Fremont Older Open Space Preserve: Views, History
Today a 739-acre preserve bearing his name is managed by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District and offers 9 miles of trails, two lookout peaks, hayfields and sheltered woodlands.
This outing takes you through the woods and open hillsides to 900-foot Hunters Point with its sweeping views, and then along sun-drenched Hayfield trail. The hike is about 2 1/2 miles.
What you’ll find
Pick up a trail map at the information sign in the Prospect Road parking lot, then turn right on the uphill Cora Older trail. Look for the delicate yellow sticky monkey flower and for lizards darting across the path as you pass California bay trees, coast live oak, coyote brush and mountain mahogany. Just after the trail opens to a view of Mount Umunhum (which means “resting place of the hummingbird” in Ohlone), you come to a trail sign. Turn right toward Hunters Point.
When you get to the next trailhead, turn right on the Seven Springs Loop Trail. You will be in the woods, heading gently downhill, passing the remnants of an old walnut orchard. At the next juncture, turn left on Ranch Road. This trail is steep but somewhat shaded and is the quickest way to Hunters Point. If you want a flatter, but more exposed, trail continue on the Seven Springs Loop Trail, which is a little longer but also gets you there. Either way, follow the trail signs to Hunters Point.
The hilltop is bare, but you will find a refreshing breeze, a welcome bench and a 360-degree view of the Bay Area. See San Francisco and Mount Tamalpais to the north, the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, Mount Umunhum (look for the boxy structure on the summit that was once a radar tower) to the south, and Mount Hamilton, the East Bay Hills and Mount Diablo to the east.
After a rest, descend and continue on the Hayfield Trail. (If you came along Ranch Road, you will be continuing on the same path you were on.) Notice the twisted remains of the orchards around you. This is open terrain, rich with bird life. Follow the signs to “Prospect Road Parking,” or, if you want some shade, make a slight detour onto the Creekside Trail, which will lead you through the woods, ending at the continuation of Prospect Road. Turn left at the road to return to the parking lot.
Walk through the parking lot along the extension of Prospect Road, and you will come to Woodhills, the Older residence. Known as a muckraker, Fremont Older fought San Francisco’s crooked political machine after the 1906 quake. He also worked to free Tom Mooney and Warren Billings, convicted in the 1916 Preparedness Day bombing. At one point, Older was kidnapped on Van Ness Avenue but managed to escape.
Built in 1914 by Older and his wife, novelist Cora Baggerly Older, Woodhills is open for a docent-led tour only one day a year, in the spring. (Go to www.openspace.org for information.) You will pass a quaint salmon-colored adobe studio on the right. This was built from recycled materials and is where Fremont Older retreated to write. To your left you will come to stone walls, steps and an elegant grotto built by Italian stonemasons from the area. Following the road as it turns left, you will see the house up on the hill. Here the Olders entertained prominent writers and artists, and also some of the ex-convicts Fremont Older had worked to free.
By car, from San Francisco, take Interstate 280 south to Highway 85 south toward Gilroy. Exit at De Anza Boulevard, turning right (south) on De Anza. Turn right on Prospect Road. At a stop sign, you will cross railroad tracks and then turn left to stay on Prospect Road. Stay on Prospect, which becomes a narrow road, until it ends at the Fremont Older Open Space Preserve parking lot.
Photo: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr