Scouting St. Joseph's Hill OSP: 3.1-Mile Hike for Dog Lovers

3.1-mile  partial loop, with an elevation change of 650 feet, on a hill overlooking Los Gatos and Lexington Reservoir.

Meeting place:  
Lexington Reservoir at Jones Road

Hiking time: 3 hours.

Parking Fee: $6 

Getting there:  From Interstate 280 in Santa Clara County, exit CA 17 south (exit 5b). Drive south about 10 miles, then exit Bear Creek/Alma Bridge Road. At the stop sign, turn right, cross over 17, then turn left and return to 17, heading north. Stay in the right lane and exit onto Alma Bridge Road. Drive over the dam and park in the paved lot on the right side of the road.

GPS Coordinates* for Trailhead:

Latitude = 37°12'0.51"N

Longitude = 121°59'13.21"W

After-hike restaurant: the outdoor seating of Willow Street Pizza on Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Los Gatos has dog friendly outdoor seating.

Exposure: Almost completely exposed. 

Trail traffic: Moderate. 

Trail surfaces: Dirt fire roads.

Season: Nice any time.

Gas, food, and lodging:
Gas, stores, and restaurants in Los Gatos, a few miles north. Pay phone in parking lot. No camping.

All but one trail are multi-use. Dogs are permitted on leash only.

The Official Story:
MROSD's St. Joseph's page.
SCCP's Lexington Reservoir page
MROSD field office:[masked]-1200.
Lexington Reservoir Park:[masked] 

Map Choices:
• Use AAA's San Francisco Bay Region map to get there.
• Map from MROSD (download pdf)
• Map from SCCP (download pdf) 
•  Peninsula Tales and Trails, by David Weintraub (order this book from has an overview of the preserve, descriptions of hikes, and simple maps. 
• Afoot and Afield: San Francisco Bay Area, by David Weintraub (order this book from has a great map and descriptions of a St. Joseph's hike. 
• South Bay Trails, by Jean Rusmore, Betsy Crowder, and Frances Spangle (order this book from has a simple map and trail descriptions. 
• Tom Taber's The Santa Cruz Mountains Trail Book has a simple map and preserve description (order this book from

 St. Joseph's in a nutshell -- a printable, text-only guide to the featured hike.

• View 43 photos from the featured hike.

A preserve that blends Santa Clara valley views with remnants from a Jesuit sanctuary and a pistol firing range, St. Joseph's Hill Open Space Preserve is popular with local dogwalkers, runners, and cyclists.  Los Gatos is nestled just north of the preserve, and you can hike into St. Joseph's from that town's Novitiate Park. Lexington Reservoir, a popular fishing spot, sits to the south: the reservoir and southwestern portion of St. Joseph's is managed by Santa Clara County. St. Joseph's western border is CA 17, and traffic noise (especially trucks downshifting for the grade) is a companion on some trails. Directly east (through Lexington County Park) is MROSD's huge and rugged Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, dominated by 3,486 foot Mount Umunhum. 
     St. Joseph's is small, but features a few short steep trails, and a couple options for loops. All hikes starting at Lexington Reservoir climb on Jones Trail, but once in MROSD territory you can choose 3 loops all around 3 miles. Whatever trails you choose, be sure to wear sturdy footwear, because the trails are rocky.
     For the featured hike, start at Lexington Reservoir, begin walking uphill on Jones Trail, marked by a SJ03 gate. This old, crumbly once-paved road, open to hikers, cyclists, and equestrians, shoots straight uphill, lined with eucalyptus, broom, and sagebrush. The steepest bit is over after 0.15 mile, and the grade tapers off (as well as the pavement) near a MROSD information signboard, where you can check your progress on a map. 


0.0: Start at the Lexington Reservoir parking lot. Cross Alma Bridge Road and begin walking uphill on Jones Trail, marked by gate SJ03.

0.5: Jones Trail meets Novitiate Trail at a signed junction. Turn right onto Novitiate Trail.

0.7: Junction. Turn right onto Manzanita Trail.

1.1: Junction. Continue straight.

1.3: Signed junction with Range Trail. Bear right to stay on Manzanita Trail.

1.5: A shortcut trail departs to the left. Continue to the right on Manzanita Trail.

2.1: An unsigned path heads uphill to the left. Continue straight.

 2.3: Multiple junction. Continue straight.

 2.4: Previously encountered junction with Manzanita Trail. Continue straight, and retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

3.1: Back at the trailhead

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