For the Lovers of Redwood Trees, Hiking, Horseback Riding and History
Mount Madonna County Park is sought out for its beautiful hiking trails with a 14-mile trail system that is surrounded in lush green meadows, wild flowers, white reindeer and of course, Redwood and Eucalyptus trees. If you’re planning a bay area road trip, you have to check out these trails near Gilroy. One of the best ways to experience Mount Madonna is by horseback, and lucky for you, Mount Madonna Stables has a large variety of horses for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders to go on a trail ride through the redwoods and eucalyptus trees. Mount Madonna is also home to Henry Miller Ruins. Some have even said they’ve seen ghosts walking around the park!
Mount Madonna Stables
If you’re looking for horseback riding in Gilroy, Mount Madonna Stables is an incredible facility to visit. Gilroy is home to many equestrians, so if you’re visiting, what better way to see one of Gilroy’s most unique county parks than by experiencing it on horseback! Mount Madonna Stables is in Mount Madonna County Park, nestled in the redwoods off Summit Road on a beautiful ranch that Michelle and David Mahoney have owned for 33 years. When you’re driving through Mount Madonna and up Summit Road, make sure to drive slow since curious deer and turkeys hang out all around the area!
Upon arrival, Tesi, Mount Madonna Stables Manager, will bring you into her office to fit you with a helmet and sign a safety waiver. The horses are sometimes already tacked up by the girls that have finished their riding lessons, before you’re done in the office. Once you are on the horses and walking around on the trails, you may run into a few other riders that start at Sprig Lake Trail and then trail ride up through Mount Madonna.
Experiencing Mount Madonna County Park on horseback is so unique! As you’re riding through the forest, you can easily transport yourself back in time and think about how incredible it must have been like in the 1800’s on this land. It will feel as though you have been transported back to the 1870’s when Henry Miller’s daughter, Sarah Alice Miller, was a young girl riding through her family’s ranch! Tesi can take you through a few different trails in Mount Madonna to give you the full experience between the thick redwoods, meadows of grass, wildflowers and to Henry Miller ruins.
Mount Madonna Stables has a beautiful facility, knowledgeable and super friendly staff, plus a wide variety of riding options if you’d like to do more than go on a trail ride. They offer lessons as well whether you’d like to ride English or Western. As of July 1, 2020, Mount Madonna Stables is open to the public for trail rides! Call (408) 663-1665 to schedule your ride when you Visit Gilroy!
Henry Miller Ruins
Mount Madonna ruins is supposedly haunted by both Henry Miller and his daughter, Sarah Alice Miller. Henry Miller had nicknamed his daughter Gussie, since she loved to “gussie” herself up in frilly dresses. Sarah Alice also loved riding her horse through Mount Madonna. On June 14th, 1879, when Sarah was just 8-years old, something terrible happened. Sarah was riding her horse and it tripped its foreleg in a gopher hole. Sarah was thrown off the horse and it toppled on her! They say this is how Sarah passed away. Others say Sarah fell and simply broke her neck…maybe if you see her ghost, she’ll tell you the full story!
Now let’s talk about Mount Madonna ruins history. Henry Miller was one of Gilroy’s founders. Miller was born in Brackenheim Wurtemberg, Germany, on July 21, 1827. Miller immigrated to New York City in 1846, and arrived in California in 1850. The story goes, Miller came to California with only $5.00 in his pocket! However, he eventually became one of the entire country’s richest men while selling beef during the California Gold Rush. Henry was known as the “Cattle King” for owning over 1.25 million acres of land and 1 million head of cattle. During 1875 he acquired a summer retreat that had 13,000 acres, now known as Mount Madonna County Park.
Santa Clara County Parks acquired part of the area in 1927, then the rest of Henry Miller’s estate with the ruins in 1953. You do not have to pay the usual $6 entry fee to go into this county park due to Santa Clara County keeping our County Parks open to encourage safe social distancing outdoors. Thank you Santa Clara County for providing a free gift to the community!
White Fallow Deer, also known as Mount Madonna’s White Reindeer
Another wonderful treasure at Mount Madonna County Park are the White Fallow Deer, who have quite the story on how they came to the area. The deer were a gift given to Henry Miller from William Randolph Hearst (another true Central California Coast treasure – Hearst Castle). Hearst was a known animal lover, and once the white reindeer overpopulated his estate, he started giving them away. Henry Miller received two white fallow deer, which Hearst had acquired from his native home in Europe.
Santa Clara County bought Henry Miller’s land in the early 1900’s, with a herd of white fallow deer. Along with the land, Santa Clara County also takes care of the beautiful White Fallow Deer! There is one female, and one male in separate enclosures for us to enjoy from afar.
All in all, Mount Madonna County Park is one of the most unique bay area hiking trails you can find, and offers something for everyone in the family to check out. Whether you’re a history buff, love animals, hiking or are just trying to escape the summer heat for a while. Make sure to check out Mount Madonna the next time you visit Gilroy!