Summer on the Farm in the South Bay
June can be a great month to get out with your kids! The longer daylight hours stretch the window of opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors. Not sure where to go? Luckily the Bay Area has many options whether you’re focusing on the South Bay or beyond. It can be helpful to have a point of interest as an incentive. This month, as part of the Take a Hike (with the kids) series, the featured hikes are farm-centric, giving those youngest hikers a chance to explore farm life and farm animals with a little hiking mixed in. Many baby farm animals have recently arrived in the spring to add to the fun! With that said, here are a handful of options for families to get outside for some fun and adventure in the South Bay:
Image: Mother pig with piglets at Hidden Villa Farm ©Shirley Tanase
This idyllic farm set in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, is a gem waiting to be discovered. Adjacent to the main parking lot, Hidden Villa’s Education Garden is open for learning and exploration. The garden has vegetable beds with hand-painted signs and fun, cozy seating areas for young children. Beyond that, the wide, unpaved country lane leads to their farm animals. Beyond the goats is the path to the nature preserve. Please note from mid-June through late-August, access is limited due to summer camps with the exception of a few open weekends in 2019: June 29 & 30; July 13, 14, 20, 21; August 3 & 4. Outside of summer, Hidden Villa’s Regular Hours are: Tuesday-Sunday, 9:00 AM - dusk.
- Recommended trail: Creek Trail (Trail Map)
- Distance: Approximately 2 miles out and back trip to the bridge crossings from the Welcome Kiosk.
- Terrain: A mix of wide, flat pavement and dirt trails.
- Attractions: Educational gardens, working farm complete with chicken coop, pig barn and pen for sheep and cows. There’s also a hostel on the grounds. It was the first hostel on the Pacific Coast, built back in 1937.
- Amenities: Restroom facilities can be found at the Dana Center, Wolken Education Center and between the Blacksmith Forge and the White Barn. Many picnic tables are available without charge for individuals throughout the grounds many along Adobe Creek. Drinking water can be found at both the main parking lot and farm.
- Parking/entry: $10 (as of June 2019)
Image: Historic Barn at Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve ©Shirley Tanase
Rancho San Antonio is a very popular park with good reason. The one-mile flat, mixed dirt/paved path meanders through meadow and woodland environments leading to Deer Hollow Farm, a working homestead and organic garden. Lunch or a snack can be enjoyed in the shade of the historic, open air barn complete with picnic tables and a drinking water source nearby to refill your water containers.
- Recommended trail: to the farm and back. Lower Meadow Trail (Trail Map)
- Distance: Approximately 2 miles out and back trip to the farm.
- Terrain: Mixed unpaved and paved trail.
- Attraction: Deer Hollow Farm. Also model aircraft can occasionally be spotted flying in the meadow between parking lots.
- Park open hours: Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset. Deer Hollow Farm has limited hours of operation.
- Amenities: Restroom facilities can be found at the main, lower parking lot and the farm. Picnic tables under the roof of the barn. Drinking water can be found at both the main parking lot and farm.
- Parking: Parking can be very challenging on weekends and holidays. There is overflow parking but will add to your mileage for the day and can also be heavily impacted at these times. Highly recommended times to visit: Any weekday or if you do venture out on the weekend, early morning (before 8:00 AM) or late (after 5:00 PM).
Image: Historic Milk Barn and Tank House at McClellan Ranch Preserve ©Shirley Tanase
This former horse ranch now serves as a small natural preserve located in the City of Cupertino. Many of the original buildings from the 1930’s and 1940’s have been preserved. This park is perfect for families with very young children. The Environmental Education Center and Nature Museum is open on weekends and provides an opportunity to meet a few animals living at the preserve. The local 4-H Club also has free tours with their farm animals every second Saturday of the month from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (excluding Dec-Feb).
- Recommended trail: Tree-lined walk around the grounds. There is only one loop available. The trail follows the contour of Stevens Creek. Optional: Continue through to the Blackberry Farms grounds. (Trail Map)
- Distance: Approximate half mile loop around preserve.
- Terrain: Mainly flat, unpaved nature trail.
- Attraction: Environmental Education Center and Nature Center has limited weekend hours (11:00 AM - 3:00 PM) and Rolling Hills 4-H animals every second Saturday of the month from 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (except Dec-Feb).
- Park open hours: The Preserve is open every day from sunrise to sunset). The Environmental Education Center is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM.
- Amenities: Restroom facilities and a drinking fountain can be found at milk barn/tank house. Picnic tables are available near the milk barn by the large sundial.
- Parking: Free parking is available at the preserve.
Image: Pichetti Ranch Preserve ©Shirley Tanase
Part of the MidPeninsula Regional Open Space Preserves, Pichetti Ranch is located in the foothills of Cupertino. MidPeninsula has designated Pichetti Ranch as one of their preserves that are “Good for Kids”. It’s easy to see why with some of the trails providing shade with little elevation gain. This preserve has a historic farm with many of the original buildings still standing. While the farm no longer has livestock, peacocks can sometimes be spotted wandering the grounds as a reminder of the past when livestock roamed the grounds.
- Recommended trail: Zinfandel Trail to the seasonal pond. (Trail Map)
- Distance: Approximately one mile out to the pond from the parking lot. You can circle the pond as well.
- Terrain: Relatively flat unpaved trail.
- Attractions: Historic Farm, seasonal pond, views of Stevens Creek Reservoir and Pichetti Winery.
- Park open hours: Open half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.
- Amenities: Restroom facilities as well as drinking water can be found up the trail just beyond the grassy field.
- Parking: Free. Park at the main lot at the site of the historic buildings to start the Zinfandel Trail
If you’re looking for farm life in San José, these farms in an urban setting, are worth looking into:
- Emma Prusch Farm Park - This farm is a wonderful educational resource gifted to the City of San José by the park’s namesake, Emma Prusch. Many animals can be found on the grounds from the large 4-H animals to the smaller, typical farm animals. Their gardens include pollinator and butterfly gardens, rare fruit orchards and plenty of lawn space for picnicking on the farm. The park is open 7 days a week, 8:00 AM until 30 minutes prior to sunset. The small animal area is available 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM.
- Martial Cottle Park - Part of the Santa Clara County Park system, this urban park has a lot going on. There are farm animals at the Sunset 4-H Ranch, an organic farm with local produce, a play structure with a farm theme, many picnic areas (both reserved and first-come, first-serve) and much more. Open: Year-round from 8:00 AM until sunset. Parking: Vehicle entry fees are collected year-round. Free parking available on Chynoweth Avenue.
Books to Enjoy
Here are a few books to learn a little about the animals your young farm hands may spot while visiting these farms. In addition, just a few books about gardening helping children learning about plants from seed to maturity.
Have you visited any of these locations? Any tips you’d like to share with other families venturing out? Are there any other farms that you love to visit in the South Bay including those in urban settings ? Do you have a few favorite books about farms that you’d like to suggest?
by Librarian, Shirley Tanase