Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve
Located three miles south of Los Gatos, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve has six miles of hiking and equestrian trails that meander along cool perennial creeks and through 1,430 acres of a second-growth redwood forest, extensive areas of Douglas fir and oak woodland. Higher elevations offer expansive views of the Sierra Azul Range. Near the parking lot is a short easy-access, self-guided interpretive trail that circumnavigates Upper Lake. The preserve's beautiful and biologically rich ecosystem provides habitat for a diversity of wildlife, including mountain lions, bobcats, western pond turtles, a few species of bats, Santa Cruz black salamanders and California giant salamanders, belted kingfishers, northern red-shafted flickers, and many other birds - both year-round residents and migratory species. It is not uncommon to catch sight of a bald eagle overhead!
No dogs or bicycles are permitted. Cross-country travel and fishing are prohibited.
Rules & Regulation
The easy-access Upper Lake Loop Trail features habitat restoration sites and historical artifacts such as Ohlone mortars. Information for a self-guided interpretive tour is included in the brochure map available at the preserve entrance. The trail is an accessible pathway and can easily accommodate mobility devices, strollers, and users of all ages and abilities.
When Midpen acquired this land, it was far from pristine. Over 100 years of development and logging altered the original redwood and foothill habitats. Some of the physical changes are important to keep to tell the land’s story. Others, like the introduction of invasive species, are problems that Midpen has already started to resolve. And some — like fire-resistant, old-growth redwoods being replaced by more combustible brush and grasses — will take generations of active resource management to undo. Midpen is working to bring back the native landscape and biodiversity that once thrived on this land.
- Hours: Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
- Permits: All public access to this preserve is by permit only. To learn more, please see Permit Information.
- 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.
- Bicyclists: Bikes are NOT allowed in this Preserve. For information on preserves open to bikes visit the Bicycle Access page.
- Equestrians: Horses are allowed on designated trails in this Preserve. Helmets are recommended for all equestrians. For more information visit the Equestrian Access page.
- Permits: A use permit is required for any activity or event which: may be attended by twenty (20) or more people; OR is advertised or noticed in any publication, poster, electronic posting or flyer; OR requests/requires a fee be paid for participation. Visit the Permit page for more information.
- Fires: Fires are prohibited on preserves.
- Smoking: Smoking is prohibited on preserves.
- Weapons: Weapons of any kind are prohibited on preserves.
- Plants and Animals: Please leave plants and animals undisturbed. This not only preserves the natural environment, but is also a safety precaution.
- Water Areas: Swimming, wading, or engaging in any water-contact activity in any water areas of the District is prohibited.
At one time, the slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains were covered with old-growth redwood forests with trees several hundred years old. Between 1850 and 1900, the rapid growth of San Francisco and San Jose fueled a high demand for lumber, and most of the old-growth trees in the region were felled. When the timber industry was replaced by a private estate, a number of orchards and vineyards were established throughout the property. However, Timber harvest continued on some areas well into the mid 1900s. In 1934, the majority of what is now Bear Creek Redwoods Preserve was sold to the Jesuits, who established a theological college, the first of its kind on the west coast.
The college closed in 1969, and the property was slated to be developed into a golf course and luxury estates. Instead of expansive homes and putting greens, local conservationists saw room to breathe, for plants, wildlife and people. With support from the Committee for Green Foothills, advocates sent letters, made phone calls and spoke at public meetings, voicing their concerns about environmental damage from the proposed development. Meanwhile, Midpen and POST worked together to buy the property so it could be protected in perpetuity. In 1999, thanks to state grants and generous private donations, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve was created at last.