physical abilities (although it is not officially designated an easy-access trail). This gently sloping segment of trail, which is at an average grade of 5%, takes visitors to a dramatic vista point and to a bench where visitors can sit and look down Stevens Creek Canyon to see Mt. Umunhum and Loma Prieta, the epicenter of the 1989 earthquake. The route then descends 450 feet into the headwaters of Stevens Creek, continues along the creek, and returns along the San Andreas Fault. Interpretive signs provide insights to the wonders around you. See more.
Preserve Highlights & Features
Black Mountain Backpack Camp
Midpen's only campsite provides visitors with a camping experience just one half-hour away by car from the cities below. The camp is a 1.5-mile hike from Page Mill Road, including a 500-foot uphill climb from the parking lot.
A permit is required and the fee is $2 per night per camper. Reservations are required.
Stories from the Preserves
Here are some of the plants and animals that other visitors have observed at this preserve and recorded in iNaturalist. Protected species may be excluded and some species may not yet have been observed. Help improve iNaturalist by adding your observations to the Midpen Biodiversity Index project
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Know Before You Go
Preserve regulations help provide a safe, enjoyable visit while protecting sensitive areas and wildlife.
Share the Trail
Use designated trails to avoid damage to natural resources and prevent injury.
Avoid blocking the trail. Step aside to allow others to pass .
Whether you’re walking or biking, always yield to equestrians.
Leave no trace. Pack out what you pack in. Most preserves do not have trash cans. Littering is prohibited.
Abuses of trail etiquette should be brought to the attention of a ranger or call the Midpen main office at 650-691-1200.
The following trails may be closed to bicycle and equestrian use during wet conditions.
- Skid Road Trail is OPEN to bicyclists and equestrians.
- Stevens Creek Nature Trail is OPEN to bicyclists and equestrians between Skid Road and Canyon Trail.
- White Oak Trail is OPEN to bicyclists and equestrians.
Main entrance (55 spaces): The preserve's main entrance is on Page Mill Road, 7 miles west of Highway 280 and 1.5 miles east of Skyline Boulevard. Lot parking is available for 45 cars, with 2 wheelchair accessible spaces. Additional parking is available at the Los Trancos Open Space Preserve parking area, located directly across Page Mill Road.
Water Wheel Creek Permit Parking Area (12 spaces): Parking at this location requires a permit. Applications should be submitted at least 2 weekdays prior to the requested visit date. Apply for a permit >
- Bicyclists: Bicycles are allowed on designated trails only (marked on map). Helmets are required. Observe the 15 mph trail speed limit (5 mph when passing). Avoid startling hikers and equestrians by announcing your presence when approaching from behind.For more information visit the Bicycle Access page.
- Equestrians: Horses are allowed on designated trails (marked on map). Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For more information visit the Equestrian Access page.
- Dogs: Dogs are not allowed in this Preserve. For information on dog-friendly preserves visit the Dog Access page. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Midpen accommodates service dogs in preserves wherever we allow public access.
- Fires are prohibited in preserves.
- Plants & Wildlife: Please leave undisturbed. If you encounter wildlife during a visit, do not approach, startle or feed it. Although wild animals are generally fearful of humans and will run away, some wildlife can be dangerous.
- Smoking is prohibited in preserves.
- Water Areas: Swimming, wading or engaging in any water-contact activity is prohibited.
- Weapons are prohibited in preserves.
A general access permit is required for any activity or event that:
- may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR
- would restrict the use of any part of Midpen lands by members of the public; OR
- requests or requires a fee be paid or a donation made for participation. This includes events where the fee is in the form of a mandatory purchase, such as a t-shirt.
A permit is required to park in the Water Wheel Creek Permit Parking Area (12 spaces): Applications should be submitted at least 2 weekdays prior to the requested visit date. Apply for a permit >
Midpen trails and facilities are generally very safe. However, you are entering an environment where there are some naturally occurring hazards. Reasonable caution and common sense should be utilized when venturing into any outdoor environment.
- Do not leave valuables in your vehicle! Lock your vehicle and store valuables out of sight or take them with you on the trail.
- Travel in groups of two or more. Two of more people can assist each other in the event of an accident or emergency.
- Dress for the environment. Temperature changes can be occur and you should dress in layers appropriate for the location, time of year and planned activities.
- Carry water with you. Drinking water is not available at most Midpen preserves so you should bring your own. Two quarts per person per two hour hike is recommended.
- Apply sunscreen and drink plenty of water prior to and during your outdoor activities.
- Be aware that cell service is very sporadic on the preserves.
Be Prepared and Aware
Plan ahead before you leave. Check regulations and weather, download a map, pack water and first aid.
Know your limits and take safety precautions.
Rattlesnakes are native to this area and are especially active in warm weather.
Poison oak grows on most preserves: Learn to identify and avoid it in all seasons.
Ticks are present in this area and may carry diseases.
Mountain lions are a natural part of this region’s environment and are occasionally seen.
In Case of Emergency
If you experience an emergency (fire, accident or other immediate threat to life or property), call 911. For nonemergencies, call 650-691-1200.
Activities & Events
Monte Bello Ridge and Black Mountain provide the scenic backdrop to the communities of Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Cupertino. Settlers to this area named one of their towns Mountain View because they had a view of Black Mountain. From the top of Black Mountain, visitors have an incredible view of Santa Clara Valley and the Mt. Hamilton Range. On clear days, visitors can see beautiful sunsets from the Black Mountain backpack camp, or watch the fog roll in from the coast. As the fog breaks like a giant wave over the peninsula, one can see why it is often referred to as “waterfog.”
Dairy ranching was prevalent in this area and Monte Bello Ridge was once dotted with cattle. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, this area was the site of several ranches: the Black Mountain Ranch, the Stevens Creek Road Ranch and the Monte Bello Ranch. The Waterwheel Creek Trail follows an old ranch road, where remnants of orchards and vineyards can be seen.