Two small ponds and one large reservoir make this an intriguing route at Calero County Park south of San Jose, California.
I recommend the Javelina Loop because it passes Calero's bat enclosure and pauses next to a pond at Fish Camp, where a deck looks out over a serene pond frequented by redwing blackbirds and other avians. Los Cerritos Pond near the trailhead is another welcome rest stop.
You can slice two miles off this hike by skipping the loop along Los Cerritos Trail, which tracks the shores of Calero Reservoir before climbing up the hillside into the backcountry of the park.
Calero has a big corral near the entrance to let you know you'll be sharing the trails with equestrians and their steeds, but the trails are plenty wide enough for hikers and horse people alike.
Best times to go: springtime when the wildflowers are out, and clear winter days when the trails are just firm enough for hiking but too soft for the horses (rain typically closes the park to equestrians in winter).
Trails on this route:
Los Cerritos Trail > Pena Trail > Javelina Loop > Pena Trail > Los Cerritos Trail.
Wear sunscreen: most of this hike is unshaded.
Bring enough water and snacks to keep your energy up -- there's quite a bit of up-and-down on this route.
The park is usually too hot to hike in during the summer.
Park contact: (408) 268-3883
Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset.
Driving directions: From Highway 101, take the Bailey Road exit and head west 2.7 miles to McKean Road. Turn left and follow the signs to the trail head.