Los Gatos Parks
This may be an El Niño winter, but right now there’s a break in the precipitation. As much as we appreciate the rain, we also appreciate the warm, sunny, dry days also. Yesterday I broke out of work mode for an hour and enjoyed a walk at Vasona Lake County Park. Here are a few photos. To my readers in snowy climates, yes, Los Gatos really can be this nice in February!
The Hillbrook neighborhood is a beautifully maintained part of east Los Gatos. It sits just off Blossom Hill Road, about one block from Blossom Hill Park, with several homes backing to that park. It consists of Hillbrook Drive and a little park at Hillbrook & Blossom Hill, Fairmead Lane, and Eastridge Drive. For area newcomers who might be confused – this is not the area right next to Hillbrook School, which is at the end of Marchmont Drive.
Built between 1962 and 1965, the three dozen or so homes here are comfortably sized between 1600 and 3100 square feet and sit upon lots that are approximately a quarter acre. Nearly all of the houses are ranch style, but the few on Fairview represent a subset of the ranch style: mid century modern (most people think of Eichler, which is the predominant mid century modern type found in Silicon Valley, but these aren’t Eichlers per se). Although the houses are older, most have been updated and remodeled over the years, and are in great shape.
The name Hillbrook appears to derive from the area’s proximity to nearby Blossom Hill (the foothill, not the road named for it) and for Ross Creek, which runs through the the neighborhood.
One of the major draws to this neighborhood is the close proximity of Blossom Hill Elementary School, which is part of the highly regarded Los Gatos Union School District.
Hillbrook neighborhood real estate
Homes in this little pocket do not turn over much, but the homes that do sell are running between about $1,500,000 and $2 million. The price naturally depends on many factors: home size, lot size, condition of the home, exact location, and so on.
Although this small neighborhood is found just off Blossom Hill Road, it is not necessary to turn left on that busy street to get to downtown Los Gatos. Hillbrook Drive turns into Eastridge, and that leads to Lansberry, which can take you to Shannon Road. From Shannon there is a traffic signal for crossing Los Gatos Boulevard – often an easier way to go during rush hour. It’s easy to get to the park, to Blossom Hill Elementary, and to town from this location.
Recently I was driven through the area and shot some video to share. Right now it’s August 2015 and we are in the middle of a very longstanding drought, so you will notice many “California gold” colored front yards. This is not typical at all – it’s just a response to the request for water conservation from the governor and our local water utilities.
Narrated video drive-through of the Hillbrook neighborhood:
Coming soon – info on the Shannon Valley Ranch neighborhood. For now, though, here are some photos of the Shannon Valley open space and trail – a lovely area with fantastic views.
These photos date back almost two years, to January 2013 (a dry, pleasant winter day!) so views of the housing that was going in then will be quite different looking now.
On the right: in the distance, see the Guadalupe Landfill, also known simply as “the dump” locally, which is accessed off of Guadalupe Mines Road. Below it , see the Brookside Development in Almaden (with Los Gatos schools) getting ready for building. Those homes are in now – at least many are!
Same photo – The Shannon Valley Ranch neighborhood is off to the right, in Los Gatos at the far eastern edge. The dividing line between Almaden and Los Gatos is the Guadalupe Creek – though the school district does not stop at the creek boundary, oddly enough.
The next image, seen on the left, is of the Shannon Valley Ranch Open Space Trail. This connects to a network of trails in east Los Gatos though you have to cross Santa Rosa Drive to go from one to the next. Even so, from here you can reach the Santa Rosa Open Space, Heinz Open Space, and also Belgatos Park trails – whether you are walking, mountain biking, or riding horseback, it’s possible to go and go with only a very short patch on asphalt as you traverse Santa Rosa Drive.
The views are gorgeous from the Shannon Open Space trails, which is situated on the back side of Blossom Hill (the actual hill, not the road). Looking across, you see the coastal foothills and local landmarks such as Loma Prieta. To the east, you can enjoy views of Almaden and the east foothills, depending on your vantage point. The hill is not too steep – though I’m the first to admit that I’d rather be walking down than up!
Something to be aware of is that with all this open space there also comes wildlife such as coyotes, bobcats, deer, mountain lions, skunks, possums, racoons, rats, mice and snakes. Rattlesnakes are indigenous to this area and they sometimes like to come out on the trails to sun themselves, so please be careful when walking, running, or hiking or otherwise moving across these spaces. You don’t want to find a rattler with your foot!
Here’s a sign that I found both disturbing and amusing regarding the presence of snakes (and also who’s got the right of way on the trail). I never knew who was supposed to yield to whom vis-a-vis horses, pedestrians and bicyclists – did you? But according to this sign, folks riding horseback are to give way to those on foot or bikes.
This upcoming winter it is expected (and frankly, after the prolonged drought, HOPED) that we will have an El Nino year with abundant rain. If you have never been out to the Shannon Valley Open Space area – do it sooner rather than later.
My better half, Jim Handy, used to be a volunteer Los Gatos Parks Commissioner (for about 7 years) and he created a map of the trails which you can see on Google for this part of town. Here’s the link to the Shannon Open Space and nearby trail areas.
But do watch for snakes!
