The Santa Teresa Hills and
the Coyote Alamitos-Canal

The Santa Teresa Hills and the Coyote-Alamitos Canal
from Century Oaks Park by Cottle Road


Coyote Alamitos Canal




Bay Area

Bay Area Biking

Bay Area

Hopes for
ST Hills


NOTE: These pages are constantly being updated, check back frequently and remember to refresh your browser.

The Silicon Valley is the technology capital of the world. Every day, hundreds of thousands of highly skilled workers in the Valley's many high-tech companies create products and innovations that change the world. These innovations have fueled the tremendous growth of jobs and companies in the Valley, making it one of the most prosperous regions in the world. However, all of this growth has come at a price. The fast pace and relentless competition of the high-tech world has created stressful job environments for the workers. While the jobs have benefited the workers economically, they have put a strain on their mental and physical well-being. Ironically, one of the best cures to these maladies - parks and trails - are threatened by this progress.  The rapid industrial and population growth have swallowed up open land until there is almost none left. San Jose, the largest city in the Bay Area and the county seat for Santa Clara County, is the self-proclaimed Capital of Silicon Valley. Once one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States, San Jose is rapidly running out of room to grow. One of the last areas of open space is in South San Jose, along and near the Santa Teresa Hills. 

The Santa Teresa Hills form one of the southern borders of Silicon Valley. They stretch from the rural Coyote Valley to the upscale suburban Almaden Valley, reaching their high-point at Santa Teresa Park's Coyote Peak.. The mostly undeveloped hills are an oasis of open space in densely-populated and highly-developed South San Jose. Nearly 1700 acres belongs to Santa Teresa County Park, but most of the rest of the hills are in private hands. Fire in the Santa Teresa Hills west of Cottle Road Though the steep, rocky hills are difficult to develop on and are almost annually burned by grass fires, there is still the potential and pressure for development in the hills. Luxury homes occupy parts of the Almaden Valley side of the hills. A new golf course is also being constructed on the ridgetop on the Almaden Valley side. This Website aims to provide more information about the hills, with photographs showing what the hills look like and what's there. Hopefully, this can help with discussions on their fate. For an essay on the value of preserving open space, click on the "Open Space" button at the left.

With the increasing population and proposed future developments in the Santa Teresa area, providing adequate recreation  is becoming more important than ever. City parks are great for small children and youth sports leagues, but for people looking to get some exercise and fresh air by running, walking, or biking, recreational trails are better. They provide more variety of scenery and provide longer distances to cover. They are also much safer to travel on than city streets, where often-fatal accidents with cars are a too-common occurrence. These trails tend to be used by people of all ages, from parents walking with their children, to workers going out for a lunchtime jog, to elderly couples going out for a stroll. Santa Teresa Park has miles of great trails, but they are often steep, so not everyone is physically capable of enjoying them. However, there is a flat trail route in the Santa Teresa Hills that is potentially one of the best in the Bay Area. It is several miles long, easily-accessible, almost perfectly level, wide, and has an excellent surface for running and biking. There is just one problem: It is not a public trail. Public access is forbidden. This is the levee road along the Coyote-Alamitos Canal. This Website has pictures of the canal route and information about it. It also discusses why this route is so important and what needs to be done to make it a public trail.

Click on the buttons to the left to take a virtual photo tour of the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Route and the Santa Teresa Hills and find out more information about them. The other buttons link to related sites. The biking and hiking pages have examples of other open space areas and recreational trails. The "Future Hopes" link is to an early page I did on the Santa Teresa Hills and the Coyote-Alamitos Canal. Check out the links below for other information.


On Christmas Eve, 1999, a Santa Teresa resident's dog was shot by a rancher in the Santa Teresa Hills near Snell Avenue. This incident precipitated community meetings and discussions that eventually resulted in the formation of the Santa Teresa Foothills Neighborhood Association. Their first community-wide meeting was held at Santa Teresa High School auditorium on 10/25/00. The organization's goals are to preserve the foothills and open the Coyote-Alamitos Canal as a recreational trail. At the meeting, which filled the majority of the auditorium, the following news was reported:

  • State Senator Byron Sher helped secure a $400K state grant to study establishing the trail. 
  • Departing San Jose District 2 City Councilwoman Charlotte Powers said that the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail has been designated in the city's general plan to become part of the city's trail system. Implementing it will require working with the water district and landowners. 
  • The undeveloped culdesacs on Colleen, which currently provide access (though not legally) to the Coyote-Alamitos Canal, are being developed by Arcadia. They have started at Allen and are working east. 
  • Dave Chester of the Santa Clara Water District talked about the canal. He said it was originally built to transfer water across the valley to the Guadalupe River area for groundwater recharge. Now it is provides incidental flood control. The district inspects and drags the canal every year before the rainy season to remove sediment. The canal has no value to the district, yet they have maintenance responsibility. They are willing to transfer the canal road to the community.
  • The Santa Clara County Open Space Authority is considering the Santa Teresa hills as one of 7 areas in the county to purchase.
  • There are only about 6 property owners who own the land in the hills from Santa Teresa Park to Winfield. The property has changed hands several times. Most of the property owners are not interested in selling the land.
  • Some people who live below the San Jose park property below the canal have expressed interest in purchasing some of this land to expand their backyards. The city as yet has not decided on this issue.
  • A number of neighbors along the canal route expressed concerns about the opening the levee to the public as a trail. These concerns will have to be addressed.

