Grant County Park is located below Mt. Hamilton and is my favorite Santa Clara County Park to hike. Antler Point is the highest point in the park, just a little under 3000 feet. This hike begins at the Grant Lake Parking Lot just a half mile beyond the main park entrance and on the left. Five hours with short breaks.
Hike description: 11-12 miles, 2400 elevation gain. Most elevation gain is in the first 3 miles of the hike. Around 4 miles to Antler Point hiking counter-clockwise. Spring is best time for the hike because the hills are green and full of wildflowers.
Hike .3 miles along the lake to the Halls Valley trailhead on the right. The trail soon climbs and climbs. Slow and study is the best way to make it the 2.1 miles to the top to the Canada de Pala Trail. If you want less elevation gain like most folks, you can start this hike at Twin Gates Parking Lot and head straight down the Canada de Pala Trail. But I like to get more exercise so I start down at Grant Lake. Take a left on the Canada de Pala Road. Hike .3 miles to the Pala Seca Trail and bear right to stay up on the ridge. You continue to climb but more gradually now as you reach the ridge that will climb to Antler Point. At 1.3 miles you will come to an intersection with a bench in the middle of the Y, above the road to the left. Take the trail behind the bench and hike around .1 miles just beyond the first hill where you will see a faint trail cutting back to the right and heading to a small ridge to the east. This is actually the real trail to Antler Point. The more worn trail ahead goes to a great vista point overlooking San Jose to the west, but it is not Antler Point. Antler Point overlooks the canyon to the east and has a broken down bench and rock outcropping. It is a short distance from the trail junction. It wasn’t until recently, and six hikes later, that I learn I had missed the point every time I hike the trail!
Backtrack and head over to the vista point. It is often windy at the vista point so you may want to stop for lunch at Antler Point, on the eastside, instead. Backtrack again and take a right at the bench and turn right to the Canada de Pala Trail and down to the hunter’s cabin. This cabin was once used by the owners as a hunting cabin and is being restored by volunteers. If you hike this in rain or on a hot day there is a picnic table on the side porch of the cabin. Continue down the trail and past the meadow marsh that is being restored by removing invasive plants and shoring up the creek. This is a rare high meadow marsh for this area.
You will soon come to the intersection with Washburn Trail but stay on the road and continue around the meadow. You will pass the intersection with the Pala Seca Trail that you took earlier. Continue to the right on the Canada de Pala pass the trailhead to Halls Valley and soon passing the Los Huecos Trail. If you are tired at this point you can head down Huecos Trail and complete a 9.6 mile trip. However, today I felt ambitious so continue on Canada de Pala. My plan was to stay on this trail until the Yerba Buena Trail but I soon grew tired with the ridge road so after about .3 miles I started following the cattle trail to the right of the road that was bisecting the hills of the trail. The land is open in this part of the park and it is easy to do a bit of cross county hiking. I spotted a windmill and decided to continue to follow the cattle trail down to the watering hole. From here I spotted the Yerba Buena Trail to the south so continued on a cattle trail until it met up with the Trail. I figure this was about .25-.5 miles below the intersection with Canada de Pala which I was initially going to take. If you are uncomfortable going on cow trails, stay on the road instead. From here I headed down Yerba Buena Trail to the Loop Trail to check out McCreery Lake. Connected back to Yerba Buena and finished back at the parking lot.