Lisa Krieger reports on the bay checkerspot butterflies at Coyote Ridge, a habitat so delicate that the only way to hike there is with a docent leading the way.

At first glance, their home on Coyote Ridge seems unremarkable. Rising from the east side of the Santa Clara Valley floor between southern San Jose and Morgan Hill, the ridge is ignored by thousands of Highway 101 commuters every day.

But the long ridge is critical to the survival of the butterfly. Elsewhere, populations of the brilliant orange-and-red-flecked butterfly have perished because of development in its former habitats. The insect has been listed as threatened by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

What makes Coyote Ridge so special is its unique soil — formed from serpentine, a rock with high concentrations of iron, magnesium and other minerals — which holds the only two plants eaten by checkerspot larvae: California plantain and owl’s clover.

Read to the bottom of Lisa’s piece for tips on where to view wildflowers.

Details on the Coyote Ridge docent-led hikes:

For seven days in April, docents will lead hikes to lands OSA manages for the Valley Transportation Authority. To safeguard resources that include protected plants and the endangered bay checkerspot butterfly, each hike will be limited to 20 participants.

Enrollment will begin two weeks prior to each hike date. Sign ups for the first hike on Saturday, April 4, will begin March 21. The schedule includes every Saturday and Sunday in April with the exception of Easter Sunday, April 12.

Further details concerning the hikes, what to bring, and how to sign up will be posted at the end of February on the Activities page of this website. Enrollment will be on a first come, first served basis. The hikes are free and open to the public.

The three-mile trail has an elevation gain of 300 feet. It begins at the North Canyon Road parking turnout then turns across the face of the slope rather than going to the summit of the ridge. This new route takes visitors into an area that has not previously been accessible to the public.

Hikes will start at 10 a.m. and, while the walk takes only about two hours, docents will be encouraged to set their own pace in getting back to the trailhead by 2 p.m. This will allow visitors to ask lots of questions, key out plants, watch birds, or just walk at a casual pace.

This link has contact and sign-up info.