What a day we had at Levin County Park! We are always looking for a new South Bay hike to do with our kids, and this time we chose the Calera Creek to Agua Caliente Trail in Ed R. Levin County Park from the Santa Clara County Parks #PixinParks challenge. The hike itself was pretty great, with Bay views and a few wooded creek beds that provided much needed shade breaks on the sunny foothills. It was fun to hike in a different landscape for a change. But, for us, this trail felt HARD. We completed it with a stroller, so it’s doable, but unless you’re looking for a good full body workout, I strongly recommend a hiking carrier for little ones!
Overview: Ed R. Levin County Park
- Main Entrance: Downing Road Lot 3 Trailhead, 3100 Calaveras Rd, Milpitas, CA 95035 (note: there are two park entrances, this trail is off Downing Road)
- Parking: $6 per vehicle
- Hours: 8am – Sunset
- Park Map
- Trail Map
- Dog Friendly: Dogs allowed on the trails north of Calaveras Road
- Stroller Friendly: You can bring an off-road stroller on this hike, but it made the trail much more difficult!
- Park Features: Equestrian Trails and Camps, Fishing Ponds for Kids 5-12, Hang Gliding Area, Dog Park, Picnic Facilities
- Trails We Visited: Tularcitos to Auga Caliente to Calera Creek Trail, 3.4 miles
- Our Visit Elevation: 659 feet.
- Our Time: Approximately 3 hours .
- Remember to check Santa Clara County Park Site for updates related to Covid-19 safety guidance.
How Not to Get Lost Finding the Trailhead
Surprise, we got lost! Someday the first part of our story won’t start with us getting lost. Long story short, there are two main entrances to Levin County Park. If you’re coming from 680 via Calaveras Road, you’re going to want to park at the entrance off Downing Road to the left. Google Maps will take you to the Spring Valley entrance past the golf course to the right. Let’s just say we got to the trailhead about 45 minutes after we first arrived at the park. The good news is we discovered some pretty cool things on the Spring Valley side, like a fishing pond stocked for kids 5-12, an equestrian camp, and a nature trail. However, dogs are clearly not allowed on these trails, which is when we knew that we were in the wrong place.
Given our late start, we didn’t explore the north side of the park, but noticed fun amenities like a dog park, another pond, and a hang gliding practice area with trails to launch from above. Not something you see everyday!
The Agua Caliente Trail
Shortly after passing the cattle on the Tularcitos Trail, we turned left onto Agua Caliente. That’s where the real fun began! The Agua Caliente trail has many short steep inclines. We’d been on trails with greater elevation gains, but somehow these felt more difficult. It would have been a moderate challenge for us to hike without the stroller, but pushing up the inclines was definitely a challenge. We took turns pushing through most of the hike.
Then again, we were also rewarded with views of the San Francisco Bay and the cities below. Not your average South Bay hike with kids.
I love how the golden summer grasses contrast against the blue water in the distance. Also, check out the new walking sticks. We figured this would be a good spot for rattlesnakes based on our recent interview with Genie Moore and Bryan Popper, so we came prepared!
Next, we watched a hang glider practicing below us before hiking past Launch Site Road. It really put the hobby into perspective!
Bay Views on a South Bay Hike
All of a sudden, the landscape completely changed as we crossed streams and creeks. It was pretty cool to be able to trace the path of the water by seeing how the trees grew along the hillside. The kids imagined secret hideaways as we ducked under the shade of the trees.
Suddenly, there was a change in the wildlife we found too. As JJ thrilled at the birds of prey above him, John stopped still in his tracks. He had seen movement, but couldn’t identify the animal that had caused it. “What do you think it is?” I asked, imagining a mountain lion stalking us. “I can’t tell,” he responded, “Look! There it goes again!” His eyes adjusted first, enough to make out a swishing tail. It was a cow, taking a break from her grazing in the shade. As our eyes focused, we saw several eyes calmly gazing back at us as the cows cooled off, and relaxed a bit with a good laugh.
Our First #PixinParks Photo
We found what we had been looking for after crossing the third creek bed. The trough that marked the #PixinParks destination point! Here’s our proof, for the record.
Downhill at Last!
We crossed one more creek bed with cows and calves laying in the shade, before turning onto the Calera Trail. It was finally time to go downhill! However, as many of you will understand, the pull of gravity on the stroller made for a whole new challenge. The boys were getting tired at this point, but they helped by walking the steeper sections to lighten the stroller load.
Before we knew it, we could tell we were heading SE back toward the Tularcitos Trail and the main part of the park.
In the final stretch, we noticed beautifully landscaped yards. One looked like it could be a sculpture garden. Lawns were so green that we thought the common area could be a part of the golf course nearby. We stopped to observe an object in the distance. None of us could tell if it was a bird or a sculpture. We placed our bets as we waited in silence for movement. Anyone looking at us would have thought we were nuts. The bird stretched its neck out, breaking the tension. I wished for binoculars to see more detail. Maybe next time.
Soon after our little exercise in bird watching, the parking lot near the lake came into view. It had been an unexpected day filled with rolling grasslands, San Francisco Bay views, oak woodlands, run ins with grazing cattle, and some hang glide watching to boot! This is definitely a unique option for those looking for a new south bay hike with the kids.
Other South Bay Hikes with the Kids