With a trailhead just 3 miles from the center of Los Gatos, the Kennedy-Limekiln Loop makes exploring the wilderness feel almost convenient. "Los Gatos" might mean "the cats," but we're pretty sure this landscape was designed with doggos in mind. Maybe not lazy lap-dogs, though: Kennedy-Limekiln is a lengthy loop in rugged terrain.
Tucked away in the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, this scenic hike through California chaparral is a challenging and scenic way to wear out your energetic pups. Strike out along the Kennedy Trail from the small parking area off Kennedy Road. You'll pass the turn-off for Priest Rock Trail in about 4 miles, but keep going another 1.4 miles to veer right onto Limekiln Trail. Follow the Limekiln for approximately 3 miles, then take another right onto Priest Rock Trail, which will lead you back to Kennedy Trail for a full round trip that's a little over 13 miles.
Restrooms are available in Sierra Azul, including a rustic facility at the trailhead: schedule a pit-stop before embarking on your hike. Mountain bikers love this trail, so keep an ear tuned for speedy traffic coming up from behind. You might want to skip the earbuds and focus on your buddies instead.
Before you experiment with alternate routes, note that the Mount Umunhum section of the Sierra Azul is closed to dogs — even very, very good boys. This dog-free zone begins at the Kennedy-Limekiln intersection, where the Kennedy Trail becomes the Woods Trail. Stick to Kennedy and Limekiln and keep your puppers on the right side of the law. (Side note: We extend our sympathies to Woods Trail hikers and their sad, lonely hiking experience. What's a trail without a dog, right?)
Though you can't climb Mount Umunhum, among the highest in the Santa Cruz Range, there are furrific views of its majestic peak from the Kennedy-Limekiln Loop. You'll also glimpse valley vistas from open hillside and songbirds strutting in the tree canopy. On a clear day, you can admire the San Francisco skyline to the north and miles of rolling green hills to the south.