San Felipe Hills South P300
Cow Hill P500

Wed, Mar 19, 2014
Story Photos / Slideshow Maps: 1 2 GPX Profile

The San Felipe Hills are a subrange of the Diablo Range located south of Mt. Hamilton, comprising several private ranches and a portion of Joseph Grant County Park. Cow Hill is a continuation of the San Felipe Hills to the southeast whose summit is higher than all of the San Felipe Hills. Cow Hill can be reached via ranch roads from either Mt. Hamilton road to the north or the road to Henry Coe State Park to the south, each about 7 miles one way. I chose the route from the north to allow me to reach another summit on the way, San Felipe Hills South. The moon was several days past full which meant it would be several hours after sunset before the moon would rise and longer until it was high enough to offer light. The first part of the hike took place just after sunset where it was light enough to see without a flashlight, starting at 7:30p. An hour later I needed the headlamp to avoid tripping on the downhill sections that I chose to jog. The weather was cool, but I managed in just a tshirt for most of the outing. Only for the last half of the return did I don my fleece to keep off the chill.

The first mile and a half goes through the SE corner of Joseph Grant, the rest on private property across several ranches. The first is the Le Deit Brothers Ranch, an active ranch with several barns located along the route. The first of these was empty and rather rundown, the second stocked with hay and in use. Beyond that I passed into two other ranches both owned by Hewlitt/Packard of HP fame, according to the signs I found along the way. Near Divide Springs which I reached around 8:50p, I found a large ranch complex with barns, buildings, equipment, a truck and other items suggesting regular use. I was very cautious in passing by this area in case it was occupied, but it appears to only be used in the daytime. On the way back I cut across a field to the west to give it a wide berth in case I had just gotten lucky on the first pass. There was a herd of cattle between this ranch complex and San Felipe Hills South, but they moved aside easily and only complained with loud mooing after I had passed by. Brave they are not. The only other animals I encountered were the gobbling of wild turkeys heard in the background, the occasional small mouse scampering through the leaves along the roadway, and a few owls hooting in the night. There was much evidence of rooting pigs, but I saw none in the flesh this night. The lights of the San Jose stretching south to Gilroy can be seen for much of the hike, with fine nighttime views from both summits. Neither requires more than a short hike from the main road, both are crowned with oak trees but otherwise open to views in an open, grassy field. Cow Hill features a benchmark from 1947, with a set of power lines running over the summit.

The moon had risen not long before I reached Cow Hill and provided a good deal of light for much of the return hike. I still used the headlamp when jogging downhill in the shady sections to avoid accidents, but mostly I just walked and jogged by moonlight - very delightful. I covered about 16 miles in the four and half hours I was out, eventually getting home around 1a. Not a bad way to spend an evening...

Anonymous comments on 04/02/14:
If you decide to come visit our PRIVATE ranch,as Bob the trespasser did, be prepared to be detained by us and cited by the Sheriff's Dept. We will not tolerate trespassing and will be patrolling at night as well as during the day. SAN FELIPE RANCH Foreman.
Skip from Northern Nevada comments on 04/03/14:
I enjoy your site, but lately it seems like you get a thrill out of trespassing. Wouldn't it be more rewarding if you asked permission to reach these sites, and did it in the daylight, rather than sneaking around getting ranchers pissed and giving all of us hikers a bad reputation??
Jim Morehouse comments on 04/03/14:
Maybe these "private property owners" should lighten up. What harm is being done, really?
David A. comments on 04/04/14:
No use in trying to get permission form most of the ranchers in this area, they're pretty anal about peakbaggers from some reason. It's a lost cause. May as well go stealth and add a flavor of adventure to these otherwise bland hills.

Anonymous comments on 04/05/14:
Hey Bob Burd. Why don't you give us your address, I would like to sneak around your back yard at night...See how you like it...
Anonymous comments on 04/05/14:
Never mind...found it...1438 Selborn Place San Jose, CA 95126
Anonymous comments on 04/07/14:
Hey man, YOLO.
Anonymous comments on 04/14/14:

How would we go about getting permission to hike the property?
Also, thank you for helping out the economy by providing a nighttime security position.
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