Alum Rock Park is one of my favorite parks in San Jose. This is my mini Mission Peak hike but with fewer hikers and closer to downtown San Jose. To get to this hike take the Alum Rock Avenue exit from 680 Freeway and head for the east foothills. The Avenue passes a golf course on the left and will dead end at Alum Rock Park. Park along the street. This was the old entrance to Alum Rock Park but was closed a few years ago due to the shifting hillside.
As you face the bike and pedestrian entrance take the single track dirt trail on the left and head down into the park. After about 1/2 mile the trail ends at the main trail along Penitencia Creek which has its own park and trail system outside of Alum Rock Park. This creek cuts down the middle of Alum Rock Park and was the destination for residents in the early 1900s who took the train here from downtown. Take the trail to the right and you will soon cross a major bridge and will meet up with the paved road that goes into the park. Cross the paved road and turn right again and follow along the main road about a 100 feet until you meet up with a dirt road that takes a sharp hairpin turn to the left. Begin climbing up this road and bear to the right at the top of the first hill. You are now head toward the Eagle Peak Trail. Continue climbing and you will soon meet up with a road that will take you to the left up to Eagle Peak. Skip this and continue straight along the road another 1/2 mile to the trail sign for Todd Quick Trail on the left.
Todd Quick Trail is a loop trail and is the only entrance to the Santa Clara County Open Space area, informally called Sierra Vista, about Alum Rock Park. At the top of Todd Quick is one lonely picnic table. Behind the picnic table to the right is a gate and the entrance to the Boccardo Trail. Once you close the gate there is a large sign welcoming you to the Open Space area and with maps of the 3 mile loop trail.
I do this trail clockwise because it is steeper and a better workout. If you would like to try a slightly gentler way, take the loop trail to the right. This trail should only be done in the early morning or late afternoon during the summer months because it has no shade and is HOT! There is no water along the way so be sure to bring some with you. The trail going up is an old ranch road so is steep in sections. The new addition to the trail was built a couple of years ago and has switchbacks and is .4 miles longer so gains the 1,000 feet more gradually. This trail has great views of the Santa Clara Valley.
After completing the Boccardo Trail go back out the gate to Alum Rock Park and Todd Quick Trail and take a left on the trail. Complete the loop to the Weather Loop Trail. Take a left at the first dirt road (North Rim Trail) and continue taking left turns until you hit the paved road above the Alum Rock Park main parking lot. Follow the paved, now private road down into the main Alum Rock Park area. The road will end at a bridge. Continue over the bridge and continue straight and look for a paved road going up the hill to the right. This road climbs out and ends back at Alum Rock Avenue. Total mileage around 6 miles, 2.5 hours, 1,500 feet of climbing.
I am spending my vacation in Southern Oregon and will be mostly on the Rogue River but I had a day before my guided trip so I sought out a local hike not on the Rogue River. The general manager of Morrison Lodge suggested hikes along Briggs Valley Road which goes 36 miles all the way to Highway 199. The one lane road is paved and in good condition — more than I can say about the China Creek Trail. At mileage marker 2.2 along the road is a vista overlook with an old sign with the trails marked, unfortunately the metal sign was used as target practice so the trails aren’t clear, however, there is narrative on numerous trails in the area.
The Taylor Creek Trail goes 10 miles along the road on the far side of the creek and is well maintained and marked. There are several different trailheads along the road. I explored the trail from mileage marker 7 (spray painted on the paved road) and it was a great hike, mostly level but some gentle climbing . You cross over two wooded bridges that have seen better days — there are boards missing and some old highway cones warning of the problem. One bridge is now closed and the trail has been re-routed to cross the creek, easy to do in August. Farther down you come across a mining claim that has an old tent cabin and table. I highly recommend this trail for meandering in lush surroundings.
Another trail I did was the China Creek Trail. This trail is 5.9 miles, total out and back, but is only well used for the first 1.5 miles. Even this part was overgrown with poison oak so I would not recommend it if you are sensitive to the stuff. The hike is a good workout but you are climbing over some downed trees and the 3-4 inches of dead madrone leaves on some of the steep trail was slick. The trail dead ends at the bottom at China Creek which is surprisingly good sized. There is a log that crosses the creek but the trail seems to end there. It looks like you may be able to bush-whack along the creek if you have the time and don’t mind more poison oak! The return trip has you climbing out for over a mile, my guess is a total of 800 to 1,000 feet of total climbing.
