People find extraordinary hiking trails in Northern California’s largest state park, Henry Coe State Park, and unique family wineries in the oldest wine country of Santa Clara Valley, just thirty minutes south of San Jose, CA, a city with a population of one million. These resources assist to make perfect and enjoyable day trips with some advance planning.

Remember two simple rules in designing these day trips. First, people may enjoy local attractions of a short day trip by scheduling activities correctly throughout the day. Second, involve everyone in the group throughout the day trip.

An example of the second rule is that it is not very much fun to be the last person when hiking regardless of the reasons why. Be sure to include ways to engage all participants and rotate people during the day to ensure a fun experience for everyone. Don’t forget to have wine tastings when you are on tour.

Planning Tips for Hiking in Santa Clara Valley

The best time to schedule short hiking trips to Henry Coe State Park in Santa Clara Valley is early morning hours when it is cooler. California weather may get uncomfortable with heat throughout the afternoon. The cost in state parks is $5 per vehicle per day ($4 if an older adult or senior is present).

Use hiking as a soft adventure fun day trip where people may prepare for longer, strenuous trips. Remember to keep everyone engaged with each other, whether there are two or ten people.

Themed hikes around nature, wildlife, and history where more emphasis is spent on exploring and not actual hiking bring individuals together. Park Rangers make great docents providing local expertise of these topics. Examples are:

  • Be sure to stop and point out flowers on the trail like Mariposa lilies, poppies, fiddlenecks, buttercups, and shooting starts in the spring. Or, the how the black oaks glow golden in the autumn.
  • Make a game out of finding butterflies and lizards (and other animals) on the trail.
  • Geocaching is a new favorite activity to add to a hike with finding hidden containers using GPS units that may be found in Henry Coe State Park.
  • Visit an area like Gilroy Hot Springs which is rich in history to explore the older buildings from 1800s and how the springs were used for healing.

This gives everyone a chance to catch up, talk, and rest while they learn.

Two parks to visit in Santa Clara County:

  • Henry W. Coe State Park in Santa Clara County is west of the towns of Morgan Hill and Gilroy
  • Mount McDonna County Park is a 3,688-acre park east of Gilroy on Hwy 152 going to Santa Cruz.

Wine Country in Santa Clara Valley

Afternoons may be spent tasting wine at local wineries. It is inside, away from the heat and people will learn local history from these family owned wineries.

Be sure to designate one person as the driver which may change every trip. Teach this person to taste without drinking. Tasting fees range from $5 to $15 per person depending on tasting premium wines and type of experiences. Fees usually are waived with a purchase of wine.

The main wine trail to follow is on Hwy 152 going west out of Gilroy, CA. Start by visiting the following list, remember to be flexible and stop at other smaller wineries along the way.

  • Fortino Winery & Event Management Center (408) 842-3305 (Gilroy)
  • Solis Winery (408) 847-6306 (Gilroy)
  • Hecker Pass (408) 842-8755 (Gilroy)
  • Clos la Chance (408) 686-1050 (San Martin)
  • Emilio Guglielmo Winery (408) 779-2145 (Morgan Hill)

Combine hiking and wine tasting into a fun day trip in Santa Clara Valley getting light exercise and learning about local nature, wildlife, history, and make new friends by planning in advance for the trip.