Are you an early bird? A lover of the outdoors who likes to get up with the sun? Me too! For me, there’s something invigorating about catching the start to the day. The stillness in the air, the fresh earthy smell of dawn and the silence of the morning, broken only by the songs of birds.

Getting up that early is not for everyone. But there are some seriously awesome rewards if you choose to hike at dawn.

1: Beat the heat! Summer heat can be scorching (especially in the South Bay), but early hikes are often cooled by the morning marine layer.

2: The best photo opportunities (selfie, anyone?) are also at the break of day.

3: And wildlife (including rabbits, deer, wild turkeys, coyote, bobcat, birds and others) are more active during these early hours. Need I say more?

The South Bay boasts several hikes that are best, I think, in the morning. Make sure to check the hours for each preserve, as some may allow you to catch the sunrise and others open a little later. Here are my three favorites:

Uvas Canyon

Uvas Canyon is a bit of a drive, but it’s a great place to beat the heat on a hot day. Hikers can choose from several options, but I like taking the one-mile trail up to Manzanita Point for great views from the bench overlooking the valley below. Hikers can then continue up to the Triple Falls Trail, or for a less intense hike, take the Waterfall Loop Trail to enjoy waterfalls and the creek.

Please note that this park requires reservations seven days a week, including weekends and holidays (an indication of its popularity). So, plan ahead by securing your $6 parking spot at least 24 hours ahead of time.

Driving Directions  –  Preserve Map –  More Information

Coyote Valley Open Space Preserve

This open space preserve is easily accessible off of Santa Teresa Boulevard between San Jose and Morgan Hill. The left (southern) branch of the four-mile Arrowhead Loop Trail starts with an uphill climb for about a mile or so, and on this leg of the hike you can see both the lush mountains and Coyote Valley below. At the top of the hill, there are rocks to perch on and have a snack while taking in the view. The trail then follows a ridge and meanders back down to the meadow before circling back to the starting point.

Driving Directions –  Preserve Map –  More Information

Mount Umunhum

Arguably the best place to take in the morning rays is Mount Umunhum, one of the tallest peaks in the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can drive to the top and catch a peek of animals headed to water in the morning. There is also a new hiking trail which connects to the nearby Almaden Quicksilver County Park and the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve. But the summit here is the most breathtaking place for a view.

What I love about this place is that the spectacular 360-degree views of the South Bay are accessible to all. There is wheelchair-accessible parking and bathrooms at the very top of the mountain as well. Please keep in mind that this preserve opens at 7:00 AM, which may be on the later side if you’re a true early bird like me.

Driving directions –  Preserve map –  More information

About Post

Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) protects open space on the Peninsula and in the South Bay for the benefit of all. Since its founding in 1977, POST has been responsible for saving more than 87,000 acres as permanently protected land in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. Learn more

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