There’s an embedded google map below, but for those who would prefer a narrative, here’s a summary of the trail of these lines (deemed reliable but not guaranteed, and not every street is mentioned, this is only a very general description):
These towers and electric lines are fairly parallel to Highway 85 on the west and north side of town, adjacent to Pollard and Wedgewood (near the Rio Rinconada neighborhood) and following both the highway and train tracks immediately.
Heading south, the power line trail courses through the Wimbleton townhousecomplex, moves across Winchester Boulevard near Lark Avenue, and then continues its distancing from the freeway by cutting in further just north of the Vasona Dam (between there and Lark Avenue).
From there, the lines are seen over the the Live Oak Manor Park & play ground, and makes its way down the middle of Blackwell Drive, emerging near Mission Oaks Hospital (a campus of Good Samaritan Hospital nearby), then across Los Gatos Almaden and the Los Gatos Village townhome community.
Now the meandering path will straighten out and lie between the backyard fences of residential streets, such as between Coronet and Blossom Valley Drive in the Alta Vista neighborhood, behind Anne Way (the Strathmore neighborhood) and into the Drysdale tract in San Jose’s Cambrian area, moving toward Camden Avenue and behind the Oak Canyon neighborhood at the beginning of Almaden Valley.
The trail of the high voltage lines somehow gripped me so much that I ended up tracing it all the way from the hills in Cupertino into Saratoga before Los Gatos, then on through our town and into Cambrian, Almaden, Blossom Valley and Santa Teresa (areas of San Jose for any newcomers). Just to be complete, I tracked them all the way to the substation in Coyote Valley and then up into the Santa Cruz Mountains near Montevina Rd and through the Lexington area. (You can see all of this on my Valley of Hearts Delight blog.)
Below is the embedded map. If for any reason it’s not working, you can see the same info by clicking on this link.
View High Voltage Power Lines in Los Gatos and the West Valley in a larger map
Looking for a more “walkable” Los Gatos neighborhood? Take a look at the west Los Gatos area between the La Rinconada Golf Course and the Rinconada Hills gated community, where you’ll find a beautiful park and tidy neighborhood with homes of varying sizes and price tags. From looking at the plat maps, I believe that originally this entire area was part of the Rinconada Hills tract of land, but today just part of the area, the gated community, bears that name. (Video below of a sampling of the area!)
Please continue reading for much more information on the neighborhood!
Just west and south of the intersection of Blossom Hill Road and Harwood Road sits a neighborhood of Los Gatos homes with three subdivisions: Belwood of Los Gatos, Belgatos & Surmont. Nearby public landmarks are Belgatos Park and the Walgreen’s shopping center (corner of Blossom Hill and Harwood), now sporting a new Starbucks coffee shop.
For many Los Gatans, all three of these east Los Gatos areas (and sometimes a broader one still) are generally referred to as “Belwood” or “Belwood-Belgatos.” (The Los Gatos Monte Sereno Police cert map identifies the whole region plus the Strathmore neighborhood, which is across Blossom Hill Road, as “Belwood” generally.)
The terrain is nearly level, with very low, gentle hills over most of the area. With winding, mostly tree-lined roads and tidy houses, it’s a very attractive neighborhood overall. For those looking for an arduous climb on foot or bike, though, Harwood Road provides a nice challenge. At the top, you’ll see a fantastic view of downtown San Jose and Silicon Valley for your trouble. (There are some challenges to be found in the open space trails, too.)
Belgatos Park and trails
At the middle of this community is the very inviting Belgatos Park, a scenic, setting which includes a playground near the parking lot, picnic areas, restrooms, trails into the hills (with some wonderful valley views), and access to the Heinz Open Space Preserve and its network of trails also. (And it’s not far to the Santa Rosa Open Space area either.)
One hill attracts kids who enjoy sliding down it on bits of cardboard, and thus has been nicknamed “cardboard hill” for decades. Most of the time these cardboard sledding enthusiasts are pretty good about picking up their “sledding vehicles” when done.
The paths are popular with people on foot, but also those on mountain bikes or horseback. As there are a few larger properties which are zoned for horses in the area, this is a very nice equestrian option.
For photographers, the park has abundant worthy subjects year round, both of the open space and the valley views below. In the early morning hours, or near sunset, you may see some deer too. But be careful: bobcats and mountain lions are in these hills also.
What are homes like in Belwood, Belgatos and Surmont?
The Los Gatos Shakespeare Festival again comes to town at Oak Meadow Park with three plays, two from The Bard and one more contemporary play, care of the Festival Theatre Ensemble. In 2014, viewers will be treated to productions of Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, and the Pirates of Port Royal (written by by George Farquhar and adapted by Bruce W. De Les Demier, whose name is synonymous with the Festival Theatre Ensemble).
The three week season begins on Friday, July 18th and ends Saturday August 9th. All of the shows in Los Gatos begin at 8pm. For those unfamiliar with the venue, it is out of doors and as the evening progresses it gets chillier – so dress in layers! (You will not be sitting on a lawn, though: there are seats!)
Additionally, the Festival Theatre Ensemble hosts an evening of stage combat as a fundraiser to support the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad. “Fight for the Train” takes place on July 31st. This is really fun for little kids especially. (My daughter was a theatre major in college and it sounded like “stage combat” was her most enjoyable course.)
For kids interested in the stage, there is a camp, too, Camp Shakespeare! Read the details here: Continue reading