Serving as a scenic backdrop to the town of Los Gatos, St. Joseph's Hill Open Space Preserve protects 273-acres of open space land on top of the 1,250-foot hill from which it takes its name. Providing a quick escape from nearby urban areas of the southern peninsula, the historic property begins about a mile from Los Gatos's popular downtown business district. Entered from the north through Los Gatos's Novitiate Park or from the south through Santa Clara County Parks' Lexington Reservoir County Park, the preserve is open for hiking and dog walking, as well as biking and horseback riding on designated trails.
Steep trails wind through grassland, chaparral and oak woodland habitats and offer panoramic views of Santa Clara Valley, Lexington Reservoir and Sierra Azul Preserve. The land still reveals some of its former uses. In 1888, Jesuits founded a school - called a novitiate - and a winery on the hill (observant visitors may notice remnants of abandoned vineyards on the upper slopes). Much of Jones Trail follows the historic alignment of Jones Road, the stage coach route that connected Los Gatos to the small towns of Lexington and Alma, which now lie at the bottom of the Lexington Reservoir.
Midpen and the town of Los Gatos jointly purchased St. Joseph’s Hill Preserve in 1982.
The Jones Trail connects St. Joseph’s Hill Preserve to Novitiate Park on one end, and to Santa Clara County's Lexington Reservoir County Park on the other. This 2.2-mile trail also connects the preserve to the town of Los Gatos, through trail connections with the Flume Trail and the Los Gatos Trail.
A portion of the Jones Trail follows the historic alignment of Jones Road, which was used in the last century by stagecoaches and pack teams.
This 1.5-mile long trail will take you to the summit of St. Joseph's Hill, where you can sit on a bench and take in views of the Lexington Reservoir. To reach this trail, take the Jones Trail from one of the parking areas to the Novitiate Trail. From there, continue on the Novitiate Trail for 0.5 miles until you reach the Manzanita Trail.
This trail features outcroppings of serpentine rock, which lend a greenish color to the sides of the trail at certain points.
Preserve Highlights & Features
The steep climb to the top of St. Joseph's Hill is rewarded with panoramic views of Santa Clara Valley, Lexington Reservoir and El Sereno and Sierra Azul Preserves.
St. Joseph's Hill Preserve provides a quick (and popular) escape for residents of the nearby urban areas of the southern peninsula. Starting from the Town of Los Gatos's popular downtown business district, the Flume and Los Gatos Creek Trails serve as the northern-most entrance to this varying landscape of grassland, chaparral and oak woodland habitat. The preserve is open for hiking and dog walking, as well as biking and horseback riding on designated trails.
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.
- 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.
- Dogs: Dogs are allowed only on designated trails in this preserve (marked on map) and must be controlled on a 6-foot or less leash. Self-retracting leashes are allowed with a maximum extended length of 25 feet. Visitors may have no more than three dogs per person. Bag dog waste and take it with you. Midpen accommodates service dogs in preserves wherever we allow public access. For more information visit the Dog 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.
- 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.
- Drones and Model Aircraft: Drones, model airplanes and model rockets are NOT allowed.
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.
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
The Preserve and surrounding Los Gatos Creek area are rich in history, and home to a colorful cast, including native Ohlone people, California Mission founders, the Jesuits, and early settlers such as "Mountain Charley" McKiernan. The Preserve consists of 170-acres purchased jointly by the District and the Town of Los Gatos in 1982.