There are numerous signs of bears along the trail with scat and dug out areas. Didn’t see any bears or any other wildlife. If you are looking for a recommendation, I would skip this trip and do more hiking on the Taylor Creek Trail.
Description: 9.6 miles, 2400 feet of climbing, 4.5 hours. Topo map of hike.
Tuesday I took off work to hike Black Mountain in Rancho San Antonio Open Space expecting to start from Hidden Villa. Little did I know that they close the park to hikers during the summer for kids’ camps. So I turned around and headed to Rhus Ridge Road. There are 8 ways to hike up Black Mountain according to one website. I had heard about this entrance but have never hiked from it. The parking lot is small so I assume it would be difficult parking on weekends. Directions to the trailhead are easy to follow. This hike started out climbing and reminded me of Almaden Quicksilver’s Hacienda Entrance.
It was a hot day (90) and even in the shade it was a tough .9 miles to Black Mountain Trail. Once on the top the trail climbs gradually for three miles before climbing sharply for the last 1.5 miles. It took me 2.5 hours to get to the top, stopping for rests and food breaks. At the top the view is great but there is no shade for a rest stop. a dead end trail to the left takes you to some tree but not really a great place to rest. This hike is best done in spring when it is green and cool and you can hang out on the rocks at the top. I have also done this hike in winter when it is so wet and cold you can”t see 50 feet in front of you.
Returning was easy, except for some slippery steep downhill. Return trip took less than 2 hours. This is a good hike if you are looking for some serious exercise that is an easy drive from the south bay. The Bay Area Hiker website has a good write up on this hike but there are slight differences in distances and elevation gain.
High School Trail Loop: 9 miles, 1300 feet of climbing, moderately slow pace, 4 hours.
I took my usual hike starting from the San Lorenzo Elementary School parking lot. Traversing the east side of the track field the hike starts behind the field on the road between the childcare center and the environmental center. Today I took the Ridge Trail up to the Truck Trail. Instead of cutting down to the Fall Creek Trail I continued on the Truck Trail for a while. To my surprise it was a level, pleasant walk to a grove of mid-size redwoods named for a donor, Goldie. From here the trail soon started downhill so I turned around and retraced my steps to the junction down to Fall Creek. I went left at the creek, past the Barrel Mill Site and connected up with the North Trail. Fall Creek Park is basically divided up into the South fork and North fork sections of the creek. I took the level North Fork back to Fall Creek Drive and cut back to High School Trail.
Hike description: 8-9 miles, 1500 feet climbing. 3.75 hours.
This hike starts from Felton’s San Lorenzo High School parking lot. Fall Creek Park is park of Henry Cowell State Park. The High School trail starts behind the left corner of the bleacher seats of the football field. The road is not marked and passes the childcare center. This map that is posted on the Redwood Hikes website is great for tracing this hike. Take the High School Trail and head up Ridge Trail to Truck Trail. After hiking on the Truck Trail .75 miles I took a side trail on the right through an unmarked metal gate. This was a nice hike for about a half mile and then the road started going down hill sharply so I returned to Truck Trail. I explored off-trail to the left but the trail ended and it was surrounded by posion oak. Back on Truck Trail to the Big Ben Trail. The Truck Trail climbs and then Big Ben Trail heads back down to Fall Creek. Instead of going up to Big Ben I headed back down Fall Creek Trail past the Barrel Mill Site to The South Ridge Trail. I went past the Lime Kilms and connected back with the High School Trail. Hike would have been 40 minutes shorter without the side trips.
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.
This open space area is close to Silicon Valley cities and is very popular. On weekends it can be hard to find a parking spot especially in early morning. I usually take this trail during the week when I can get a morning off and the crowds are thinner. The PG&E Trail in Rancho San Antonio Park gets its name for the electrial towers that you follow straight up the hill. This road starts at the lower parking lot and climbs around 1500 feet in 3.5 miles. If you just want a quick workout take the trail up to the vista point, sit on the bench for awhile and then turn around and retrace your steps. You will climb another 300 feet for a total hike of 7 miles and 1800 feet. If you prefer a loop, continue on the upper meadow trail to the six corners and take the Wildcat Canyon Trail to the Rogue Road and back out through the Farm. I usually like to bypass the Farm because it is crowded with baby strollers and slow walkers. There is a bypass trail a little north of the Farm. This loop add about a mile to the hike. Total 8 miles and 1500 feet. Bathroom located at main parking lot. Park is off of Foothill Expressway from 280.