Spring 2003 Update:

On April 23, 2003, the city held a community meeting at Sakamoto School discussing the latest findings by the environmental consultant, Amphion Environmental, they hired to study the trail. The room was packed. The audience was roughly equally divided between those who were for and against the trail. The consultants discussed their findings on converting the Coyote-Alamitos Canal into a public trail, as well as some alternatives. The alternatives included routing the trail higher along the hillside, below the canal, and along city streets. The problems they found with the canal itself were that there would be significant costs involved because the canal was not continuous, ran through environmentally sensitive and unstable areas, and the land was privately owned. The property owners had easement agreements with the Water District, but only for maintenance purposes. In order to make the canal levee road a public trail, these agreements would have to be re-written. Councilman Forrest Williams, who was in attendance, categorically stated that he would not ask for the use of eminent domain to secure the land for the trail. (Councilwoman Pat Dando, who was not able to attend the meeting but sent a representative, has written articles in the past criticizing the use of eminent domain and stating her personal objection to it.)

The other alternatives studied by the consultants had advantages and disadvantages. The route below the trail, along city-owned property, looked impractical. The land was too steep in places, and a cutting a trail into the hill could undermine the structural integrity of the canal, which the city is not allowed to do. It would also route a trail even closer to homes, which could raise even stronger objections from abutters. The street route was probably included just for completeness. It was regarded almost as a joke by the audience, since it would mean virtually no change to the current situation.

Because of the cost and legal issues, the consultants did not recommend building a trail on the canal on the north end. However, another alternative presented was to concentrate on the section of the trail along the canal between Coyote Creek and Santa Teresa Park. This had broader support and was more feasible. It would also have the advantage of connecting to the Coyote Creek Trail. It did have some engineering challenges in crossing Santa Teresa Blvd., parts of Tulare Hill, and Monterey Highway. There were also some alternatives mentioned in routing the trail along the south side of Tulare Hill and crossing Monterey Highway at Bailey. Trails in this area may also be linked to developments in North Coyote Valley, like the Metcalf Energy Center and Cisco project.

The hillside/hilltop alternative trail was almost universally supported. The hills are laced with ranch and PGE access roads that could be used as trails. The problem is that it would involve going through private property. The property in question is a priority preservation target for the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, so there may be some future possibilities here. When a poll was taken later in the evening, the only other issue that was almost unanimously supported, by proponents and opponents of the trail alike, was the goal of preserving open space in the Santa Teresa Hills. Forrest Williams encouraged the audience to voice their support to the Open Space District for preserving the hills. This is county land, so it would not likely be under city jurisdiction. It would have limited neighborhood access, so if a park were built in the hills, it would be more of a regional park, like Santa Teresa County Park, than a neighborhood park. Hillside trails would provide recreational access for hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians, but not for the handicapped, the elderly, people with baby strollers, roller skaters, etc., who use flat trails, like the Alamitos Creek and Coyote Creek Trails.

The San Jose City Council will be studying the consultants' recommendation and will vote on what actions to take. The city is in a budget crisis, like most of the state, so is not likely to take on any expensive projects, at least in the near future. The bottom line (my opinion): the trail along the canal at the north end is not likely to happen anytime soon. This is because of the legal and financial issues of the city's lack of ownership of the trail route and the political backlash from the abutters who are against the trail. The trail link between the Coyote Creek Trail and Santa Teresa Park along the canal is more likely once funds are available. The problems there are more financial, environmental, and engineering problems of the type that have been overcome in the past. Trails through the hillsides may be the most likely since they are widely supported by the community, have the support of the Open Space Authority, and have a visible and popular example in Santa Teresa County Park. 


About Me

I have lived in the Blossom Valley/Santa Teresa area of South San Jose since I came to work for IBM in 1977. Since 1979, I've had a view of the Santa Teresa Hills outside my back window. My hobbies are travel, hiking, biking, nature photography, and computers. I have turned these hobbies into Web pages on these subjects. (See the links at the left.) My pages on travel and recreation in the Bay Area, Bay Area Back Pages, have been featured on TV.  I have created guided photo tours for ABAG's Bay Trail Project. I've created pages on many of the parks in the Bay Area, particularly Santa Teresa County Park, which I visit regularly. My work on that park got me in contact with the Friends of Santa Teresa Park. I became the secretary of that volunteer organization and created their Website. (See here for more information.)

I began hiking and biking on the Bay Area trails a few years ago, when my doctor told me to exercise or die (He didn't use those words, but the meaning was clear). I bought an exercise machine, but like most people, found it boring. I then discovered the trails in the South Bay and started hiking in the hills and biking along the creeks and Bay. I found I could get a lot more exercise, because the beautiful scenery and great views were a motivation to keep going. 

My travels around the Bay Area and California have made me aware of the value of preserving hillsides and open space. My frequent usage of recreational trails have shown me what a tremendous asset they are to their neighboring communities and to the region in general. My intent in creating these pages is to share that knowledge with others in my own home community. I believe that by preserving the hillsides, we can protect one of our community's most valuable assets. By building the Coyote-Alamitos Canal Trail, I believe we can add something that can enhance the lives of everyone in the community. 


The opinions expressed in these Web pages are my own and not necessarily those of any organization or business I am associated with. 

The information here is to the best of my knowledge, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. Please E-mail me with any corrections. 

Although the photographs appearing in these pages were not taken by trespassing on lands that were posted at the times the photographs were taken, that does not necessarily imply that the areas shown are open to the public. Some were taken from public lands adjacent to posted lands. Others were from lands that may be private but are not posted. Accessibility conditions may change at any time without notice.

The listing of the links in these pages do not necessarily imply an endorsement of or by me. The lack of a link also does not imply a lack of endorsement.

Ronald Horii

Created 11/2/00, update 5/6/03, migrated 10/31/09 by Ronald Horii